Narthraal is a brand new death metal band from Iceland, and Blood Citadel is their first EP which is a concept release based upon the fictional universe of Narthraal. A quite intriguing idea, at least to me, but how well is it executed?
From the get-go, Blood Citadel is a pretty ambitious. With the description of their music and that it's largely based on biblical hell with a few minor alterations. It builds up a kind of hype and with two tracks with quite some duration and an amazing introduction track, you would like everything to come together in one big picture. The opening track, Blood Citadel is an instrumental with a orchestra. It is actually well composed and it sounds really good, but it leads into Narthraal Tore Shuul, a track lasting almost 9 minutes. The problem with that is that the track never quite takes off, and it never becomes really interesting, which is quite essential for long tracks. However that's the story for most of the tracks, they never really take off, but Carnage and Suffering is kind of set apart from the rest. Those two songs are quite good, and Suffering got some elements to it that I wish was present throughout the entire EP. That element is the orchestra from the introduction track returns. It starts off halfway through the track with just a piano playing in the background of the band, but it sounds total out of place. Of course that's not the element I would like to be present throughout Blood Citadel. Just a bit longer into the track the guitars fade out and the orchestra returns. It's well composed and sounds outstanding, plus the band kicks in an accompanies the orchestra for some time, and the two fit perfect. It builds up an epic atmosphere, and that is the element I would have loved to be present throughout the entire EP.
The production does not quite add anything to the release or help it to stand out. It's quite obvious that the band got a little thing for Swedish death metal and the buzzsaw sound. And it never really comes beyond that point but being a worship of the buzzsaw sound. It sounds good, but it fails to set them apart from all the other bands and make them really intriguing. If I feel like listening to buzzsaw death metal, I'll put on some of the old bands. I would like to point out the bass. It really fails to deliver the punch needed in death metal and comes out as a girly bass. It's really noticeable on Narthraal Tore Shuul, halfway through the track there is a section with only the bass that could have sounded way better with a better sound and production. At the end of Buhrozul - An Ancient Prophecy there is a slow and chugging section that's really headbanging material and it's one of those moments where the bass should kick you in the face and give it that extra punch. That extra punch is missing often and then the bass ends up being almost redundant.
So the execution was not that successful. But does not mean that there's nothing to gain from this release. I definitely do smell potential and I would love to see the band collaborating more with an orchestra like they did on Blood Citadel and Suffering. That could turn out to be an epic full-length album, if that's what is next on the program. If you're a buzzsaw maniac, then you'll love this, and even if you're not, you should still give Narthraal a try. Something on Iceland reeks of potential.
Be sure to check Narthraal out on Facebook and listen to the entire EP on Bandcamp!