The bands whose new albums we’re reviewing today and tomorrow are a study in contrasts. They’re both death metal bands, but they’re lined up on different ends of that playing field. Grave (the subject of tomorrow’s review) is old-school Swedish death metal. In Grave’s case, that “old school” label isn’t a cliche, because they helped build the school in the first place.
As for Noctiferia, it’s a bit more difficult to sum up their style. For now, let’s call it the bullhorn, jeep-driving, flag-waving school of death metal — except we’re guessing the only thing on the flag is a big “FUCK YOU!” in day-glo red.
Noctiferia is from The Republic of Slovenia, which is in the Balkans, just around the Adriatic to the east of Italy and south of Austria. Based on our research, Noctiferia may be the longest-running extreme metal band in Slovenia; they’re celebrating their 12th anniversary as a band this year. Join with us in throwing some horns their way in honor of their sheer bloody-minded dedication — because let’s face it, Slovenia is another one of those places that just doesn’t seem like fertile ground for a successful extreme metal enterprise.
Earlier this year, Noctiferia signed with Listenable Records, and on July 27 their fourth album will be released in the U.S., following its European release a few months ago. The album was mixed by Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy, Bloodbath), mastered by Jonas Kjellgren (Black Lounge studio), and it’s called Death Culture.
The title isn’t a reference to music. Lyrically, the album is an indictment of capitalist greed, the suppression of individuality by the economic and political elite, the false prophets of institutional religion, and the human propensity to sow death and destruction in ever-more horrific ways.
But as somber as the subject matter, the music is anything but. Noctiferia takes a rock-solid foundation of syncopated death metal, adorns it with everything from industrial to ethnic stylings, and then sets the whole thing on fire in a spirited romp. Noctiferia blazes with speed and fury, but prays at the altar of groove.
And among other things, the new album includes a track (“Demoncracy”) that’s our current favorite for just rocking-the-fuck out.
(more after the jump, including a track to hear and a video of “Demoncracy” . . .)
The album launches with an excerpt from a speech by John F. Kennedy, with a martial beat in the background that builds in volume until Meshuggah-esque rhythms kick in as the instrumental gives way seamlessly to the second song, “Terror”. That song careens ahead, intent on spinning your head all the way around with rhythmic complexity, but injected with a subtle synthesizer melody as companionship for the mid-range howling of Gianni Popowski‘s outstanding vocals.
“Delluders and Followers” picks up seamlessly where “Terror” ended — more bat-out-of-hell percussion and flashy riffing, more blowtorch vocals, more ambient keyboards soaring over the top — and a sample from a famous speech by Robert Oppenheimer, one of the fathers of the atomic bomb.
“Monarch” backs down the tempo a few notches at the start, but it turns out to be just as furious, just as intricate in its construction, just as head-hammering in its groove, as the songs it follows. And right in the middle, the time signature shifts, a blistering guitar solo kicks in, and keyboard orchestration emerges to lend the song a distinctly evil air.
“Demoncracy” follows “Monarch” — but more about that later.
Compared to most other songs on the album, “Slavedriver” is dramatically stripped down, fast and brutal, and constructed out of convulsively techy riffs and a simple melody. “Rust” includes eastern-sounding guitar solos sprinkled across more jet-fueled propulsiveness, with an ominous, keyboard-enhanced melody and a catchy-as-hell dominant riff, and “Non Individuum” combines a machine-gun verse structure with a soaring chorus melody and an ambient synthesizer outro.
“Catarsis” mixes the barreling riffs and pneumatic percussion with long keyboard melodies, while “Demagog” plumbs the depths of brutality with a nasty Immolation-style lead riff, a salting of deeper gutturals in Popowski’s vocals, and Mach 1 blast beats.
Of all the songs on the album, the closing track, “Samsara” has the most ethnic feel, with at least three percussion tracks that include tribal pounding on the toms and a tablas, plus hand cymbals, an oriental melody in the riffing and the keyboards, and clean guest vocals that underscore the eastern motif. It’s a song that’s easy to get completely lost in.
