Fifteen years after their formation, Swedish black/death extremists Netherbird are ready to release their fifth album. Only two original members are left, namely guitar player Pontus Andersson (a.k.a. Bizmark) and frontman Johan Fridell (a.k.a. Nephente), but the present line-up has been forming for the last 10 years. One of the latest additions to the band is ex-Amon Amarth drummer Fredrik Andersson, who is taking the torch from another big name in extreme metal – ex-Marduk hitter Fredrik Widigs.
So – let’s get to the point. I’ve followed Netherbird since their inception, but the band has never impressed me as much as, say, their fellow countrymen Necrophobic. Their compositions have always been heavily influenced by classic Dissection, but past albums often tended to fall into the overlong and bloated songs trap and failed to grasp the attention for repeated listens. Into The Vast Uncharted, with its seven compositions, is under 37 minutes long and includes tracks that rarely exceed the 4-minute mark. It immediately feels and sounds more to-the-point and distills the band’s strengths in an impressive way.
The very opener (and first single) “Saturnine Ancestry” immediately hits with fantastic hooks, insanely precise and engaging drumming, and (pay attention now) – dual guitar harmonies (!!) and beautiful solos. Following epics (in mood only, not in length) follow this “formula” each with even more success and conviction. Black metal blast beats are only an enhancement to the majestic musical canvas, painted by all instruments, vocals included. The more mid-tempo song “Harvest The Stars”, cleverly placed second in the track list, marries the pure emotion of Primordial with the fire and thunder of the best of Watain and Bathory. Yes, that’s right. It actually is extremely difficult to select favorites among the songs, because they all are simply pieces of musical mastery and magic. I actually was (and still am) so in love with this album, that I decided to have a listen to their previous release The Grander Voyage, just to refresh my memory about it and it is beyond doubt that, for some damn reason, Into The Vast Uncharted is classes and classes ahead of its predecessor in all aspects.
I have received the advance promo of this album two weeks ago and it hasn’t left my player ever since. Extreme metal masterpieces like “Mercury Skies” or the following “Lunar Pendulum” are like a narcotic – you could play either of the songs 5 times in a row with equal, brain-shattering effect. I have to say as well, that what Fredrik Andersson has done behind the drums for this album is amazing: every guitar melody tells a cinematic story, built upon the foundations of the academically competent rhythm section.
Not much more can be expressed with words, so, don’t hesitate and listen to this album on September 27th. This is the essence of the spirit and musical genius of Jon Nödtveidt carried on and the legacy of his musical vision preserved. This statement is not meant to diminish the uniqueness of Netherbird’s achievement, but as a compliment for the ability to put your signature below a modern metal classic.