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.