Album Review: Nattravnen – Kult of the Raven

I don’t know what is in the water down in Mumbai in India but Kunal Choksi and Transcending Obscurity released high-end quality releases one after another. This year has been a phenomenal year for his label with releases from Down Among the Dead Men, Master, De Profundis and many others in what has probably been his most productive year as a label owner. Starting the year off with a bang, Kunal wants to make sure that he releases an album that will have his fans whet their appetite for 2019 and release an album that will have a massive impact on the metal world. That impact comes with Nattravnen who comprise of members from the old and the new kids on the block. Vokillist Kam Lee returns with his ever-extending back catalogue and teaming up with young protege Jonny Petterson who himself has played with some well-known bands and amassed over 30 releases since the early 2000s. Bands such as Wombbath, Heads for the Dead and my recent favourites Ashcloud showcase his exceptional talent and is certainly a musician to watch out for.

First thing I have to say is the artwork and packaging of this digipak is astounding from artist Juanjo Castellano. You also get a lengthy booklet of Kam’s writing and inspiration for this story. Starting off with “The Night of the Raven” and funnily enough ravens calling before the guitars, drums and keyboards kick in and speed things up nicely. It’s only when Kam comes in it is blast beats heaven and it just sounds so good. Jonny has created a monster here that has elements of Swedish death metal of course mixed with Dimmu Borgir style keyboards at various stages throughout the song. I have had comments recently that I get too happy when I listen to death metal, but when death metal is as good as this, you cannot help but grin from ear to ear. Kam is on startling form once again and I must admit, I am going through a phase where I am listening to a lot of his projects and he just seems to mature with age.

“Suicidium, the Seductress of Death” immediately gets this head moshing in unison with the music. Beautifully arranged with various time changes and a mixture of blast beats, mid-paced riffs, female singing and any opportunity for Kam to growl, make this a song with absolutely everything in it. I couldn’t tell you how many times I got up from this keyboard to mosh around my living room as it is that good. After a much softer opening, “Corvus Corax Crown” feels like it was heavily influenced by latter-day Behemoth in the beginning and the speed of this track is relentless. It’s quite unusual for Kam to be involved in music of this style in terms of the speed, but I shall reiterate the fact that he is once again on top form here. Mid-paced riffs coincide with the blast beats and again the use of samples here and there only enhance the song. Jonny uses all his experience to create this monstrous track and the effect of the start of this album is overwhelming.

“Upon the Sound of her Wings” starts off again with ravens calling and a lighter riff and drum beat enshrouded in Kam’s vocals before incessant double bass drumming, which you all know I love, speed things up very nicely indeed. Overall the song is more mid-paced than before but it has a lot more samples and different instrumentation than the previous tracks. Kam’s vocals are more drawn out on this track played over fast-paced riffs from Jonny and mid-tempo drumming with militaristic precision. “Return to Nevermore” displays old school riffs once again enhanced by the synths and with Kam taking any opportunity to growl, makes this a more catchy and groovy song than before. This has moments of latter-day Kataklysm in parts mixed with Dimmu Borgir synths.

“From the Haunted Sea” gives me the same feeling of later Behemoth and Kam once again showing off his vocal talent at every opportunity. Again synths play their part in this song as with the others, this song is much slower than any song previous before picking up slightly halfway through with groove tinged death metal. There are also slower paced Septic Flesh for me in this also which again just makes this old deathster fan extremely happy. “The Anger of Despair When Coping With Your Death” starts off again with a nice intro and Kam’s vocals in the background with mid-paced riffs and intense double bass action. Synths again are pivotal in the performance of the song. Kam does almost clean singing as he would like to get before the speed picks up again with intense blast beats which catch you really off guard. There are so many time and tempo changes in this song but it is beautifully constructed by Jonny which shows how he is such an accomplished musician.

“Kingdom of the Nattravnen” builds the atmosphere from the start with blasting drum beats meets heightened synths. This is the perfect sound and once the speed element quietens down about, Kam comes in with his most creepy sounding vocals of the album yet. After the verse, it goes back to the relentless growls and I have to admit that this track is my favourite of the whole album. It has everything to keep every death metal fan happy with its atmosphere, unpredictability and just supreme musicianship from all those involved. The synths once again are huge and blasphemous adding to the overall eerie atmosphere of the song.

“Kvlt av Ravnen” is the final track and starts off once again with softer melodies which is a trait prevalent throughout this album. Again the speed of the song flies off the scale with intense blast beats once again and groovy style riffs. Any opportunity once again for Kam to growl, he expertly took and just enhances this track to make a very strong end to the album with the last few tracks. Like a number of tracks on this album, there are the more melodic ambient parts mixed with the more old school death metal parts which are perfectly and professionally executed. Stunning album from both parties.

The classical synths bring this album to a close and there is only one thing the listener can do after listening to this album and that is to hit the play button once again. Any old school or new school death metal fan will find something to love about this album. This again is a startling reminder as to how creative death metal can be and to shut up those who are narrow-minded to say that death metal is just noise. This album is beautifully constructed, arranged and executed by both Jonny and Kam and I hope that this will not be a one-off project. Who said death metal was dead?

Kult of the Raven is out 7th December

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