Review: Vargrav – The Nighthold


Vargrav – The Nighthold

Country: Hyvinkää, Uusimaa, Finland
Genre: Symphonic Black Metal
Release date, album: 15th December 2023

If there was ever a sub-genre of black metal that needed reinvigorating, it’s the oft-maligned symphonic BM genre. Dominated by mainstream acts and without much in the way of what could be considered true innovation or even forward-thinking over the decades, symphonic black metal has all but gone the way of the dodo. But alas, Finland’s Vargrav have emerged from the realm of where all is epic and grand with their third offering, “The Nighthold”, which is slated to drop on December 15 via Werewolf Records.

The Nighthold

Jeger: In this, Vargrav’s latest volume, there is simply no compromise. A dozen epic album cuts that challenge contemporary work ethic and remind us of the days of old when an album release was something special and to be taken with appreciation rather than the whole “let’s cut two records a year!” approach that has become so popular over the years, particularly within the scope of underground black metal. And the baser aggression of what I’m hearing so far supersedes the album’s symphonic elements that are reined into the backdrop where they belong. How proper. With “The Nighthold”, Vargrav balances the scales with equal parts epic/cinematic during the intro, “Moonless Abyss of the Nighthold” and the interlude, “Curse of the Plaguewood Lake”, and brutal/dark during “Through the Woods of Breathing Shadows” and “Encircle the Spectral Dimension”. Each track an escape from both the depression of reality and the rawness of typical underground black metal. And what better way to have it than in the captivation of legend and the fabled? “The Nighthold” is the product of imaginative lyricism that within some parts of the record manifests through the enchantment of chilling spoken-word vocals that serve to deepen the contemplative facets of the recording; those cinematic moments that along with the chorales create the kind of immersive experience you look for when you play a symphonic BM album.

Not your space aged or other-dimensional Dimmu Borgir-worshipping album in the vein of “Eonian” but not “Stormblåst” either. “The Nighthold” holds fast somewhere between the two. To remain in touch with what makes for true black metal is obviously of importance to Vargrav, as this latest effort so gracefully sneaks the divide between what’s pure and what’s epic. The soul-stirring, inner flame-stoking nature of “A Dark Consecration” and “Creator of the True Realm” with their sheer power and relentless momentum to see you into the further of “Ghostlands” where the experience culminates in just under ten minutes worth of what sounds like the soundtrack to Sphere or Prometheus.

Kermit: I wasn’t too familiarwell with this band from before, but reading a bit about them triggered my curiosity. One of my favorite albums of all time is Nexus Polaris by Covenant (I refuse to call them The Kovenant just so you know). So if you send a message out in the world telling me that (The Kovenant, editor’s comment 😉 ) Covenant is a band you hold dear and inspires your sound, you can call me intrigued.

But the question remains: Does it really give off that vibe of the early 90s Symphonic black metal? Like Jeger said, this sub-genre of black metal hasn’t seen too many stellar albums in a long while. Well, after an excellent intro “Moonless Abyss of the Nighthold” we start straight off the bat with pummeling drums, layered with a symphony of sound. That sound indeed has something of a Nexus Polaris feel to it, so I can see why they refenced them. That entire sound is mixed well throughout the album. The vocals are great, and the new members from Moonsorrow (and the new singer) really make for a complete package.


Jeger: A valiant effort is “The Nighthold” and my hat goes off to any collective who so daringly choose to take the symphonic route. Today, when everyone wants the early 90s experience, albums like this one are a breath of fresh air. Just not everyone’s cup of tea. To the old soul lost in thirty years ago, keep on moving because this is contemporary symphonic black metal and things like rawness and genre purity just do not exist here. This album is even engineered to be loud, crisp and invigorating to the senses, whereas a lot of today’s output is crafted in homage to the unfiltered style of years ago. A journey! And a none-too-taxing one for fans of this particular sub-genre.

Rating: 8/10


I gave the album 10 full spins before I was ready to give my conclusion and rating. Like I mentioned I can hear the Covenant influences seep through it. Is it as good for me as that album, no it’s not, but it’s an enjoyable experience nonetheless because if not, I wouldn’t be able to listen to it 10 times. You can hear that they really thought about what to do with this album, and it’s very well put together. As Jeger said, if you are looking for that true 90s vibe, this ain’t the album for you, but are you looking for something different with a great atmosphere, you need to give this album a spin.

Rating 7,5/10

Most churches burned wins so:

Experience “Chalice of Silver and Blood” from “The Nighthold” right here as presented by Werewolf Records:

YouTube player

Tell us!

Are you looking forward to this release? Please let us know on our social media channels, or join us on discord, where we discuss all things black metal! Make sure to follow our Facebook page, Black Metal Zine, to receive notifications when we publish articles. Also check out our Instagram at @blackmetal.zine for concert pictures and more!