(releases September 27th)
Metal often gets ridiculed for its excess of subgenre descriptors, but how else would you label a band like Netherbird? The Swedish band plays an eclectic brand of melodic blackened death metal. For their fifth album, Into The Vast Uncharted, the band has added former Amon Amarth drummer Fredrik Andersson into the fold. To top things off, scene veterans Hiili Hiilesmaa and Dan Swanö were enlisted for production and mastering respectively to create the band’s best sounding album to date.
Unlike previous albums, the band forgoes an intro track and just comes barreling out of the gate with “Saturnine Ancestry”. This song sets the tone nicely, as the band sounds best when firing on all cylinders. The highlight of the album is its longest track “Mercury Skies”. The intro goes so hard, with menacing tremolo guitars as well as an avalanche of blast beats and tom fills from Andersson. There’s this awesome Maiden-esque riff in the chorus that will get stuck in your head for days. The song then takes a turn into a more melodic, mid-tempo groove, and then gracefully builds back up to that high-octane chorus.
The band throws in these curveballs often, both in terms of tempo and key changes. Most are successful, except I don’t know that the key changes on “Lunar Pendulum” work (F harmonic minor in the verses to E minor in the chorus). The song is incredible song otherwise, and it closes out with a killer solo from guitarist Tobias Jakobsson. While we’re talking solos, he also has a great solo on “Harvest the Stars”, where he makes the most of the song’s spacey feel.
Overall, the album is very engaging. The only real dull moment on this album is the first half of “Eventide Evangel”. The acoustic guitars in this part evoke a cool Western scene, but the vocals sound like a goofy black metal Tom Waits, and they eventually get tiring. The song really picks up in the second half though, and I otherwise enjoy Johan Fridell’s vocal performances on this album. There’s a similar moment in the middle of “Nexus of Unlight”, but it’s much more effective since it doesn’t stick around too long.
I don’t know what the hell a Netherbird is, but the name sure makes for a cool ass band logo. And with Into The Vast Uncharted, this bird soars into the top tier of blackened death metal. This is the sound of an established band confidently staking their claim to underground glory.
Netherbird can be found on:
Best Tracks: Mercury Skies, Saturnine Ancestry, Lunar Pendulum
Weakest Tracks: Eventide Evangel
FFO: Dissection, Watain, Naglfar
Overall Score: B+