by Rob McFeters
I've always approached black metal with some hesitation, because I haven't found many bands within the genre that I can get into. Many times black metal bands come across way too cheesy for my tastes. However, Naglfar has been one black metal band that I have always enjoyed. Throughout their releases, this band hasn't fallen into all the trends of black metal; instead they have consistently released uncompromising, misanthropic albums, which set them apart from the cheese-dicks of the genre. Pariah is Naglfar's fourth full-length album, and while I think it is a good album, it doesn't the high standard the band set for itself with the release of 2003's Sheol. The overall song-writing on Pariah is more varied, and a touch more melodic than any of Naglfar's previous releases. This seems to have compromised some of the brutality that I was expecting from this album. This isn't to say that Pariah is a slow, weak album by any means. There are still black metal blasts, but they don't hold the same fury as they did on Sheol. However, Naglfar's more dynamic song-writing has kept this album from slipping completely, because this isn't a boring listen. I am just missing the same feeling that I got from Sheol. But there are still some factors that make this a good black metal album. The main change since Sheol is the departure of vocalist Jen Ryden. Bassist, Kristoffer Olivius, has stepped up to assume vocal duties, and I think he does a fantastic job. Olivius' vocals are a small bit deeper than Ryden's, but are still scathing and mesh perfectly with Naglfar's sound. He also enunciates his vocals more, so the lyrics are a bit easier to understand right from the start. The production (courtesy of Naglfar staple Ballerina Studios) is quite crushing and powerful, yet still retains a distinctly black metal sound. Actually, I think this is best sounding Naglfar record yet. The overall guitar-work is great, but I wasn't expecting anything less. As I stated earlier, there is a stronger sense of melody throughout this album, and some of the guitar leads are quite catchy. Meanwhile, the drumming is good, but there are more slower songs on this album, and I don't feel that the drumming is as creative as it could be during these slower moments. I'm not sure why the drum-work falls behind at points, because Mattias Grahn has long shown he is a machine capable of inhuman speed and technicality. Bottom Line: Pariah may not possess the same ferocity that Sheol had, but it is still a good black metal album. I have a feeling that fans of Naglfar will enjoy this album, but I would not recommend this album as your introduction to this band. I would actually recommend starting with their releases in chronological order so that you can hear how the group continues to progress. Naglfar are still one of black metal's best.