Capitalizing on the success of Vargrav’s first two releases, “Reign in Supreme Darkness” and “Netherstorm”, mastermind V-KhaoZ moves this outfit from a solo project to a band. In “The Nighthold”, we get a more evolved version of this Finish outfit with a gnarly old-school BM vibe to come along. While still delivering for the people waiting for 90’s Symphonic BM, the band goes the extra mile in crafting a release that is engaging and diverse and not just a rehash of their earlier epic releases and yet has that signature Vargrav sound to it.
Opening with “Moonless Abyss of the Nighthold” and “Through the Woods of Breathing Shadows” we get that dreamy Symphonic BM fix that we were looking for, but also find a harsher and frostier edge to the band’s sound. The addition of Graf Werwolf von Armageddon (Satanic Warmaster fame) on vocals, and members of Finntroll and Moonsorrow on bass and drums, gives this release a more polished and well crafted instrumental edge.
There are epic early-Emperor/Satyricon moments on tracks like “Thy Imperial Malice” and “Triumph of the Nightbringer”, which keep things perfectly balanced between over-the-top symphonic arrangements and actual melodic Black Metal for fans to headbang to. One of our favorite tracks has to be the raw “Creator of the True Realm” and it's all-out-war drumming alongside hellish vocals and gaudy synths. This just brings back memories of the early days of BM introducing symphonic elements, which at times sounded just awful due to inexperience or just bad execution. However, here the band lands these passages with great finesse.
As a whole, “The Nighthold” is an interesting Vargrav release that showcases them trying different things to avoid being pigeonholed on a certain genre/style and evolve their music. There is plenty of what made the band well known here, but there are also a few other cool elements (like on track 11) that makes us curious and excited for what is next from the band. If you like old-school Black Metal with plenty of symphonic elements, but also raw and frosty passages, look no further and get a copy of this release.
|Album: The Nighthold
Label: Werewolf Records
Release: December 15th, 2023
Genre: Symphonic Black Metal