NAGLFAR established themselves in the Metal scene with the incredibly killer record "Vittra". Although this gem has been very hard to find before it was re-issued in 2001, this is pretty much the best Black/Death Metal album in existence (along with "Storm Of The Light's Bane"), with intense, dark yet melodic masterpieces. Three years later, in 1998 to be exact, the band followed up with "Diabolical", an album that's easily better than 95% of the current releases, but that did not match the mighty "Vittra". Then there was silence. For a long time the fans of NAGLFAR had to wait for another release, which finally came in 2001, in the shape of an EP called "Ex Inferis". Apart from the re-recorded song "Emerging From Her Weepings" the EP counted a cover, 2 older tracks by the band, and by far the most interesting, a new track!! "Of Gorgons Spawned Through Witchcraft" proved to be THE song to make Metal fans all over the world aware of the Inferno that was coming.
The Inferno has now been unleashed! This is "Sheol", an album which title says more than enough about the musical content. "Sheol" means Hell, "Sheol" is Hell! NAGLFAR engulfs the Metal audience with eight hellish tracks (plus an outro) in the typical NAGFLAR fashion. On "Sheol" the band combines the chord-based work of "Diabolical" with the predominantly riff-based sound of "Vittra", merging it into another masterpiece. It's quite unique to release an album like "Vittra", but to release two of those albums is inhuman and unearthly. But NAGLFAR does the trick, as "Sheol" turns out to be the all-consuming Metal tornado I was hoping it would be.
Opener "I Am Vengeance" calls the return of the Swedes with full force. Once again vocalist Jens Rydén sounds completely different than before, even resembling Jon Nödtveidt from DISSECTION in the evil atmosphere of the vocals. Yet another great performance by the man behind DEAD SILENT SLUMBER (which he will start working on after "Sheol" is released and promoted)! The line-up has changed a bit since "Diabolical", with the departure of long-time member Morgan Hansson (guitars). He has been replaced with Marcus "Vargher" Norman, also known by his work in BEWITCHED and his solo project ANCIENT WISDOM. The guitar duo delivers a stellar performance on "Sheol" with mostly up-tempo blackened Death Metal. Striking is the immense variation in the songs. The band has attempted to make every song to have an identity of its own, and they have definitely succeeded in doing just that!
"Black God Aftermath" is slightly more melodic than the other tracks (but still very brutal), with an almost catchy chorus. A track like "Abysmal Descent" is more mid-paced than the rest, with a very cool piano interlude, and then explodes into subsequent track "Devoured By Naglfar". Bigger than ever is now the role of the keyboards, as they show up in the background in quite a few tracks to add another dimension of hell to the recording. "Of Gorgons Spawned Through Witchcraft" was stripped of the piano intro though, as well as another piano interlude, although another was added for the "Sheol" version of the song. What I liked about the "Ex Inferis" song was the intensity and atmosphere of that track, and if possible the band improved these two aspects on the album! Then on to the last bit about pianos, the final track "The Infernal Ceremony" is an outro that to me is the soundtrack to the world that has just been obliterated by the forces of hell. Like I just said, this album is so extremely varied that each and any song on this album is fantastic. Just like "Vittra" the band records a near perfect album that is absolutely essential for any fan of Black or Death Metal.
Coming back after a fairly long period of absence is sometimes very hard. NAGLFAR doesn't only strike back with full power, but possibly even tops the fantastic "Vittra" album with "Sheol". My very high expectations are more than met with this record, and at the moment I can't really think of an album that could beat "Sheol" for the top position in the year list of 2003. Hopefully they can do some extensive touring so that the whole world can see how incredibly good this band is! Welcome to Hell! (Online April 4, 2003)