Today, I figured that it would be interesting to cast a flickering yet hopefully illuminating light on a rather obscure release from that gloriously grim year of 1996, more specifically the Rehearsal 1996 output by the ingenious Norwegian black metal experimentalists Nidingr. Now, I could have written an article the size of a friggin’ novel on just how brilliant and original their full-length LPs are, but the truth is that there is very little point in doing so as you need to experience those for yourself and devote the proper amount of time to study them on your own. Should you embark on that journey, no words are necessary as all will be revealed in due time and you will see that Sorrow Infinite and Darkness, Wolf-Father, Greatest of Deceivers, and The High Heat Licks Against Heaven are strokes of genius and trailblazing affairs. Besides, it is often much more interesting to discuss those overlooked or underappreciated gems that lurk in the rat-infested mould of the Scandinavian metal netherworld, namely those that have never reached a wider audience (nor the ears of those who are not necessarily die-hard fans of the acts in question).
One could argue that the seeds of Nidingr were sown in 1992 if we accept the fact that guitarist Teloch formed a project labelled Audr that very same year and then changed the name of the cursed entity to Nidingr roughly four years down the road when bassist Blargh joined forces with him. You can look up the details on Metal Archives should you feel inclined to do so. A meeting of minds then, and these like-minded individuals obviously got on like a house on fire from a musical perspective and came to form the core line-up of the outfit for many years to come. Beautiful, right?
While many demo and rehearsal recordings from the black metal underground of the 90s tend to sound as unpolished and occasionally as unrefined as possible, Rehearsal 1996 actually comes across as a rather good-sounding document of Nidingr’s early years. There is more clarity and definition to it than what one might initially have presumed when being presented with a rehearsal recording that was captured on tape by means of a 4-track device. A recording of this nature is by definition a moment in time, and I find it incredibly appealing not to mention rewarding when a band manages to lay down something that sounds as organic, vibrant, and efficiently dark as Nidingr do here while being in the same room and actually playing together.
When I interviewed founding member and guitar maestro Teloch for the now-defunct Danish webzine called Metalzone back in May 2009, I asked him specifically about the old demos and rehearsal recordings that were released under the band’s moniker, and he said that “I don’t really think about them much, but sometimes I listen to them. I think Rehearsal 1996 has a fucking great atmosphere and is probably my favourite of our old material.” I could not agree more with respect to the atmosphere, and the thing is that although much more complex, musically adventurous, and innovative releases and outputs by Nidingr would follow in the years to come, many of the trademarks and characteristics associated with their searing and utterly punishing take on immensely cold black metal were already in place and rearing their ugly heads from the very beginning as evidenced by this particular slice of darkness. In other words, its seven compositions display a certain vigour and a sense of originality that make Rehearsal 1996 stand out to these ears and dissimilar to pretty much everything else from that era. Not only are Blargh and Teloch adept and skilled songwriters but also uniquely gifted with a style and musical identity of their own, which was evident even back in the mid-nineties when the quartet convened to capture these tracks for posterity. There is a strangely enticing vibe to its song material that makes it a rather captivating listen, and it undoubtedly possesses a disquieting aura that fans of mid-90s black metal ought to find attractive.
The harsh and brooding pieces titled ‘Døden’ and ‘Mørkets Offer’ are personal favourites of this scribe in that they are not merely dynamic and cleverly arranged but also soaked in an icy and claustrophobic atmosphere that vaguely recalls Dødheimsgård around the time of Kronet til Konge. Also, pay close attention to ‘En Lysende Ild’ and how ridiculously awe-inspiring its riffs and bass lines are (and how expertly they have been woven together) – I think the word marvelous sums that one up quite nicely. ‘To Sjeler’ and ‘Spell of the Trees’ are fierce treats too.
For many years you could download Rehearsal 1996 for free via the anti-label named Misantrof, which was primarily run by Carpathian Forest bassist Vrangsinn, but the website appears to be inactive and a bit of a dead end. Anyway, I applauded the idea of releasing things like demos and rehearsals and whatnot by great albeit underappreciated acts from the murky underground, and main man Teloch was in agreement when I mentioned that I was rather fond of what Misantrof did back then, i.e., making recordings that we would probably never have heard otherwise available for free and essentially keeping them alive and visible out there. As Teloch said, “It was Dirge Rep (Orcustus) who approached me and asked if I wanted to put them on there, and of course, I said yes. No need holding back on that old shit. I think the Misantrof thing is a cool idea, and it is awesome that people actually are willing to put in some free work for things like this.”
I strongly recommend that you check the deftly executed Rehearsal 1996 out on YouTube or better yet, the Sodomize the Priest compilation that was released on vinyl by Hearse Records in August 2006, which is also available on Bandcamp. Nidingr’s first official release is a thing of wicked splendour, and it still slays after nearly thirty years.
Rehearsal 1996 on #Bandcamp
Rehearsal 1996 on #YouTube
Blargh – bass
Teloch – guitars
Walter Moen – vocals
Per Ivar Ederklep – drums
- Another Day in Grief
- En Lysende Ild
- Mørkets Offer
- Spell of the Trees
- To Sjeler
- Når Stillheten Råder
Check Nidingr out on Bandcamp: