NAGELFAR — Virus West (review)

NAGELFAR — Virus West album cover Album · 2001 · Black Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
The German band NAGELFAR began their black metal journey with “Hünengrab im Herbst” where they honed their excellent mix of brutal black metal, Pagan inspired Germanic folk music and dark ambient electronic wizardry that provided the proper frigid atmospheres. On “Srontgorrth” the band toned down the folk aspects a bit in favor of a more relentlessly bombastic black metal assault and on their third and final album VIRUS WEST, they pretty much implement all the tricks from both albums to make an excellent finale to their all too brief career.

Sporting creepy black and white imagery of some forbidding land with pyramid shaped rock formations that resemble dragon’s teeth, the image turns out to be a real place called the Westwall or Siegfried Line which was a German defensive line in both World Wars. VIRUS WEST captures the theme on the cover art and implements it all throughout the album’s hour plus run which captures the darkest period of German history when things were at their bleakest. The album title refers to the destructive forces that the Western world has unleashed onto the planet which have caused unimaginable death and destruction.

VIRUS WEST consists of seven tracks and although most range from the nine to twelve minute mark, they are quite short compared to the sprawling epic behemoths on “Srontgortth” which expanded past sixteen. Following in the footsteps fo the second album, VIRUS WEST is a raging black metal noisefest with bantering blastbeat cannonades accompanied by cascading rivers of buzzsaw guitar dissonance from the incessant swarms of riffing. Whereas the debut found the bass and guitar providing clearly separate roles, on VIRUS WEST, the two unite in a traditional black metal melting pot to create an indecipherable cacophonous roar.

While the majority of the album is a free flowing fury of black metal madness, the album brings back many of the Pagan folk elements of the debut with segments of acoustic guitar joined by epic clean sung vocals which find the new vocalist Zingultus join the band after the departure of Jander. While clearly a different singer or should i say screamer for the most part at the helm, Zingultus implements the same style of raspy shrieked vocals and occasional clean sung styles. While the guitars are mostly on light of speed riffing tempos, there are also many slower doom metal passages that allow a little breathing room from time to time. There are also some of those black metal gallops that remind me of the best of Bathory’s black metal days. The compositions aren’t as sprawling as the “Srontgorrth” but add enough variety to keep them interesting throughout.

Given the theme of war time death and violence, the music suits it well with its relentless blood curdling delivery of incessant waves of sound with epic folk laden acoustic sections that declare absolute resignation and enervating taxation of the body and soul. The intermission piece “Westwall” eschews the metal all together and sounds more like a medieval hunting music piece with military march percussion and a french horn or something providing the call of battle for the troops to sally forth and defeat the enemy. The compositions are maturely developed.

The entire album has a rather Viking metal flair to it without sounding Scandinavian nor tamping down the black metal bombast. Some parts are very Enslaved sounding but not for too long. Likewise the industrial aspects of the first two albums have been replaced with a more dark ambient styled atmospheric backing. There are also some of those hunting horn calls that pop up in “Meuterei.” As with all NAGELFAR’s albums, lyrics are written and delivered exclusively int he German language.

When NAGELFAR was formed, guitarist Zorn and drummer Rykthius von Meilenwald promised to end the band if either of them decided to move on to other things and that’s exactly what happened. The duo simply decided that to take NAGELFAR to the next step would require full time dedication and it seems that the creative spirit was beginning to wane so Meilenwald would continue as the one-man bands Truppensturm and Ruins Of Beverest which has become one of the more interesting metal bands of the 21st century.

Zorn would continue on as the one-man band Simple Existent and with the band EgoNoir. It’s quite sad that NAGELFAR didn’t continue on because i love their mix of folk, black metal and atmospheres. The black metal is the real deal, raw, angry and historically vile with the supplemental elements adding the perfect complementary touches. This is the next best NAGELFAR album after the debut in my book but NAGELFAR delivered a stellar trilogy of fine albums that any black metal aficionado should not miss out on.
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