Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Of Silence and Exsanguination

Release: 'Death and the Black Work' (2008)

Approaching a US black metal release is regulary and alarmingly different to the way releases from bands in other countries can be absorbed.

The 'underground metal media' have often painted USBM as either a palid clone of its European forbear or an entity in itself, with no tangible ties to the resurgent atavism that gave birth to black metal in late 20th century northern Europe.

It is this contentious diatribe, perhaps, that colours the view of USBM's likely (and deserved) audience. Yet, many acts, Nightbringer among them, have continuously challenged the "only European BM is real" camp with material of such strength that it leaves even some of the most established acts, a few involved in the genre's earliest activity, in the shade.

'Death and the Black Work' is a heavy record, not purely in musical terms, but in a fashion that allows it truly weigh down on the listener. It is an impenetrable mass of clammy, dusty atmosphere, a wall of blackened, dissonant sounds and a rumbling presence that is unavoidable and uniquely unnerving for the duration of its playtime.

Initially, Nightbringer appear to sound much like a less-polished Setherial, employing intriguingly varied blast-beat patterns and meandering, competing melodies that crawl in and out of a dense fume of foreboding energies and harsh static.

However, the release's earliest tracks unfortunately blend into one long exercise in distortion, drumkit pummeling and a mixture of croaked and shrieked vocals. It is listenable and musically proficient, but nothing new or in any way terribly interesting. Only later, in the album's middle and closing tracks, does Nightbringer's aptitude for creating some quite magical black metal show its face.

Offerings such as, "Of Silence and Exsanguination", with its tense, ambient intro and echoing percussion calls to mind those comparisons that have been drawn between Nightbringer and the mighty Deathspell Omega. Such declarations are possibly a little ambitious, but like Deathspell Omega, Nightbringer are adept at incorporating doom and sludge/doom elements into their otherwise 'heads down', claustrophobic black metal barrage.

As a debut full-length, 'Death and the Black Work' is confident, occultist black metal from a band now surrounded by a certain mysticism and zealous following. As is often the case, the hype that can be created around bands and projects needs to be pushed aside for a period of time in order to truly appreciate what the band was originally attempting.

This piece of black metal art is most notable for its masterfully crafted atmosphere, this being what truly grants the release (and the band) its own identity among a plethora of acts all essentially doing the same thing.

Rating: 60%

Also submitted to under the username 'torchia', 2 November, 2011.


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