We said at the outset that Death Culture stands as a modernized contrast to the kind of raw, primal, simplified death metal that a band like Grave delivers. It includes programmed instrumentals, vocal samples, keyboards — and it’s the product of cutting-edge production. Some old-school “purists” may turn up their noses. We, on the other hand, think this album kicks ass from beginning to end.
We had a hell of a time deciding what song to feature for your listening pleasure, but finally settled on “Demagog”. Not quite as melodic as most of the other tracks, but it’s a titanically rifftastic motherfucker.
If you liked that song, four more from the album can be heard on the band’s MySpace page (here).
We also promised you a video, and we don’t lie.
“Demoncracy” is the song that’s the subject of Noctiferia’s first video from Death Culture, and it’s a bit of on outlier compared to the rest of the album. It’s got much more of an industrial-metal feel to it, and a heavy rock beat, but damn is it fun to hear! Guitarist and programmer Igor Nardin filmed and edited the video himself, with some post-production assistance from a friend, and it’s interesting to watch. Check it out:
Death Culture has been out in Europe since March, and you can buy it at Listenable Records online. It’s scheduled for a U.S. release on July 27, with North American distribution by E1 Entertainment. Watch for it.
These guys are amazing. I would almost call it melodic death metal…I generally don’t like howling vocals, but these guys do it so well and it doesn’t sound inhaled and raspy like every nu-metal band in existence and 2/3 of black metal bands. It is too bad I haven’t heard about these guys before. Good thing they’ve been around for a while. Maybe this album won’t be so hard to find. Thanks for the review!
Yeah, I wish I had an easier way for people to get a legit copy than ordering from Listenable in Europe (which is what I did). I assume it will hit the usual NorthAm distribution channels closer to July 27, and I’ll post an update here if and when that happens. Otherwise, uh, plenty of European brats have put it up for online rip-off. Not that I’m passing judgment on such behavior or anything.
I am at a loss for words. I don’t know whether to like them or not. It’s like they took techno, industrial and melodeath and dropped into a blender. It’s unique, but will its uniqueness become very boring very fast? I think that I will listen to more, but it hasn’t made it to my “think I should pick up” pile.
And you can hear Peter Tägtgren’s influences all over that song. (Eureka moment while the clouds in my head part, revealing the flickering lightbulb that is my brain light up to a dull shine as I figure out who Noctiferia sound like.) A ha! They are a industrialized version of Hypocrisy!
That’s just my own opinion. Feel free to disagree. After all, opinions are like assholes. Everyone’s got em.
(In case you haven’t figured it out, I am in a weird ass mood today. Mondays suck.)
I agree about the Tägtgren influence, and other bands also come to my mind as I listen to them — but they’re all bands I like. I guess that’s why I like this band too! But you really shouldn’t make up your mind based solely on “Demoncracy”. Even though I think that’s a hot song, it’s pretty different from the rest of the album.
They are pretty catchy.
@Misha: I’d definitely agree, I’d call them melodic metal.
They kinda seem like a heavier Soilwork, minus the cleans, with some of The Amenta thrown in.
Those weren’t the first bands that popped into my head as I listened to the album, but i can see the connection now that you mention it, particularly The Amenta.
Not sure what to think, but it’s pretty good.
With part of your write-up, I was afraid this was going to be like a heavier version of Rage Against The Machine with some of Al Jourgensen’s most vitriolic moments thrown in for added flavor. Fortunately, that thought was quickly pushed aside and I think it’s safe to say that there are more than just a couple songs by these guys that I’ll like.
Comparing “Demagog” and “Demoncracy”, the latter is the better of the two. Not sure where this’ll end up on my music purchasing lists, but it’s at least worth considering.
I probably didn’t do a good job providing a representative selection of the album. “Demagog” is more straight-ahead bludgeoning, with less variety and melody than most of the songs, and “Demoncracy” is a real outlier (as explained in the post). Just happens that I like them both for different reasons. “Demoncracy” definitely will trigger thoughts of Ministry and RATM, which is OK by me but maybe not a plus sign for other people.