Hymns From Realms Yonder
(Black Lodge Records)
When a compilation of rarities comes out, the only real rarity is that the collection will be any good. Even for top-tier bands, songs that didn’t make the cut the first time are usually best left for the cutting room floor (and swept under the rug). That said, Sweden’s Netherbird aren’t your average band, and Hymns From Realms Yonder is much more than the garden variety compilation record. In fact, it serves as a fantastic introduction to a band doing a bit of their own thing in the black metal world.
Throughout their 13-plus-year journey, Netherbird’s highly melodic form of symphonic extreme metal has seen some changes, and those become clear throughout this record. What started as a mix of Dissection’s melodeath-infused black metal and Cradle of Filth’s gothic black metal has added bits of traditional heavy metal, folk, doom, and Viking metal. The first two tracks are also the band’s most recent (from 2016) and they showcase a sound that sounds like a more extreme variant of Amon Amarth: deadly riffs and deadlier melodies play off the war-torn ambiance. The traditional heavy metal influence is strong, as there are moments where Netherbird sound like a blackened Khmemis, with big, brazen melodies pulsing above the frost-bitten atmosphere. That comes even more into play with “Shadows and Snow”, which may be the best of the bunch. It’s mix of folk, doom, and symphonic black metal is razor-sharp and instantly memorable.
It’s also important to note that Hymns From Realms Yonder, aside from some slightly noticeable production changes over the years, functions very well as a cohesive collection. Sure, Netherbird’s sound has shifted over their decade-plus existence, but the band’s impressive melodic chops help keep these songs rooted in the same goal: to appeal to a wide array of metalheads. Sure, this is very far from “trve cvlt” black metal, but those looking for a primer on a very underappreciated Swedish black/death group, this compilation surely does the trick. Aside from the very underwhelming covers at the end, Hymns From Realms Yonder showcases a talented group who surely impresses on a broad spectrum of b-sides. Their A-sides must be (and, indeed, are) fantastic.