Album: Hymns From Realms Yonder
Label: Black Lodge Records
Genre: Black Metal, Melodic Black Metal
Release Date: April 7th, 2017
Netherbird is one of those hybrid bands that have Black Metal at the foundation of everything they do, but they build on that structure with bits of Death, bits of Goth, lots of melody, and plenty of traditional heavy metal. There can be no doubt that this is a band that follows their own muse, and if they think a piano part is perfect for a song, they’ll throw it in there, regardless of what any “Trve Cvlt” fan might think. They’re about the music and nothing else.
This integrity has served them well over their ten-plus years of existence, and to celebrate their career so far, they’ve released Hymns From Realms Yonder, a compilation culled from their EP’s, B-sides, digital only downloads, and some cover songs. This makes for a long voyage and an album thick with divergent musical styles.
Most compilation albums are uneven, to say the least. When you draw from a vast disparity of material, it’s often difficult to pull it all together and make it work as a cohesive record and not just as a collection that sounds disjointed. All credit to Netherbird for doing an excellent job in creating a comp that is not only smooth and comprehensive, but also one hell of a fun listen. Indeed, this feels like a new album and if I did not know already that it was a collection, I would never have suspected it.
There are several highlights here:
“Brazen Splendor” (B-side to the “Pillars of the Sky” single) is an epic opener for the proceedings. It’s all kinds of Bathory, galloping over the plains and crushing the skulls of your enemies kind of music. There’s lots of Viking strength here, the music and the vocals working together to propel the whole piece. Massive track, all muscle with just enough melodicism to keep it from getting stale.
“Twilight Gushes Forth” (from their EP “Shadows and Snow”) starts with a synth and builds steam as we get some melodic flourish leading to a mid-paced bash that gets the old noggin banging. This is a good example of their more symphonic work, almost a mix of Amon Amarth with Dimmu Borgir, carrying that same spirit of those bands without copying them.
“Born Defiant” (from the “Abysmal Allure” EP) is a surging, melodic Black Metal track that ebbs and flows with confidence and plenty of forward-shoving energy. “We’re born defiant, through fire, ice, and snow…” says it all, and a statement of intent that encompasses not only the music itself, but the essence of the band. Another epic track.
“Ode to the False (Esse non Videri)” (from the EP “Shadows and Snow”) is another purely melodic Black Metal track. As the band ventures between gothic touches in several songs, some death growls, and other flourishes, they always come back to their solid foundation, the music that makes them tick. If you like Black Metal at all, then you’ll love this one. It’s heavy, fast, but still able to step back and let the melody come to the fore, giving it a range of dynamics that makes it interesting and not just some dull, tin-can roar.
“Nepenthe” (a Sentenced cover) and “Alison Hell” (an Annihilator cover) are both stand-out tracks in that they outdo the original (“Nepenthe”) and add something new to a classic track (“Alison Hell”). I love both of the originals but Netherbird give the Sentenced song an extra layer of grit and shred, if such a thing was even possible, and makes a more melodic track heavier. And the Black Metal sheeting added to “Alison Hell” is interesting and gives the song a unique flavor it didn’t have before.
“Pillars (Reprise)” is a piano-only version of their original track “Pillars of the Sky” and is an excellent way to end this album. Its mellow tones allow the listener to drift back down from the epic heights the former material has scaled, letting us settle to earth. That’s not to say it’s fluff because it most certainly is not; there is plenty of movement and emotional heft to the composition.
In total, we have a compilation of tracks that might have gotten lost in the shuffle over the years, but thanks to the efforts of the band, they will not. Often, works like these get forgotten and/or left behind when a band concentrates on their big, official album releases. Many people see EP’s and single releases as a way to provide stop-gap musical product to keep a band’s name alive during downtimes between official releases, and to be honest, that perception tends to be mostly true. In this case, though, we have a band that shows just as much craft, just as much care and attention to detail on their B-sides as they do to their main work. Indeed, you can’t really tell the difference between the two.
If you’re unfamiliar with the work of Netherbird, this is an excellent starting point, and if you’re a fan, there’s more than enough here to warrant a purchase.
1. Brazen Splendor
2. Sculptors and Spectres
3. Myosotis Scorpioides
4. Abysmal Allure
5. Swedish Sadness (Sorrow’s My Vessel)
6. Born Defiant
7. Shadows and Snow
8. Twilight Gushes Forth…
10. Ode to the False (Esse non Videri)
11. As I Die
13. Alison Hell
14. Firmament Vacation
15. Conquest, Love & Self Perseverance
16. Pillars (Reprise)
Total Playing Time: 1:16:00