A band that I don’t think has truly got the appreciation it deserves is the Swedish melodic black/death metal band Netherbird. Sure a lot of people know about them but it seems to never been that much hype around their albums when they drop. I find that weird because not only are they a great band but they are in many ways the closest we can get to that sweet sweet Dissection sound in modern time (I would say Unanimated too but they are alive and kicking again). While the lyrical theme differs a lot from both Unanimated and Dissection that perfect passage between black and death metal is played here just as well. Into the Vast Uncharted is the bands 11th album (counting the EP’s, fifth full-length) and they’ve aged like a fine wine with their last album The Grander Voyage being the best they had done. Will Into the Vast Uncharted be just as good?
New since the last album is the addition of a full-time drummer in the Netherbird ranks. Fredrik Widigs (ex-Marduk, ex-Demonical and ex-Nordjevel to name a few) did a fine job as a session drummer on The Grander Voyage but now the line-up is complete as Fredrik Andersson (A Canorous Quintet, This Ending, ex-Amon Amarth) joined Netherbird in 2016 and has been able to be a part of this album since the very start due to it, and it shows. It’s not easy to stand out in a band that’s had drummers of such high caliber as Widigs, Erlandsson (At the Gates, ex-Paradise Lost) or Fjellström (Nordjevel, ex-Dark Funeral, ex-Aeon) but hell Andersson manages to really shine on Into the Vast Uncharted. He makes his presence known and stands out especially on tracks like “Saturnine Ancestry” and “Nexus of Unlight” where the intro’s literally is a kickstart into headbanging from the drums alone. That being said it’s obviously not a one-man show. Nephente on vocals is as good as ever, Jon Nödtveidt would be pleased, with the bass/guitar work from Nord, Jacobsson, André and Bizmark really hitting the sweet spots. No one could ever complain on the musicianship involved in a Netherbird album, that’s for sure.
There is honestly only one track I have a bit of a problem with on Into the Vast Uncharted and that’s “Eventide Evangel”. It starts of as a quite boring tune, even for a sort of ballad, but eventually it unleashes a flurry of wicked riffs and thundering drums that at least makes the song end on a high to eventually lead into one of the best tracks on the album “The Obsidian White”. They made it work a lot better on “Harvest the Stars” for this sort of slower tune, much due to the length of the two songs as “Harvest the Stars” is quite a lot shorter and never really loses focus as I think “Eventide Evangel” did. “Mercury Skies” clocking on almost nine minutes could be suffering from the same fate but here the melancholic tunes and atmosphere keeps it together well, showcasing how Netherbird has done these type of songs incredible well in the past on songs like “Hinterlands” and “Pillars of the Sky”. Also has to be said the production value is once again of the highest level, I might even go as far as saying it’s a step greater than it was on The Grander Voyage.
Into the Vast Uncharted is yet another excellent album from Netherbird, a band that I think never falters. With songs like “Mercury Skies” (which takes the mantle from “Pillars of the Sky” as a superb epic song with ease), “Saturnine Ancestry” and “The Obsidian White” keeping the flame burning of the brightest blue this bird once again soars high. Is it as good as The Grander Voyage? Honestly I think the two albums are quite different so hard to tell after only a few days with the album. Into the Vast Uncharted is more intense and maybe not as grand of a voyage (nor as symphonic) as it’s predecessor, but this is closer to Dissection than they’ve ever been, blurring out the boundaries between death and black metal. One thing I do know for certain right now though, The Grander Voyage was on my top albums of 2016 list and Into the Vast Uncharted will be just as well!
Written by J.B.