Nomans Land - Last Crusade
Massacre Records
Viking metal
8 songs (40' 35")
Release year: 2015
Massacre Records
Reviewed by Andy

For being Russian, Nomans Land sure sounds Scandinavian. Their Viking-themed metal is a dead ringer for that of bands like Einherjer, though one could make comparisons to Ensiferum too. And Last Crusade is a step further in the right direction, at least in my book. Some listeners might want authenticity, traditional instruments, folk trappings...but forget all that for a second. For those who just want Vikings playing electric guitars, Nomans Land delivers in spades.

The album's brisk and businesslike, and without any intros or acoustic introspection, Right to Luck starts the album off with straightforward two-guitar riffing. The harsh vocals of bassist/vocalist Hjervard trade off smoothly with the clean gang-choruses of his guitar-playing opposite number, Sigurd, and while the atmosphere has its share of cheese in it, it's got an enjoyable and upbeat sound. Victory Horns's thin clarion-call lead guitars and folk-dance rhythm calls to mind the work of oft-underrated fellow Russians Alknonost, and though it doesn't have the same signature sound as that band has, they keep a lot of the same elements, and the clean vocals, which are slightly weaker than the black metal vocals, take a back seat here. What makes Last Crusade so enjoyable, however, is the guitar emphasis. There's a lot of NWOBHM (by way of melodeath) in the pedigree of this album in the way it emphasizes speed and mobility in the beat, and Strain at the Oars brings a lot of that in. True to their Viking imagery, the band keeps the choruses upbeat and adventurous rather than depressive or sorrowful.

Some of the songs are pretty generic, and Dragons is one of these...right up until the chanted clean lyrics say something like "...try my magic will change your mind". At that point I was chuckling, "I really hear that, and was that humor or straight-faced broken English?" After all, their command of English lyrics hasn't been great in the past, and there is no lyric sheet. The steady quick-march of Warrior's Path summarizes a lot about Last Crusade, a low-impact and uncontroversial album that aims mostly to please headbangers with heavy riffing and multi-man choruses without spending a lot of time on artistic direction or authenticity, and the somewhat more power-metal-oriented Bereza finishes the album with even more that sound.

Which is perfectly fine. Sure, Nomans Land is probably going to stay somewhat of a B-level player in the world of Viking-themed metal, but they sure are fun to listen to, and the songwriting is tighter and smoother than ever. Last Crusade eliminates the majority of synth and clean vocals used in previous albums and concentrates on their strengths: Driving, two-guitar metal with a Viking theme that never gives the listener a chance to get bored.

Killing Songs :
Victory Horns, Bereza
Andy quoted 80 / 100
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