Nothgard – Age Of Pandora
Nothgard – Age Of Pandora (2014)
Reviewed by Evan Barnes
As the year 2014 has been an intensely productive one for good power metal, it can be easy to miss albums from other metal sub-genres. Certainly that was the case for me, as Nothgard’s sophomore album Age of Pandora wasn’t even on my radar. For those unfamiliar with Nothgard, as I was until recently, these Germans play a brand of melodic death metal that’s highly bombastic and symphonic (some would even call them epic, though the term is overused to the point of being devoid of meaning), reminiscent of Brymir, Kalmah, or even their countrymen Suidakra. One band it notably does not sound much like, though Nothgard is made up of roughly one-half of Wolfchant, is Wolfchant.
Age Of Pandora begins, as many metal albums of the “symphonic” descriptor do, with a grandiose intro track. About two-and-a-half minutes later, it transitions into the opening notes of the title track, “Age of Pandora”. The music is ambitious from the beginning, with the vocals and guitars immediately jumping out at the listener. Behind them the sound of keyboard-created elements can be clearly heard. Nothing in the mix is overbearing, and other than the lack of a clear bass sound, all the instruments blend quite nicely. When the keyboards aren’t producing overwhelming symphonic sounds, they underlay the vocals and guitar nicely to provide a solid atmosphere.
The guitars certainly drive the melody here, of which there’s plenty. Nothgard employs a triple-guitar tactic, and it really works out well. Vocalist/guitarist Dom has a voice reminiscent of Arkadius of Suidakra, and at times Pekka of Kalmah. Dom mostly sticks to harsh vocals, but occasionally Nothgard veers off into using gang-type and shouting clean vocals. Equilibrium’s Robse provides some additional vocals, though it’s unclear where on the album that happens.
After “Age of Pandora” and the followign “Blackened Seed” comes the song that, in my opinion, is by far the best on the album. “Black Witch Venture” has a much darker feel to it than anything else here, bringing to mind comparisons to Amorphis. The occasional clean shouting vocals are present here as well, along with a section where Nothgard uses a crow caw as an additional percussion instrument. The rest of the album returns to the standard fast-paced melodeath affair, with references to power metal and occasionally even playing with folk. Age Of Pandora ends similarly to how it began, with a symphonic outro tied into the final song “No One Holds The Crown”.
Most of the music is very fast paced, which is mostly par for the course for this style of melodic death metal, and the biggest drawback is the lack of variety present in the songwriting. As I was listening, I was having difficulty distinguishing one song from the next. It’s clear that Nothgard is a group of proficient composers, and each individual song has its own self-contained variety, but it feels as though the band was playing it a little too safe with the songwriting on Age of Pandora. The musicians are clearly very talented, and the music, apart from the aforementioned lack of variety, is top-notch. This is definitely an album worthy of being picked up if you’re a fan of the Kalmah/Suidakra style melodic death metal, and despite feeling like I’m listening to the same song over and over, it’s a fun listen that stays exciting and avoids dragging.
3.75 // 5