Album Review – Skognatt / Ancient Wisdom (2018)

An onrush of Atmospheric Black Metal as raw, aggressive, melodic and obscure as it can be, from the undergrounds of Bavaria directly into your mind.

Hailing from Augsburg, one of Germany’s oldest cities and the third-largest city in Bavaria (after Munich and Nuremberg), here comes a very sinister and interesting Atmospheric Black Metal/Dark Ambient one-man project named Skognatt, who have just unleashed darkness upon humanity with its first full-length album Ancient Wisdom. After its inception in 2016 by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Danijel Zambo, Skognatt released the demo Landscape of Ice in 2016, followed by the EP Stargazer that same year, and another EP in 2017 titled Ancient Wisdom (with the same name as the new album, but only featuring two songs that would be part of it). With the help of guest multi-instrumentalist Gerileme (Asche der Welten, Osteon) on drums and drum engineering, Skognatt brings forth six otherworldly compositions in Ancient Wisdom, living up to the legacy of old school Black Metal but with an atmospheric and eccentric twist added to its already somber musicality.

Macabre and phantasmagoric from the very beginning, the title-track Ancient Wisdom brings forward acoustic guitars intertwined with the sinister, demonic gnarls by Danijel, flowing smoothly and darkly until its ending, all boosted by creepy keyboard notes. Then the steady drumming by Gerileme and the lugubrious guitars by Danijel set the pace in Xibalbá, an Atmospheric Black Metal tune with hints of Symphonic Black Metal and Middle-Eastern nuances, with the vocals by Danijel sounding more devilish and anguished than before; followed by World Apart, showcasing blast beats and flammable guitar riffs (and therefore leaning towards traditional Black Metal), but also bringing a touch of delicacy and melancholy to the overall musicality through its very melodic and sometimes acoustic background sounds and tones.

More obscure than its predecessors, Thanatos alternates between melancholic, serene passages and more aggressive moments led by the piercing growls by Danijel, resulting in a Stygian hymn that can be used as the soundtrack to your deepest nightmares. As a matter of fact, Thanatos was the personification of death in Greek mythology, just to give you a sense of how dark this song is. Moving on with the album, Dark Star presents a movie-inspired intro before an explosion of demonic sounds fills the air, with Gerileme sounding even more infernal on drums in a hybrid of contemporary Ambient and Experimental Black Metal. Put differently, it can’t get any more underground, visceral and crude than this, being definitely not recommended for the lighthearted. And closing this somber and eccentric album we have another blast of Atmospheric Black Metal titled Fallen, spiced up by peculiar and whimsical sounds and featuring spoken words taken from the work of English nobleman and poet Lord Byron (1788 – 1824). Furthermore, Danijel does a great job both on keyboards and on vocals, enhancing the song’s already distinct taste until the music fades into a mesmerizing semi-acoustic outro.

In summary, Ancient Wisdom (which by the way is available for a full listen on YouTube) is one of those albums of extreme music that perfectly represent what underground metal is all about, being raw, aggressive, melodic and obscure, all at the same time. And in order to show your true support to an independent act like Skognatt, you can pay a visit to the band’s official Facebook page, and of course buy your copy of Ancient Wisdom from its BandCamp page, keeping the fires of Black Metal burning inside the dark soul of Mr. Danijel Zambo and his devilish alter ego Skognatt for years and years to come.

Best moments of the album: Xibalbá and Thanatos.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Ancient Wisdom 5:17
2. Xibalbá 5:09
3. World Apart 5:19
4. Thanatos 4:06
5. Dark Star 4:50
6. Fallen + Outro 6:44

Band members
Danijel Zambo – vocals, all instruments

Guest musician
Gerileme – drums

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Album Review – Nocturnal Escape / Nocturnal Escape (2015)

Do you love elaborate music, but at the same time do you feel an urge to bang your head nonstop? This skillful German act might have exactly what you’re looking for.

Rating5

Nocturnal Escape - Nocturnal Escape - coverIf you’re one of those demanding metalheads who’s always looking for fresh and complex music, which at the same time still offers a raw vibe or an evil aura that keeps the music as underground as possible the likes of Moonsorrow, Enslaved, Opeth and Amorphis, you’ll have a great time banging your head to Nocturnal Escape, the self-titled debut album by German Progressive Death/Black Metal band Nocturnal Escape.  It might not be an easy listen for people who are used to more straightforward rock and metal at first, but the quality of the music found in this album is so good you’ll end up succumbing to the band’s intricate darkness after a short while.

