Album Review: Nathorg – Beyond the Gates of Nathorg

Nathorg [Iran]
Beyond the Gates of Nathorg
2012
Full Length
Mordgrimm
Black Metal

Of all the regions in the world, Iran would stand as one of the places where people would expect to hear about metal, let alone extreme metal. Nathorg therefore is rather surprising, being a black/death metal band that hails from this seemingly strict, religious country. Beyond the Gates of Nathorg is the band’s debut full length album, once again released under excellent cult UK underground label, Mordgrimm. This being the very first encounter with a band coming from “the land of the Aryans” made it somewhat exciting as well, leaving me to wonder what the band was gonna sound like.

The sounds of bells tolling at the background, with a crazed chanting at the foreground before being ended with the slash of the sword sets a rather disturbing and a sinister mood for the album, but right after this short intro, the band punishes the listener with their raw and primitive style of black metal. The early Norwegian black metal influences in the band’s songwriting is rather obvious, first through the songwriting and the playing style of the band. The bleak yet somewhat aggressive riffs, combined with the cold and unwelcoming atmosphere are all reminiscent of bands such as Mayhem and their compatriots, and the gruff and tortured vocals of Geztus makes things sound even more dangerous on the record.

Perhaps the clearest indication of their Norwegian black metal influence is through the inclusion of their rendition of Mayhem‘s Freezing Moon on the record, though not completely true to the original, displayed a slightly different touch of Nathorg‘s playing style rather than simply being a copy of the original. Which would have been a good thing if not for the fact that the band sounded kinda rushed on their version, and the lack of the creepy vocal styles that Attila utilised on the original, resulting in an overall loss of the atmosphere that was so crucial in Mayhem‘s music. The lead guitar was also overly loud and sounded awkward, further spoiling the mood of the song. One other thing that bugged me throughout the entirety of the album was also the tone of the drums. The drum tone, particularly that of the snare got rather irritating as the album progressed, and stuck out like a sore thumb among the rest of the instruments, and blast beats on songs like Rape in the Church even sound like programmed drums.

To be honest, while the country of origin of Nathorg was an interesting point to note when first listening to the album, Beyond the Gates of Nathorg is a rather mediocre release. There are certainly good points here and there, but often the atmosphere that the band attempts to build up end up being too rushed, with the band being too focussed on the speed and aggression and leaving out the atmospheric aspect that are rather important for bands of such style, resulting in a record with few really memorable moments.

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