I wasn’t expecting very much from Stemning, the debut from Norway’s Nàttsòl. With Prophecy promoting it alongside the much more highly-anticipated Lantlôs album, I got the impression that Nàttsòl’s release was just along for the ride. Fortunately, it only took a couple songs to realize that Stemning is an excellent album in its own right, and for me might even be the better of Prophecy’s two releases. Nàttsòl plays a highly melodic, folk-influenced style of black metal that retains a good deal of aggression. Their sound is vaguely reminiscent of Ulver‘s Bergtatt album or France’s Belenos, although Nàttsòl’s style moves away from the colder, darker style of those two bands and instead opts for a more majestic, almost uplifting approach.
While Nàttsòl’s guitarists have largely abandoned the traditional black metal style of labyrinthine tremolo-picked riffs in favor of more melodic chord strumming and counter-melodies, the music still has an edge to it thanks to a constant barrage of double bass drumming and manic shrieking vocals. Primary vocalist Venomenon’s screams are sometimes a little over the top, but it doesn’t detract from the music too much. As one might expect from a highly folk-influenced band, acoustic passages abound, and Nàttsòl even incorporates some female vocals into the acoustic closing track ‘Ved Hav I Avdagsleitet.’
The most unique element of Nàttsòl’s sound is their very prominent use of clean singing. Unlike bands such as Coldworld, Belenos or Windir who use clean vocals sparingly or in the background, Nàttsòl employ them almost constantly, effectively turning the clean singing into an additional instrument. The album’s soaring melodicism and infectiousness owes a lot to this aspect of the band’s sound.
The first couple tracks ‘Ved Aas I Haustmoerket’ and ‘Ved Baal I Kveldstime’ are two of the strongest and probably best exemplify Nàttsòl’s style, mixing aggression with some excellent and very memorable melodic riffs, while the multifaceted vocal attack and acoustic breaks help to create a very primal atmosphere. Unfortunately, the rest of the album is not quite as good – some of the later tracks don’t stick out as much and start to blur together after awhile. Nevertheless, Nàttsòl’s debut is good enough to occasionally find it’s way back into my rotation, if only for the few standout racks. Recommended if you like Black metal’s more melodic side.