Every so often, a new black metal band springs out of the cold northern forests of the musical style's homeland to remind you that it is still very much alive and kicking. Sweden's Wormwood are one of those bands. Nattarvet is Wormwood's sophomore album, following on from 2017's promising debut 'Ghostlands: Wounds from a Bleeding Earth'. Translating roughly as 'night's legacy', Nattarvet is an album that has Sweden's forested landscapes and rural heritage running through its blackened veins. Despite fitting broadly into the 'black metal' genre, Nattarvet is more than just blast-beats and furious riffing. On offer here is some decent 'clean' singing, folk instrumentation and rustic melodies. But there is still a darkness at the heart of this album that well befits a black metal album, the lyrical content and music themes harkening back to the days of subsistence farming, backbreaking work and winter starvation that was still a stark reality in Sweden even as recently as the late 19th century.
It's a real breath of fresh, Scandinavian air to see a band that not only writes great black metal songs but find inspiration from their country's (fairly recent) history and heritage and weaves it so intricately into their music which is subsequently tinged with grief, loss and sorrow, rather than just turning to the usual tired Satanic tropes for inspiration.
Opening track 'Av Lie Och Börda' sets the bar high right at the start of the album with its powerful riffing, rasping vocals, bouncing rhythms, soaring solos and folky melodies.
'Arctic Light' provides some wonderful guitar work, really showcasing the level of musicianship on display here. Melancholic yet beautiful.
For me, the real stand-out track on Nattarvet is 'The Isolationist', an eleven minute masterpiece of a track, wrought with emotion, sorrow and hardship boiled down into musical form and a more than worthy end to a truly excellent second album by Wormwood. It's well worth reading the lyrics and/or watching the very well produced music video to get a better idea of what the song is about, to really feel the full impact of this piece of songwriting.
With 'Nattarvet', Wormwood have really outdone themselves and exceeded any expectations anyone could have had after their first effort. Full of heritage and history, emotion and evocative songwriting, Nattarvet is well worth repeat listens and will mark the point at which Wormwood really started to master their craft.