It’s funny, I just listened to an age-old 1996 record of Astarte, the Greek (almost) all-girl Black Metal band,1) all over again. So, I was really fired up for some good, church-burning Scandinavian Black Metal. All lookouts manned, and gun crews ready to fire.
And sure enough, the folks from Narbeleth appeared on our search radar with a new album. We already had a short run-in with them on the excellent Indomitvs some time ago. Back then, the band’s Black Metal prowess truly made us listen up. Theirs is the real thing. A band with Cuban origins and based in Spain that can take on any of those established black metallers at any time. And whilst the style doesn’t quite reek of novelty, it’s still pretty remarkable.
Svmma Cvm Nox Arcana delivers what it promises. It’s that traditional Black Metal sound that we sometimes crave. The real thing, straight from the fiery pit of hell. You’ll constantly expect the mean mug of Gaahl (ex Gorgoroth)2) to appear out from the props somewhere. This is the stuff from the era of the sweaty, hairy beasts full of hatred for the nailed god. A part of the BM lore that somehow melted into the background these days.
That said, these Cubans often exceed what filters down from Scandinavia currently, some exceptions notwithstanding. This new record won’t change tack from its predecessor. It’s still those heavy Black Metal riffs that come on an abundance of blast beats. So much so that after a while we had a few attacks of sensory overload. But what do you expect, right? One of the main issues a Black Metal piece always has is diversity, and that is a difficult thing in a genre with confines that tight.
Well, there’s at least a bit of light in this pitch-black, frightening darkness. The whole offering comes with (very) slight atmospherics that thrive on a few ambients, clears,3) and a tad of melodic extravaganza. Also, the bass does have a distinct voice on Svmma Cvm Nox Arcana, always a good thing in a metal piece. Let me also point out Amalia Cisneros, their live session bassist, who provided some guitar on the Nettlecarrier cover. Apart from that, the outfit is still manned by the original member Dakkar and Vindok who founded the piece back in time.
Now, if I was to suggest three tracks on this record, then Cold Whisper Carried by the Wind, A Throne Over the Seven Stars, and Towards the Most Primitive Matter of Our Nature would be my choice. Perhaps with Moon of a Thousand Shapes as their closest cousin.
Now, is truly everything ship-shape on this album? No, of course not. I said it before, the repetition bug is a problem. Also, the fact that Indomitvs and this record are so similar will probably not allow a third album of the same ilk. In other words, it’s cool to drive traditional BM eternally. But soon the band will find out that they’re beating a dead horse and the size of the audience won’t move too much. And that’s not something a band can usually survive on.
But then again, this might not necessarily be something Narbeleth really care about. Further, I am unsure if featuring a cover4) really adds value to this piece. They could have ditched that and gone for a way crisper delivery. One that doesn’t noodle about the same soundscape yet again.
Ultimately however, it – apparently – takes a band manned by Cubans and based in Spain to deliver traditional down-home Black Metal. Svmma Cvm Nox Arcana thrives on those gritty old values the genre initially imposed. A piece hailing to the princes of hell, no fantasy land, outrageous theory, or old wars fought all over again. So, if you’re into traditional Black Metal whose riffs thrive on chunks of rotten meat from the underworld, this is your band. Fiery, scratchy, mean, barebone – and thunderously good.
Let the arcane sink into you. You won’t regret it. If it won’t burn you to a crisp in the process, that is.