Neftaraka - Morts (Eldritch Lunar Miasma Records)

True black metal from the chilly, windswept fjords of...Malaysia?
Release Date: 
21 Jan 2012 - 1:30am

If you listened to this album before reading Neftaraka’s bio, you’d be forgiven if you immediately thought the band called some godforsaken spit of Norwegian tundra home. After all, Morts is riddled with all the trademark stylings of true Norwegian black metal—the rapid sweep picking, low-fi necro production, reverberating, rasping, creaking and croaking vocals, and blast beats galore. But this northern venom has clearly snaked its way down to southern and sunnier climes, as Neftaraka actually hail from Malaysia, and have clearly been spending their career solely immersed in the first and second waves of black metal.

Morts, Neftaraka’s second full length album, which goes along with a collection of demos, splits, compilation appearances, and an EP put out over the course of the band’s 16 years enshrouded in darkness, opens with the atmospheric intro Rituale, featuring the voice of a man whimpering, begging, and pleading, before the whir of a blade gives way to skin creasing screams of agony and the slicing of bone and sinew. What follows is an album’s worth of raw, blasting black metal that keeps to all the hallmarks of its Scandinavian predecessors, unpolished and grim. Sufferance could be a track from any member of the Norwegian old guard, with a primitive, shredding quality to the mix, and is one of the shorter tracks on the album at under four minutes, with most hovering between five and seven minutes in length.

Meanwhile, tracks such as Morbid are slow, turbid, and bleak, with production that makes the song sound distant and cold. A nefarious lead guitar riff from axe man Silbyss plays on sustained minor notes while, vocalist Xxxul howls like a wolf over a fresh kill. Silbyss makes frequent use of the typical black metal arpeggios that break out into black metal blast. The drums are a bit lost in the mix, mostly cymbals and hi-hat without much kick. The riffs repeat and feed the dirge, swirling into one another, and the howls become a major component of the background dissonance. Neftaraka is a band that wears its influences like corpse paint and a bullet belt with its ritualistic, primitively evil sound. They’re not here to break down boundaries, only to pay tribute to the dark side with some enjoyably grim, beautiful, but forbidding and frostbitten black metal.

Songs like Pandemonium bring to mind the early years of Darkthrone and Wrath of the Tyrant era Emperor. The songs sound like they were recorded in a trailer out in the woods, with the gasping, cracking, and croaking vocals channeling some elements of depressive black metal. Neftaraka is quite adept at going back and forth between the blast and the slow plod. The guitars are heavily layered, and the production value is raw but never thin. The chaos and majesty always blitzes through to the forefront. On F.O.A.D.A. the vocal shrieks are layered, sounding as though they are echoing across a barren landscape, bouncing back off the trees and overlapping each other in waves of despair, anger, and hatred. Neftaraka achieves overall density without sacrificing rawness—eschewing modernity in favor of something more real.

The muted synths then come out to play on Antarra Solitude, an instrumental song which opens up with snow and wind billowing across the land, opening up to another unrelentingly old school offering. This particular track wrenches and captures the sonic essence of being alone in the dark realms of the mind. Bringing things to an end is the title track, kicking off with some sort of incantation, and the sounds of some vaguely Mesopotamian sounding instrument—an interesting twist. This one sounds like many of the other songs on the record, as there’s only so much you can do within the strict confines dictated by your record collection beginning and ending with Transylvanian Hunger. But true cult black metal was never meant to be anything more than true cult black metal, and Neftaraka, despite the great geographical discrepancy between their homeland and the birthplace of their chosen genre, has this down to a wicked science.