Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Naer Mataron - Aghivasiin: Lessons on How to Defeat Death (2004)

With three albums and a decade under their belts, Naer Mataron felt compelled to give something back to the followers of their rugged but indistinct brand of vicious, European black metal. Completists might be disappointed that it's not simply a collection of their demos, but some of that material is certainly involved here, with a mix of other rarities and unreleased newer tracks. I can't promise that this is likely to draw the affectations of anyone not already hooked on the Greeks' admittedly middling style, but Aghivasiin: Lessons on How to Defeat Death at least provides a sincere sortie into the raw and flourishing roots of their development as one of the more jagged and unrelenting acts of the Hellenic underworld.

The new song, "Alchemist" is a substantial piece (over 9 minutes) with an extensive, sobering acoustic guitar sequence that floods directly into the familiar bloodstream of Skotos Aenaon and River at Dash Scalding. It's feral, relentless and resonant enough as it channels along its familiar Norse course, but the soaring, clean vocals in the bridge do provide the slightly unexpected. The other novel contribution here is a martial ambient/industrial piece called "Kalki the Avenger - Lightning and the Sun (Death)", a collaboration with Nordvargr of industrial beasts MZ412, which as you might guess, is not typical of the Naer Mataron sound in the slightest. They've also included both tracks from the rare EP A Holocaust in Front of God's Eyes (2000), which feature an even more sinister, rasping vocal tone and rougher production than any of the studio full-lengths. Some demo tunes ("Zeus", "Zephyrous") are included from the year of the band's foundations, but both of these were polished and more appreciable on their debut Up from the Ashes in 1998.

Also of interest: some pre-recording and unreleased alternate takes of "Winter War Memorial" and "Iketis", both as pronounced and primitive as the band gets anywhere, filthy and functional even if they're rather predictable. If you're in the market for some live material, and more of the vinyl collector variety of fan, then undoubtedly you'll want the 2LP re-issue with its bonus live content, but then, this is even more limited than the original CD release. All in all, it's a decent appraisal of the band's career, without ripping off the audience, but it's hardly more interesting than their early full-lengths, which themselves are competent but ultimately unmemorable. Naer Mataron has always stuck to its approximation of fast, Northern sounds, as this comp reveals, since their inception. But they don't exactly excel in the medium.

Verdict: Indifference [5.75/10]

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