Philadelphia, PA’s Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus first came to my attention early last year when I received the band’s excellent debut full length Synkkä Tuuli for review along with the equally great Väinämöinen EP. The young band’s grim yet sweeping and melodic brand of icy black metal instantly grabbed my attention; it’s the kind of black metal that sinks its claws in instantly and drags you kicking and screaming into its frostbitten world, something that’s becoming increasingly rare as the scene continues to splinter in innumerable directions, often losing sight of what made it such a powerful form of expression in the process.
As impressive as those prior releases were though, they pale in comparison to The Child Must Die, which sees Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus stepping up their game in every respect. The production is clearer and more defined, the songwriting is sharper and the band sounds even hungrier. The music still has that “watching the sun set over a barren, snow-covered landscape,” vibe, but those frosty, scathing tremolo riffs sound even more beautifully epic, as is befitting the band’s chosen subject matter, the Kalevala. Of course, NB aren’t the first band to tackle the Finnish national epic, but they are one of the very few to do it justice, creating music that is cinematic, driving and triumphant-sounding without sacrificing any of the darkness and sorrow inherent to the black metal genre.
Indeed, what’s great about The Child Must Die is the way in which Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus manage to craft something that sounds distinctive and original while working within the established parameters of the black metal paradigm. The guitar and keyboard melodies that weave through the album are at once familiar and fresh, chilling you to the bone and worming their way into your skull throughout this all-too-brief thirty-three minute journey. It’s no secret that this style of keyboard-laden black metal has been done to death, but what places NB head and shoulders above the hordes is the obvious passion that guitarist/bassist/mastermind Mika Mage still has for the genre in its purest form, and it is this passion that allows him to breath new life into it on The Child Must Die through unwavering dedication and a will to continuously improve and evolve his sound.
The Child Must Die is one of my favorite black metal releases of 2015, and that’s saying something in a year when genre heavyweights like DHG and Marduk are putting out new material. It is a classic example of a high level of craftsmanship within an established form, staying true to black metal’s roots and traditions while at the same time injecting it with some much needed fresh blood. Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus has been flying under the USBM radar for a while now, but if there’s any justice in the godforsaken world of metal, The Child Must Die will be the album that finally brings them out of the shadows.