Let me get this out of the way immediately: only once in a very great while are we blessed with such a splendid opus! Behold the debut album «Netherstorm» by Vargrav, a new project from Finland. The album’s high merit can be explained and justified in a way that it exists within a very specific dimension inside the vast Black Metal realm. This could in fact be described as «Symphonic Celestial Black Metal», an extremely difficult vocation to master. While the very origins of such a genre could point back to Emperor’s «In the Nightside Eclipse» and maybe «Constallation», the debut EP by Arcturus, the ultimate legendary album that immediately comes to mind is «Moon in the Scorpio» by Limbonic Art. When this grandiose classic was released in 1996, it brought Black Metal to a whole new level of symphonic and atmospheric elements, without compromising on the evil and darkness that the Norwegian scene stood for back in the day. Subsequent releases from the band, although of high quality in some cases, never topped the debut, still worshiped to this day. Over the years, only a few examples are worth mentioning as far as «Symphonic Celestial Black Metal» is concerned (granted, not an actually recognized sub-genre, but this term still remains an accurate way to paint the picture). Albums such as «The Sad Realm of the Stars» by Odium and «Of Stargates and Bloodstained Celestial Spheres» by Lunar Aurora are to this day strong references from the late 90s, but still contained room for improvement. Ever since then, the only album that really left its mark within that scope is the astonishing «Hunger of Elements» from Poland’s Kataxu. But then again, this was in 2005. This confirms that not many bands actually do venture on such a difficult path or at least, succeed at creating something truly worth mentioning. The time is finally here as Vargrav’s «Netherstorm» is everything you can dream of, and more!
Sole member V-Khaoz is far from being a newcomer. He is actually an experienced member of Finland’s amazing Black Metal scene, mostly having left his mark as a drummer for other notorious acts such as (but not limited to) Azaghal and Hin Onde. On his Vargrav project, V-Khaoz handles all instruments (just like in his other epic project Druadan Forest). «Netherstorm» is one of those albums that you keep for special occasions, when you know you can fully commit to your listening experience. By yourself preferably, otherwise make sure to have surrounding people shut the hell up!!! A truly transcending experience from start to finish, one that will have you reach for the stars, one that will literally mark you for a long time.
The production is exactly what it needs to be , with all instruments fusing together, creating a dark, majestic atmosphere. The guitar riffs are superb, the drum work is of high caliber, and the keys are of course executed at the required high level for this type of work. The vocals are very eerie and effective, with a lot of echoing effects, mixed in the background, as if coming from dimensions far away. A track by track is pointless as such a symphony preferably needs to be listened to from start to finish, with each chapter as important as the next. One little detail I particularly appreciated: the droid-like sounding voice in the song «Ethereal Visions of a Monumental Cataclysm». It really works for such a voyage.
V-Khaoz truly paints a picture with his music, one that fully captures the splendidness of the moon and the stars, taking us on the darkest of quests through the cosmos. Absolutely breathtaking. We can only hope that this project will not be a one-time affair and that new chapters will follow. The quality level of such piece of work is rarely achieved. It was released very late in 2017, in December to be precise, on Werewolf records. You can choose between a digipack CD version or a two-disc vinyl edition (second disc consisting of a 7 inch containing two bonus tracks, including a cover of Emperor’s «Ancient Queen»). Do not miss out on this one, there is a huge, well-deserved underground hype about this release, get your hands on it while you can. Yes, it is that good!!!!!