Ninkharsag - Blood of Celestial Kings [Candlelight - 2015]Ninkharsag, a relatively new horde of UK black metallers signed to Candlelight for their debut album Blood of Celestial Kings, due later this month.
It’s pretty clear from the first track on that this is exactly the type of black metal big labels release. On the surface, Ninkharsag seems like it would check all of the boxes someone at a corporate office would be trained to look for when evaluating new bands. Occult? Check. Furious, yet melodic enough to entice most black metal fans? Check. Angry and violent sounding without actually being threatening and transgressive? Check.
Maybe I’m being a bit harsh. Yes, Ninkharsag are basically the walking prototype of polished, big-label black metal, but they do it fairly well. Better than most Dissection/Watain worshipping practitioners of the black arts, at least. But while there are lots tight passages of tempting, Swedish melodies, there’s an equal amount of vapid, uninspired minor tremolo riffs that serve no purpose but to segue from one of the aforementioned melodically minded sections. This and the polished production make me think that Ninkharsag want to be a full-fledged melodic black metal band, but held back because that might not have gotten them signed to a label like Candlelight.
It’s this sense of holding back that disappoints me the most. It seems like Ninkharsag is made of a talented group, as evident in the slick instrumentation and on tracks like “Tartarus Unbound” or “Iron Wolves”, where everything coalesces into a mass of sickly-sweet, blackened decay. But there’s this unshakable feeling that they went through a list of what black metal should be, without adding enough of their own passion and ideas. The whole thing comes off as safe or restrained.
While I have to give these men credit for a truly professional sounding release, that’s just not enough. I’m not sure what these guys wanted to achieve here besides appealing to a big label, and it doesn’t sound like they do either. Tyler L.