Germany’s Schattenvald goes back to 1998 and somehow slid under my radar until now. Forming in 1998 this band seems to be the brainchild of Nikolaj Ruster, who calls himself Nachsturm in this project but is known as Orlok while playing bass with melodic black metal band Cryptic Wintermoon. Schattenvald plays melodic black metal with some folk influences and has quaintly named each of their full lengths by Roman numeral. V is their current album and given that this is my first experience with this band I feel I’m not distracted by making comparisons to previous efforts and it has allowed me to enjoy this album immensely. Releasing several demos between 2002 and 2004, the band was nine years old when it’s debut full length was released so this band has worked hard and it appears to have paid off.
Clocking in at almost forty-five minutes with just six songs the word epic comes to mind as well. This style of black metal should have long, epic compositions. As long as a band can keep my attention and not allow the song to get stale, long melodic black metal epics can be incredible. Schattenvald pulls it off here. The first three songs are all eight plus minutes in length and kicks off with “G’spenster geh’n am Bergfried um” which begins with some seriously melodic tremolo riffs with the keys providing even more atmosphere to this song. At no time does this song lose it’s focus or try to hard. Instead, the song flows beautifully as if a classical composition including some nice clean vocals by vocalist Iskharian. So far, this is a great introduction to this album and this band.
The next two in the epic trio are just as killer. The riffs on these songs are really catchy with some really great melodies. Once again the keys do not dominate but add to these amazing songs. I even feel a Limbonic Art or an early Emperor influence on these songs, but there is this also underlying folk element in the melodies that allows this band to show their influences but maintain their own identity. “Vom alten Saalefluch,” which is the longest song on the album, also needs mention because of how just amazing this song is. I like to say that songs like this are not songs but compositions. Staring off with some serious blasting aggression, the melodies build as the song progresses. The clean vocals here on this song remind me a bit of Garm’s vocals in the Ulver classic Bergtatt and are used sparingly on this album.
On the second half of this album, the song lengths get a bit shorter and includes a cover of Bathory’s “The Stallion” as the closer. However, the songwriting here is just as brilliant and epic. “Die Kinder im Berg,” roughly translated to is a melodic and clean instrumental that seems to have this haunting feeling and translates roughly to “The Children in the Mountain.” At first listen it seemed that this song was out of place but with further listens I seemed to realize the importance of this song. The Bathory is actually really good. The vocals are all clean here and vocalist Iskharian actually makes Quorthon’s melodies sound really good. I’m not a huge fan of Quorthon’s clean vocals so this is actually a breath of fresh air to me and a great way to close out a brilliant album
This project has almost twenty years under it’s belt and it appears that main man Nachsturm will only release an album when he feels it is right. This album was recorded between 2013 and 2016 so you know that he is not one who will make any compromise but only release a quality album. Like I said, I have not heard this project’s past work but if those albums are anything like this, my collection is short four albums.