As a matter of fact, this Augsburg-based group is more like a project created by multi-instrumentalist Leo Bergmann in January 2014, a few months after his previous band, Bleak, disbanded in 2013. Leo was joined by his brother, bassist Klaus Bergmann (who also plays for the excellent German Death Metal band Disgusting Perversion), in late 2014, and also by vocalist Thomas Zimmermann, who added clean vocals to the album in 2015. I don’t know if they can be called a “power trio”, but they surely know how to make a lot of noise and how to fill every empty space with their notes, riffs and beats.

A demonic voice introduces us to the music by Nocturnal Escape in War Of Beliefs, a blend of Death and Black Metal so technical and obscure it’s not recommended for the faint-hearted. However, amidst all turbulence there’s room for tons of progressiveness and melody, with kudos to Leo for crafting such solid and entertaining musicality. What starts as an epic battle hymn evolves to boisterous Black Metal in Age Of Atrocity, with highlights to the nonstop riffs by Leo, the good balance between harsh and clean vocals thanks to a great job done by Thomas, and its meaningful lyrics (“Don’t follow leaders for whom you are lifestock / Pull out now to prevent the shellshock / Cluelessness is bliss of the mindless herd / Set yourself aside and feast on your hate”). Besides, although it’s less progressive than the opening track, it still presents intricate passages and lots of tempo changes.

A Lucid Mind, which leans towards cleaner Progressive Metal despite the growling vocals by Leo, offers us calm and relaxing passages focusing on Thomas’ clean voice and an embracing atmosphere to soothe our souls, while the other pieces of the song are an ode to madness and freedom; followed by Disillusion Strikes, where the band gets back to a more direct sounding, a modern Death Metal tune with hints of the craziness generated by bands such as Devin Townsend, turning it into one of the top moments of the album. The title-track, Nocturnal Escape, starts in some kind of “cosmic” way due to its synths, before switching to Progressive Metal enhanced by Leo’s devilish growls while Thomas declaims his vocal lines, developing then an interesting storyline to be followed attentively throughout the entire song as you can see in its lyrics (“The pain feels good the pain feels right / This cleansing torture drives me through the night / I follow this path and come to me / With this aquired taste in human tragedy”). A similar situation is found in Screaming Heart, with yet another melancholic intro that grows in sorrow and darkness until it becomes a Progressive Dark/Doom Metal exhibit. Not only it feels like two or three songs in one, but the strong focus on riffs and solos were clearly done on purpose by Leo to enhance the song’s punch.

Nocturnal Escape - logoWhat initially seems to flirt with Alternative Rock and modern Hard Rock turns into a Black Metal feast with a desperate ambience that will invade your mind in Gaia’s Demise, with its funereal riff and the well-balanced duo of harsh and clean vocals leading this progressive tune through its acoustic passages and mesmerizing rhythm. And what if Deep Purple, Devin Townsend and Arch Enemy got together for a jam session? The result would probably resemble the thrilling tune entitled Call To Humanity, which keeps rolling at full speed fueled by its awe-inspiring guitar riffs and solos. It’s indeed an amazing mix of Speed and Death Metal with huge dosages of progressiveness and feeling to close the album on a high note, and in my humble opinion it’s the best tune of the album by far. In addition, pay close attention to the song’s special guests Paul Perlberg, Joscha Radaj (Zerfetzer, Musikalischer Gesundheitsdienst), Tobias Ruf (Disgusting Perversion), Julian Gruber (Running Death) and Simon Bihlmayer (Running Death), as they add some crazy amount of wickedness to the final result.

You can get more details on Nocturnal Escape at their official Facebook page, as well as purchase their debut album through BandCamp. This is a great opportunity for fans of progressive and aggressive music to witness the inception and rise of a talented metal act from Germany who are not afraid of experimenting and adding different layers of complexity to their compositions, creating a unique sounding that, as aforementioned, will beautifully reach to your heart and definitely make you bang your metal head.

Best moments of the album: Age Of Atrocity, Disillusion Strikes and Call To Humanity.

Worst moments of the album: Nocturnal Escape.

Released in 2015 Independent

Track listing
1. War Of Beliefs 7:37
2. Age Of Atrocity 5:23
3. A Lucid Mind 6:52
4. Disillusion Strikes 4:34
5. Nocturnal Escape 7:01
6. Screaming Heart 4:19
7. Gaia’s Demise 6:36
8. Call To Humanity 6:31

Band members
Leo Bergmann – harsh vocals, guitars, keyboards, drum programming
Thomas Zimmermann – clean vocals
Klaus Bergmann – bass

Guest musicians
Paul Perlberg – vocals on “Call To Humanity”
Joscha Radaj – keyboards on “Call To Humanity”
Tobias Ruf – second guitar solo on “Call To Humanity”
Julian Gruber – fourth guitar solo on “Call To Humanity”
Simon Bihlmayer – sixth guitar solo on “Call To Humanity”