Saturday, June 11, 2016

Norman Shores

Norman Shores - Norske Herra
Ossuaire Records, 2016
Genre: Black Metal

1. Noirceur Ultime
2. Les Flamboyants
3. Le ver idolâtre
4. La Source
5. Morfond
6. Reidi Ulv
7. Norske Herra

We are very lucky indeed! I was ready to wait for quite a long time for the follow-up to "Le Tombeau de Brume" and already a year later we have a new album in our hands! A new album turn around this fast would usually lead me to believe that this will just be more of the same, but I'm not sure that's the case.

Certainly "Norske Herra" builds on "Le Tombeau de Brume", but everything feels improved. This also feels like a far more fiercer album. It still has some of the majestic mainstays of the prior release, but a lot of that is pushed aside for a more furious style. At times the album seems to remind me more of that majestic ferocity that bands like Forteresse manage to put into their music. The overall arrangements feel stronger as well. There were times during "Le Tombeau de Brume" where pieces felt a bit choppy or transitions felt too abrupt, but "Norske Herra" corrects a lot of these imperfections and really gives us a stellar listen from beginning to end! The title track actually goes full Bathory on us and sits as an interesting closing to the album. I typically don't like the later Bathory efforts and my enjoyment stops at "Blood Fire Death" really. Fog even performs some clean vocal arrangements, but are used sparingly, which is good. I don't like a lot of cleans in my Black Metal, so having this switch over to pure "Blood Fire Death" worship was awesome. Some parts with the chanting cleans remind me of early Hades as well, which was a wonderful memory to bring up as well amidst the old Bathory!

Somehow the recording and production quality are also quite a bit better this time around. I don't know if Fog upgraded his studio during this time frame at all, but everything sounds a lot more full. Even the layout and design of the booklet is much better as well.

This is, absolutely, the best Norman Shores to date. There's a solid chance this will hit my top 10 this year, because it is so well composed. Highly recommended on my end and definitely a must buy.

Norman Shores - Le Tombeau de Brume
Ossuaire Records, 2015
Genre: Black Metal

1. Intro - La complainte des Trépassés
2. Songes
3. Arefast à l'oeil mauvais
4. Le gardien des âmes
5. Interlude - Le lac au milles voix
6. Éternelle allégeance
7. Le berger des ombres
8. Messe des Morts
9. Final - Le tombeau de brume

I remember being surprised a new Norman Shores finally arrived on the US coast, because I had thought the project was on hold or defunct because it had been so many years since the debut album. However, with no warning a new album from Norman Shores finally showed up on these shores and I purchased a copy immediately. I was very impressed with the debut album and I was reasonably sure the new album would certainly be on par with the original.

"Le Tombeau de Brume" really sets a new standard for Fog's work, as far as I'm concerned. This really builds upon and then improves upon what we first heard in the first release. The overall complexity behind the compositions is what we first notice as a massive improvement. This mainly serves to produce an even more epic style and is sometimes reminiscent of what Emperor has done in the past with the approach. One of the major things I notice about Norman Shores is it's blend of the Scandinavian style with the epic and melodic French style of Black Metal. The album waxes and wanes through an experience of majestic and somber beauty, while still maintaining the fire and fury of Black Metal.

Aside from the overall composition, the vocal performance stands out from time to time as well. Fog primarily uses a traditional Black Metal voice, but has incorporated some chanting styles at times. The areas where they are placed reminds me, at times, of early Borknagar work. Other times he can strike an Atilla style vocal tone, but this is rarely used on the album. To me, this is a good thing, I much prefer the traditional feel of the vocals. When used sparingly the Atilla style works quite well, but again, it has to be in the right moments, not the whole album.

Overall another fine and enjoyable experience from one of France's finest musicians. This really embodies the old style with everything being "do it yourself". Everything was done by Fog, the layout, the recording, performance, everything, even released on his own record label. I would love to see this project get more recognition out in the scene, because it is very well done.

Norman Shores - Return to the Norman Shores
Antiq Records, 2012
Genre: Black Metal

1. Lost as a Ghost
2. Throne of Nemesis
3. La fin d'un Règne
4. The Grim Idol
5. Return to the Norman Shores
6. Ode to Honor the Brave

I remember going through the list of new arrivals at Paragon Records and I came upon this band. When I looked them up I was surprised to see they were from France, but also elated, because French Black Metal is probably my favorite. Also, my family history goes all the way back to this region, so I decided to give this project a shot immediately. I was surprised to see that the man behind the project is Fog, a musician I'd been following since early 2000 or so when he was involved with the French Angmar and Quintessence at this time, but that's about it. I wasn't aware he played any other instrument until I found Norman Shores. However, this is one of his many projects and the first solo project I encountered by him.

"Return to Norman Shores" heralds in a blend of the more melodic French style of Black Metal blended with solid Scandinavian Viking Metal. The songs are extremely well done and really remind me of the Viking Metal scene in the early days of Norway. Think along the lines of early Enslaved, but a bit faster in its performance. Even though this album is dedicated to the memory of Quorthon, I felt the main aspects drew from the Norwegian aspect of Viking Metal. Except for "Ode to Honor the Brave", which is total Bathory worship. This is directly influenced by "Blood Fire Death" down to the horse samples in the beginning! This song is an excellent homage to that era of Bathory.

I love the production quality on this release as well. It's got a very organic feel to it, which is a breath of fresh air to me, given that around 2012 a lot of Black Metal was feeling a lot more 'digital' in its production values. At least that's how I'd been feeling back in 2012. Either way Fog has managed to engineer an album fairly closely to what I would expect from a mid-90's release. I felt this really complimented the overall compositions wonderfully.

Even though this started as a fairly random buy on my end, I was really happy with it. So, if you like any of the elements I'm referencing above, this would be a great release to check out. It has definitely stood the test of time for me and I still enjoy the album to this day.

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