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Album Review

The debut CD by Sweden's most cartoonish black metal act, Nifelheim, was originally recorded way back in 1994, when the movement was more or less at its peak of notoriety. But while acts like Mayhem and Darkthrone were vanishing down a black hole of humorless (even murderous) nihilism, Nifelheim never lost a sense of fun. Their songs might have titles like "Possessed by Evil," "Satanic Sacrifice," and "Storm of Satan's Fire," but they were no more truly wicked than their obvious inspirations, Venom. Their primitive playing had a punk rock edge — the drumming had more in common with Discharge than death or thrash metal, while the guitar riffs always seemed just about to slide completely out of control, and solos were either minimalist extrapolations of the song's core riff, or short strings of semi-random notes. But beneath their lack of skill, one can always hear Nifelheim striving to be metal gods, throwing in little bits of flash — a pick slide here, a Kiss-style opening fanfare there — to take the songs just slightly beyond the realm of raucous, thrashing noise. On "Sodomizer," the band even writes a chorus that's almost catchy, though the shrieking and barking of vocalist Per "Hellbutcher" Gustavsson (his twin brother, Erik "Tyrant" Gustavsson, is the group's bassist) remains totally indecipherable. "Storm of Satan's Fire" is another track that offers an almost NWOBHM-quality melodic riff; unfortunately, it quickly reverts to screaming and bashing. This reissue adds one bonus track that is in no way revelatory or special, and the remastering job, while capable, can't overcome the primitivism of the initial recording. Nifelheim are good fun, for those who like their black metallers to occasionally crack a smile and reveal that they're playing music because they like it, not because their inner torment and self-loathing compel it, or whatever.


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

A black metal band that formed in Sweden in 1990, Nifelheim released a relatively small handful of albums in their career, and went through a number of lineup changes, but maintained enough of a following to keep the core of the band pressing on for nearly twenty years. Founders -- and twin brothers -- Per and Erik Gustavsson, who went by the names Hellbutcher (vocals) and Tyrant (bass), respectively, released their first album with longstanding partner in metal Demon in 1994. That particular self-titled...
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