I had never heard of Narvik until this album found its way into my inbox, but I was still compelled to cover their latest full length album, Ascension to Apotheosis, for a couple of reasons. For one, this particular black metal band hails from Germany. Freiburg, to be more specific. And we all know where I stand on the black metal scene currently emerging from that particular region of the world (here’s a clue: I like it). But secondly, the band name in a reference to a very northern town in Norway that was home to the late Robert Burâs, a prominent name in extreme metal, and a name each member of this band thinks highly of. Coincidentally, is also the hometown of a few relatives of mine — relatives I’ve been trying to visit for some time. Story time over. I was both curious and excited to check this effort out, and overall it is a quality representation of black metal, even if it doesn’t necessarily seem do a ton to stand initially.
Starting from the beginning, Ascension to Apotheosis isn’t an easily album to get into. The introductory “Invokation II” is a bit too drawn out and fails to really build to anything over the three minute instrumental run time. Furthermore, the subsequent “Wounds of Aspiration” doesn’t exactly catch our interest, either. While the production is fairly impressive, the sound and structure is relatively straightforward and the vocals from Redeemer are guttural in a jarring way that takes some getting used to. Fortunately, from there, things improve significantly.
“Geist zu Scherben” explores a wide variety of cadences and lead guitar work. The vocals become equally as diverse, including choral backing vocals. From the piercing leads to the galloping cadence, and the constantly evolving nature of the song, Ascension to Apotheosis takes on far more atmosphere. And with that, begins to establish its personality The following tracks, “Psychotic Redeemer” through “Berstende Säulen” become even more chaotic. The leads become more bipolar, the rhythms stop and start intermittently, and the vocals invoke more agony in the audience. And these are all good things.
By the time we get to “The Shore”, the personality of the album has fully emerged. There are moments of defined deliberation mixed right alongside a consistent punishment from the double kick. My highlight is “BarrenSemen”… because of the name… but also because it seems to hold the most atmosphere and grandiosity through its tremolo picking and consistent rhythms. I mean, of course, things go off in a million directions eventually. But after how complex the rest of the album is, I will gladly take it in the early stages if nothing else. This album covers a lot of ground. After taking a couple tracks to get going, it develops into a cleverly insane display of black metal.
Ascension to Apotheosis is an interesting listen. On the one hand, it seems like a pretty clear cut black metal album from the overall environment it creates. But on the other hand, the musicianship and structural aspect of this album are among the more complex I’ve heard in years. What this leaves us with is a rather jarring album, especially in the sharp chaos of the leads that never seem to get comfortable (and as an audience we reflect that). But at the same time it’s an album you want to keep listening to because of its disorganized feel. It keeps you on the edge, curious about what direction the sound will continue evolve in. So, in all Narvik have definitely created a notable black metal album to this point in 2016. I encourage checking it out; there’s a lot to be uncover in these eight tracks and I have a feeling it will impact each audience member differently.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”