My vote is in: Djevel's Naa skrider natten sort is the best album of 2022. If you don't believe the overexcited American, know that Norway's preeminent black metal expert Finn Håkon Rødland called Naa skrider natten sort one of the top 5 albums of the past 20 years. Like Djevel's previous effort, Tanker som rir natten in 2021 (which earned the band their first Spellemann), Naa skrider natten sort is an unblemished 10/10.
On Naa skrider natten sort, Djevel's founder Trånn Ciekals,provides guitars, clean vocals, and chants; ex-Emperor's "Faust," Bård Guldvik Eithun, handles drums; and Mare's "Kvitrim," Eskil Blix, contributes harsh vocals and bass. In 2020, Kvitrim, who is also known as "Azazil," replaced Ciekals' NettleCarrier collaborator, "Mannevond," Lloyd Hektoen, who stepped down from his role with Djevel to focus on his work with Koldbrann.
Ciekals is a top-notch lyricist and composer. Fortunately, he writes Djevel's highly poetic lyrics in Norwegian. As a result, the texts have more flavor and better suit the music. Ciekals has stated that he embarked upon his black metal journey in 1992/1993 and continues to bring the same spirit to his work. This champion of authentic black metal refuses to mix his music with elements of other subgenres that would dilute his formidable elitist potion. No, Djevel has never compromised.
To reference Slavia, Djevel epitomizes "Strength and Vision." On Naa skrider natten sort, celestial beauty and earthy brutality engage in a Danse Macabre. This journey takes you to the heart of the abyss. Yet, there is something alpine about the lofty force guiding us on our quest for truth. The incredible atmosphere is thicker than Caspar David Friedrich's sea fog. Listening to the highly textured Naa skrider natten sort is a bit like beholding a Turner seascape in all of its sublime tumult. After all, Ciekals told Templo del Diablo: "I want my music to be an audio gate to the dark forests, snow covered mountains, and a dark lake." It's worth noting that Norway's breathtaking natural landscapes are tied to another one of Ciekals' inspirations, his country's pagan and devil-worshipping spirituality of old.
Naa skrider natten sort is not the work of black metal maniacs, but rather, something more dangerous — seasoned black metal deities. Raw yet refined, Djevel's work is mature and reflective. Living up to his epithet "His Black Majesty," Kvitrim's low, intense and controlled vocals reveal the self-possession of a priest of the dark arts. His cadence is superb. Although he projects vitality and herculean strength, it's hard to believe that Kvitrim is just 38 years old. At such a young age, his voice already boils over with so much "Lebensekel," or disgust for life. Meanwhile, the unrivaled master Faust proves that he is the Goethe of drummers — the best. He often steals the show.
There is not a clumsy moment or, as far as we can tell, an awkwardly placed word on this entire album, which progresses as seamlessly as if it were borne on raven's wings. Djevel never wastes an extraneous note. Some of Naa skrider natten sort's tracks are quite long, but Djevel's ability to do things on a grand scale is a major asset given that we are thoroughly engaged at times.
Although it would feel odd to pick a highlight from such a stellar offering, "Mitt tempel av stierner og brennende maaner," track 4/7, is a very special moment. If a newbie asked me to provide an example of great black metal composition, I would offer this one up. "Mitt tempel av stierner og brennende maaner" begins with chanting and has the strongest liturgical feel of any of the songs on this record. Yet, its black flame eventually engulfs us. Azazil's armored tongue cuts like a sword.
For me, "Mitt tempel av stierner og brennende maaner" represents a transition of sorts. Whereas the first part of the album makes you want to find a secluded rock and lose yourself in contemplation, the second half will set you in motion down a dark, tree-lined path. As Djevel crosses over into the homestretch, it feels as if they are shouldering the responsibility of one who is tasked with carrying a corpse to its final resting place. If you thought that you could escape death's grip, this weighty music lets you know otherwise. Naa skrider natten sort overflows with confidence, purpose, and meaning.
Expect variety, stunning melodies, killer riffs, and groove that will become trapped in your body. Ciekals' glorious acoustic guitar sections are beyond bewitching. Keyboards, an obvious menace when used incorrectly, and other brilliantly placed accents add untold dimension. At times, the music glitters like a starlit lake, but nothing ever seems like the result of anything other than a thoroughly black metal production.
The often seraphic chants, which come and go like pillars of smoke, sometimes take on the sturdy corporeality of an (un)orthodox choir. The album feels thoroughly organic yet otherworldly like the concrete smell of decomposing leaves threatening to carry us away with them toward oblivion. Changes of pace keep us dangling like worms on a hook: Moments of relative calm arise within the highly charged torrents of emotion. Djevel builds a great sense of space. The sound can become massive as a cathedral or as intimate and small as a cricket's chirp.
It would be a sin if we neglected to thank Djevel's career-long collaborator Ruben Willem for perfect mixing and mastering. A musician himself, Willem has played live with Djevel. You might know him from his work with Haust — a really interesting and funny black/hardcore hybrid.
In closing, Naa skrider natten sort is the immortal essence of Norwegian black metal distilled into an hour of pure excellence. Thus, you may not be tough enough to survive this shot of 200-proof Truth. This epic masterpiece is bound to separate the wolves from the dogs based on who pounces on it first when it drops on November 23 via Aftermath Music. If you don't immediately put down whatever you are listening to and rush to purchase this album, you are in for a clobbering from the music police. The only bad news is that you'll have to wait for the third installment of Djevel's trilogy to experience anything new of this caliber again.