Nattmaran are definitely not aiming to bring something definably new to metal. Their sound is very much rooted in the extreme metal of Venom, Celtic Frost and Mercyful Fate, adding in some of the more grizzly NWOBHM of Diamond Head and Saxon, and a good dash of Motorhead’s rock ‘n’ roll swagger. I’ve said it before in several recent reviews, but revisiting this era, a time before the established characteristics that now separate black, death and thrash metal, can be a real catalyst for some tremendous music even if we’re already well accustomed to these sounds. Nattmaran have contemporaries in bigger acts like Midnight, Toxic Holocaust and Skeletonwitch all of whom have blurred the lines of old school extreme metal over the last couple of decades, even if they each lean more heavily towards one particular direction. They’re also in familiar stylistic company on Wise Blood Records, with label-mates GraveRipper and Lavaborne also firmly rooted in this era of extremity.
The Lurking Evil feels old school in many ways, from the classic riffs, organic instrumentation and screeching vocals, to the illustrated artwork that evokes the kind of anti-society satanic rebellion that metal revelled in through the 80s. It’s creation though was far from old school, with the band members crossing the globe to form Nattmaran in its current incarnation. Founder and guitarist/bassist Michael Lang hails from Sweden, while drummer Koji Sawada is from Japan and vocalist Yogga Beges from Indonesia. After starting out with a more black metal sound under the name Unholy Tenebris, the band recently transformed into Nattmaran, and with it embraced the elemental sounds of classic extreme metal.
While a balanced mix of old school sounds is a constant throughout the record, there are definite moments where the band embrace thrash metal as their firm base. Tracks like Imprisoned and Hellbound are full on assaults of thrash, complete with shreddy leads and a relentless pace, while on Pray For Redemption, Die By My Bullets and Beauty In Chaos there are also some more punky crossover thrash tones. The band also have a real knack for integrating 70s blues metal indebted riffs and leads into this thrash sound too. It’s evident on When The Night Is Mine and Runaway, but even more so in the epic solo on Pray For Redemption and the slide guitar leads on Beauty Is Chaos.
Although things remain heavily within the fist-pumping, head-banging, fun-filled era of metal, the band aren’t afraid to throw in a little darkness too. Die By My Bullets and Necromancy both dabble in some slightly more black metal-esque tones, though it’s the aptly titled Descending Through The Darkness that embraces it fully. The band have crafted a brooding piece of blackened thrash in this track, and it stands tall with some of the best hooks on the album.
The penultimate track, There’s Nothing You Can See, is definitely an outlier on the record. It combines death metal speed riffs with a groove metal hook and some quite modern melancholic melodies, all elements we only see flashes of in the rest of the album. Far from feeling out of place though, it just shows how much variation there can actually be in Nattmaran’s music, and I would love to see them produce more tracks like this and Descending Through The Darkness in the future.
The thing that really makes this record so enjoyable though is something I mentioned in the opening. For a band based across three different countries, there is a unique chemistry to their performances which negates the global distance between them. The record is full of innate nuances and natural off-beats that are evocative of the best rock ‘n’ roll bands through the ages, and if you’d told me this album had been recorded completely live I would probably have believed you. But it wasn’t, and yet there is a raw, visceral energy that is incredibly hard for performers to cultivate without being in the same room together.
So much of today’s metal production is all about accuracy and articulation and being able to hear every single note with precision and clarity. It’s incredibly refreshing to hear a record that instead focuses on the feeling, and lets the glory of the performances speak for themselves. It’s what gives The Lurking Evil it’s true identity, and what makes it into such a fabulous album that reminds you just how good something old school can be when it rebels against the conventions of the present.
Listen to and order the album: