Vanad Varjud – Dismal Grandeur in Nocturnal Aura

Rating: 3.5/5
Distributor/label: Arcana Noctis and Hexenreich Records 
Released: 2015
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Dismal Grandeur in Nocturnal Aura
Dismal Grandeur in Nocturnal Aura
Band Line-up:

Thon – drums
Ott – vocals
Sorts Apostata – guitars, bass


1. Tume Kamber
2. Winter’s Dawn
3. Dismal Dusk
4. Gloomy Sunday


‘Dismal Grandeur in Nocturnal Aura’ is the second release by Estonian ambient black metal project Vanad Varjud. This trio combine elements of ambient, drone and depressive with black metal in the creation of bleak, intense atmospheres.

The first track ‘Tume Kamber’ begins in a disassociated state. It slowly unfolds into a series of isolated notes which are eventually emphasised by percussive blasts. As the instrumentation builds the calm is shattered by a melodic guitar line and snarling vocals. The atmospheric is still a focal element with added piano melodies in conjunction with the guitars and slow, relentless riffs interspersed with faster, upbeat passages. ‘Winter’s Dawn’ has an unexpected start, but the sudden, powerful blast of dissonance in the organ overlaying the desolate winds then gives way to the similar melancholy of the opening track. The familiarity of the black metal sound does not detract from the atmosphere as the track is varied with tempo changes and soft melodic passages. ‘Dismal Dusk’ is wonderfully unusual. The almost silent jazz-inspired percussion that builds up underlying the piano creates a poly-rhythmic display, before the sudden waves of black metal hit. The last track, ‘Gloomy Sunday’ takes us back to the churchyard. The ghostly chanting chorus is overtaken once again by the sounds of a distant organ. The snarls of the vocals become more focused over the organ while in painful lament, steeped in depressive atmosphere and ending with tortured, desolate screams.

While this album is somewhat predictable in places when it comes to melody and chord progressions, it certainly has its unpredictable moments. Vanad Varjud have created a heavily atmospheric, oppressive release which certainly has the potential to crush you.

Review by Helena Byrne