Naglfar – Cerecloth (Century Media)

It has been eight long years since Naglfar have darkened our world. Eight years since the Swedes released the acclaimed Téras, their first album as a trio.

As such, expectations were high for their seventh full length.

And while Cerecloth is unlikely to extend Naglfar’s reach beyond their existing fanbase, the band’s ability to conjure slick, melodic black metal, bathed in freezing sea mist and bearing a heart of cold hatred, is still very much intact.

It’s evident as soon as the title track opens the record and guitarists Marcus Norman and Andreas Nilsson spit shards of glacial malevolence from their fretboards. It’s confirmed when Horns rears its monstrous head, breaking through the permafrost to breathe dramatic bombast into Cerecloth. These songs are a reminder that Naglfar have been honing their writing skills over almost three decades. Vocalist Kristoffer ‘Wrath’ Olivius, plus Norman and Nilsson, know how this music works. It’s instinctive for them.

More examples? Vortex Of Negativity is (as it sounds) a maelstrom of black metal violence, yet it’s tempered by spiralling melodies which hook into your flesh on the way down. Like Poison For The Soul is a chilling, mid-paced exercise in polar chord progressions and piercing leadwork.

Frustratingly though, Cry Of The Serafim drops the pace mid-record to a dull trudge through the tundra and while The Dagger In Creation swiftly injects some adrenaline into Cerecloth, it’s not until album closer Last Breath Of Yggdrasil that the initial exhilaration returns. But the song, rooted in Norse mythology and coursing with primeval power, is worth the wait: a passionate, earth scorching mini-epic, it is one of Naglfar’s finest compositions to date… and an incredible way to mark the band’s comeback.

Cerecloth has its flaws.

Perhaps we could have expected a little more, given it was so long in the making.

But the album still represents a welcome return to the fray from Umeå’s black metal craftsmen. And it proves that Naglfar’s union of fire and ice is as compelling now as it was back in their noughties heyday.