NAGLFAR
"Pariah"

(Century Media)

01. Proclamation
02. A Swarm of Plagues
03. Spoken Words of Venom
04. The Murder Manifesto
05. Revelations Carved in Flesh
06. None Shall be Spared
07. And the World Shall be your Grave
08. The Perpetual Horrors
09. Carnal Scorn & Spiritual Malice

RATING: 8/10

One can debate the merits of NAGLFAR's "Pariah" in comparison to its 2003 release "Sheol", not a wasted exercise given the qualities of the latter. A couple of listens to "Pariah" though and my preference for it over its predecessor is unequivocal. It's really not a question of one being sub-par and the other far superior; I just found the confluence of immediate-impact melodies and searing black metal viciousness to hit me most directly between the eyes on "Pariah". The musicianship is impeccable, the arrangements exciting, and the vibe one of pure apocalyptic dread.

There are indeed moments that remind one of some of today's upper-echelon black metal acts in terms of accomplished songwriting (DIMMU BORGIR, etc.), but the key to the NAGLFAR approach on "Pariah" in particular is the ability to craft majestic arrangements without a keyboard-laced symphonic element. Rather, the razorblade whirlwind of white-hot harmonies and cutting riffs created by guitarists Andreas Nilsson and Marcus Norman constitute the core element of these impressive compositions. A couple of choice melodic leads on "The Perpetual Horrors" and "Carnal Scorn & Spiritual Malice" are two of the many instances of the band's sixth sense for knowing when to drop in just the right part for maximum impact. Yet as impressive as the song dynamics may be, one would never mistake these as anthems of excess. Instead, each of the eight tracks (there is also a brief intro called "Proclamation") is flawlessly executed and eminently memorable with nary a dull moment to be found. Best of all, as far as I'm concerned anyway, is the manner in which the blasting savagery is maintained throughout and still the melodies on songs like "A Swam of Plagues", "Spoken Words of Venom", and "And the World Shall be your Grave" are so infectious. You'll find no clean vocals, no lush keyboards, only the sounds of battle, yet each song is distinct and immediately recognizable after only a few listens.

Finally, "Pariah" marks the first NAGLFAR album without the now-departed Jens Rydén on vocals. No cause for concern here, as bassist Kristoffer Olivius admirably fills his shoes with a tone that is slightly fuller, a tad less "shrieky," and more decipherable. I actually prefer Olivius' style. With the final "t" crossed, I can now say that I'm quite certain "Pariah" will end up as one of my favorite black metal albums of 2005.

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