US ambient black metallers Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus have returned with a new EP that boasts about twenty minutes of new music. What's different here however, is the fact that there are several different vocalists here instead of one as well as an unexpected style of music for the instrumental closer, “Comte-Sponville.” We'll start out with the rather expected “Traversing The Frozen North” which sees a bevy of familiar tremolos and misty synths, as well as Gary Hadden (Lesch-Nyhan)on vocal duties. Hadden's vocals are closer to the black metal scowls that one would find compatible for such a tune and it works out fairly well. The next track and title cut has a little more of a doom nature and also features former Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus frontman Joel Robert Thompson on vocals. Thompson lends more to death metal, and the track itself is surprisingly a welcome change of pace from the band's more icy material. These powerful doom dirges work pretty well for the act, even though I feel the vocal filtering here isn't necessarily needed. The song is still relatively strong though. After that we have “Virgin Essence” which features James Dorton (Black Crown Initiate, Nightfire, others) whose main band has seen quite a bit of popularity as of late. There's also some weird vocal filtering here that sounds like an echo effect. I don't really see the use of this, but I will say that the leads here are pretty catchy, if not a bit folky and mysterious. The band are definitely getting better musically and I'm quite happy with several of the performances here on an instrumental level. Hadden returns for “Immaculate Deconception” where the band's common melodic black metal excursions are offset by slight bits of atmosphere and some spoken word vocals. The leads are exceptionally powerful in some areas here, almost reminding me a little bit of classic melodic death metal. I also like some of the drum frills here, as I can understand just what Mika Mage is trying to do with them. It works pretty well in some sections, leaving us off with a pretty good representation of what the band is and what they stand for. Though most importantly, it shows that they're getting better. The final track is “Comte-Sponville” which as I said, comes off as an unexpected surprise. The track seems to observe a more Latin style of music, something that comes off a little folky and perhaps even a bit western. Perhaps the band are going to employ this style on the next one, adding more credence to that budding “western black metal” movement I've heard coming out of California? Some listeners might compare such a piece to “elevator music” but I actually think this piece is kind of nice. It works like an ending credits and leaves us with a relatively satisfying listen all around.
(5 Tracks, 19:00)