The Grander Voyage
(Black Lodge Records)
Sweden’s Netherbird have returned with their fourth full-length release, three years after The Ferocious Tales Of Fate and ultimately, it’s pretty good. Described as a sort of mixture of symphonic and melodic black metal, The Grander Voyage is heavily more folk-influenced and it features quite a bit of acoustics. I’m reminded much of acts like Moonsorrow and Agalloch here, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I do feel that the band’s two B-Sides released as bonus tracks for earlier released singles are far more entertaining than some of the tracks that I heard here and despite the fact that these guys like the sound of wind, rain and acoustics as much as they do on a little two-minute ditty like “Dance Of The Eternals”, I would have given this disc a far higher score if either “Sculptors and Spectres” or the incredible “Brazen Splendour” had appeared in it’s mediocre place. Yes, you heard me right – the band recorded two full-length pieces during this session which they did not use, and you cannot get them on any limited edition version of the album. That to me is poor marketing and a downright terrible decision on behalf of either the band, the label or perhaps even both. There’s no reason in my mind as to why good, memorable cuts like these had to be lifted, especially when they had their own powerful atmosphere that at times can outweigh some of the disc’s greatest numbers. If this makes you lose interest in the piece, then I can’t blame you. I wouldn’t buy it either. Not in that kind of edited format. I’ve spoken with people in my life who happen to have had the fortune or luck of becoming millionaires and possibly even greater and if I’d had that kind of money myself, I would have paid out of pocket for a limited edition digipack version to be produced by Black Lodge wherein these two cuts could be added back to their rightful places on the album. Instances like this are just one reason why I do what I do, especially when I notice major problems in this respect. Netherbird are a strong band and this is a very powerful album. I just feel that some of it’s better moments have been cast aside. They don’t deserve this and neither do you.
But if you’re still interested in checking out what we have here, you’ll find that “Windwards” is just as memorable as it was during the first single pressing with new cuts “Hinterlands”, “The Silvan Shrine” and “Emerald Crossroads” also showing their place within the disc’s mix. We get the right amount of classic melodic black metal, along with some evidences of Dissection, Illnath and others.Oddly enough, Cradle Of Filth is compared most to these guys over at Metal Archives and I find that not to be the case with this album. We would definitely compare Cradle with an act like Carach Angren, but there’s too much of a raw and folk-influenced black metal nature evident here to even acknowledge the tiny sprinkling of Gothic elements on the disc. That actually might be a better sell for fans though, because despite the fact that I am a hardcore Cradle Of Filth fan (since Principle) I understand that there will be those who would be heavily put off by comparisons. It’s not that the band haven’t tried, it’s that we’ve only gotten so little from them to go on here. Four minutes of this album composes two songs, one being an intro and the other being an interlude. An interlude that comes much too soon. I’d almost be suspect to think that songs were literally removed from the disc that were meant to be there in the first place. If you’ve already purchased both singles, you’re only getting about twenty-three minutes of material that you haven’t already heard, so you might as well consider both of those singles to be an entire half of the album. Regardless of all the work that these guys tried to accomplish this time around and how much they manage to stand out among their earlier releases this time around (again, this album sounds nothing like Cradle) I’m still rather bitter towards this turn of events and wish it hadn’t been this way. If there’s one silver lining that softens the blow for me, it’s that the record is available for just a mere seven dollars (USD) on Bandcamp. A physical copy however will set you back fifteen bones, which is certainly not recommended in my opinion. I would have even paid twenty for the addition of more material, especially when it was readily available from the start. Very rarely do I ever get this upset during an album review, so consider this something to remember.