How many times have I listened to Nomad Son's The Eternal Return? It's an awesome record, that's for sure. Regardless how many times I've listened to it, every time has been a different listening experience. Everything about it is really atypical for a doom release. Obviously influenced by a lot of standard fare the result, though, is anything but. Perhaps it's inevitable, with the band being as far geographically from doom meccas as possible - they live on the island of Malta - that Nomad Son's style is going to be a creature with five limbs and blueish-orange hair that comes out at night to howl at trees and whimper when the stars are aligned in some specific way. It's easy to hear influences from Trouble, Vitus, Pentagram and Candlemass all over but where others find themselves presenting a mirror image, there's nothing copy-cat about The Eternal Return. Perhaps setting the tone for this abnormal take on the genre is Jordan Cutajar's impeccable vocal performance. Neither full-on singing, nor screaming his misshapen vocal style mimics that of an insane bishop proclaiming spiritual echts and demanding uncompromising agreement with his revelations. Jordan's vocals consistently tie differing sounding songs together on The Eternal Return, providing that level of consistency required for an album to be an album. But while the vocals offer consistency, another persistent achievement is The Eternal Return's silken flow and intelligent experimentation amidst different sounding tracks.
The Eternal Return has a nice mixture of tracks, some faster, such as openers "The Vigil" and "Sigma Draconis" and some severely slow such as "Comatose Souls" and "Winds of Golgotha." There's a nice amound of variety. Songs start slow and clean or with keyboards as well as simply running from the start and never letting up. The whole time narrated by Jordan's vocals. One short exception to Jordan's propagandizing vocal style used across most of The Eternal Return is at the beginning of the the album's title track, a crooned and delicate narration which then, expectedly, switches back to the gritty proselytizing he uses elsewhere. These subtle variances offer insight and shows, if not a band, a front-man that draws inspiration from a deep well of places. It also adds to the sense of complexity which, by this point into the album, has already been conveyed to the listener. Other experimentation appears elsewhere. Keyboardist Julian Grech finds himself playing a significant role in songs such as "Comatose Souls," where he slams out a sublimely left-field organ solo that rips as well as builds into brother Chris Grech's guitar lead. The off-beat keyboard accents in personal favorite "Winds of Golgotha" compliment the bent guitar riffs. It's a different usage of keys compared to a lot of other examples in the doom lexicon. It's also a different usage of the keys compared to their 2008 album, First Light.
On First Light, Nomad Son put themselves out there with a strong Doom record however it wasn't particularly unique. Keys were used to accent spots, and support the rhythm section mostly. On The Eternal Return Julian's keyboard finds itself in a much more prominent role. Parts are necessary for progression of the songs now, they aren't just an additional layer of instrumentation. The integration is integral for the album's workings. Even what may seem like a minor thing such as the preface to the previously mentioned solo section in "Comatose Souls" shows a nice step in maturation. Also noticeable compared to First Light are Jordan's vocals which have strengthened significantly. Musically, the whole album is much more serious, refined and important sounding. There is much more urgency and a greater sense of demeanor in the songs here compared to First Light. It is felt even at the lyrical level with songs like "Guilty as Sin" and "The Vigil" hinting at reflective and thoughtful deeper meanings across the album. There are a lot of references to and accusations levied against the institutions of religion on the album which should sit well regardless of personal opinions on the subject due to the honest and genuine approach to the lyrics
How many times have I listened to The Eternal Return? This week, I've listened to the album about twenty-eight times, give or take a couple songs. "Winds of Golgotha" clocks in at thirty-two times. The amount of time has been well served. It took about ten listens to really start to feel the album but once Nomad Son's doom found an opening the album was inside, and wouldn't leave my head. It's not just the awesome riffs and memorable vibe of the record. There are a lot of moments where Nomad Son have smartly used simple chorus techniques to create immediately memorable and catchy segments that don't feel out of place and don't detract from the complex structures of the songs. This week at the Grammy's the music industry gave awards out to a bunch of musicians and artists that they are friends with and that the selection committee has a financial stake in. In my opinion, it's bands like Nomad Son that are deserving of awards. While Metallica gets their umpteenth award for simply existing and being the only metal band that mainstream critics are aware of, Nomad Son and so many others put out albums that truly deserve mention. Unfortunately for the world, the longer excellent albums such as this simmer in the underground, the longer the validity of big-music continues to plummet.
The album also points out that Metal on Metal records knows what they are doing in the Doom Metal realm. Mortalicum and Nomad Son are, for me, two of the strongest bands on their roster. Coupled with a beautiful layout, excellent artwork, once again courtesy of Metal on Metal label owner Jowita Kaminska, this is an album that should be in your record collection.