Monday, August 25, 2014

Nocturnal Abyss - From the Depths of Mörkvod

Nocturnal Abyss is a band steeped in the morbid glory of old black metal. The influence of Darkthrone, Les Legions Noires, and more recent Finnish black metal couldn't be more apparent. This strives for those harsh aesthetics, the ugly picture those sounds painted. It's more than apparent, it's overt. It's a pretty rough line to tread, and it falls firmly on one side.

Noctir's vocals lead the music - they're on top of the treble part of the mix, like a less drawling Meynach, or like later Darkthrone but less froggy. The vocals find a certain voice, not a unique one, but a convincing and sufficient throaty tone that works well for him. Noctir hardly has any competition for nice things to say about this album though. One guy plays all of the instruments, and it seems like the moderate success of the vocals is overwhelmed by the complete failure of all of the instrumentation and songwriting. This basically boils down to the guitars, which strive to be but fail to be much more than the frail backbone that is the rhythm section.

The guitars bask in a mildly abrasive harshness, an unabashedly blank texture for black metal. The riffing wanders between a few different emulations of styles with little direction, no transitions within a structure, and basically no driving structure behind it. One part doesn't build up to the next part, it doesn't flow, there are no directional dynamics to the song structure. It sounds like a series of riffs inspired by other bands linked together with no preconceived intent, no greater structure, and no purpose whatsoever. There is no sense of nuance, no accentuation nor structural variation to give the music movement.

There are stylistic cues that the band hints at, but fails to grasp. Much of the album is slow-to-mid-paced, which sets up the potential for aggressive and jarring riffs like early Gorgoroth. Tonal variations of the traditional wide-interval black metal tremolo riff could build and release tension. Off-kilter tremolo riffs could conjure the weepy Mutiilation sound. Slow could be contrasted to fast, consonant to dissonant, vocals trade the lead with guitar. To be fair, I think Noctir tries that last one and the guitar just sounds so shitty that it doesn't work. The guitarist's phrasing is so sloppy that every riff here sounds like a kid trying to play along with riffs while hitting the notes but having absolutely no phrasing, no sense of nuance, and absolutely no sense of the emotion that was expressed through the original. It's a Mutiilation aesthetic with the emotional depth of pizza thrash.

This is a Soulseek safari through black metal; bred in captivity, presented as wild.

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