Imagine this: You’re sitting on a bus, minding your own business. A pale young man next to you, with blue hair, begins to twitch, and then to convulse. The eyes roll back in his head and his limbs begin to flail in a full seizure.
Before you can think what to do, he seizes your arm — and you begin to convulse too. Your eyes roll back in your head, and all the synapses in your brain begin to fire at once — and you continue to flail even when he lets go, because your brain has been sucked into a vortex of transfixing complexity.
That image begins to approximate the experience of listening to the music of a French band called 7th Nemesis. The songs are incredibly intricate and inventive. They collapse the walls between multiple genres. They are executed with a fine balance of precise skill and explosive emotion. And they thrash like the seizure of a blue-haired epileptic.
7th Nemesis was founded in 2001 with the avowed objective of “mixing the violence of extreme metal with the complexity of progressive rock structures.” They recorded a 3-track demo and a split CD and then released (in 2006) a full-length debut called Violentia Imperatrix Mundi, which they made available for free download on their website (through a link that unfortunately no longer works).
Then, after getting some attention and festival spots on the strength of that album, they did a strange thing. After adding a new drummer, they re-recorded and remixed their debut and, in July 2008, released the revised songs in the form of an album called Archetype of Natural Violence.
I don’t know how the revised songs compare to the originals, but considering them as they are, Archetype of Violence is a riveting experience — one we highly recommend. (more after the jump, including a song to stream and a video of another one . . .)
7th Nemesis wasn’t just blowing smoke when they described their musical mission. The music is indeed violent and heavy as fuck, but it’s also a Rubic’s cubic of progressive rhythmic structures. Driven primarily by two fleet-fingered guitarists (Alex Sauzet and Niko Coudert), the band flies through a constantly changing mix of riffs, guitar tones, and time signatures.
The pacing is mainly frenetic, but “surprise” is 7th Nemesis’ middle name, and so “Omega Dei” slowly grinds to a virtual halt near the end — before finishing with a burst of outright cacophony. And “Severance” includes a passage in which all the instruments drop out except for the rat-a-tat of a drum and a slow, clean, dual guitar harmony that sounds like flamenco.
And in the last minute-plus of “Divinus Afflatus”, a programmed sound like a bestial howling wind takes over, accompanied by a building maelstrom of electronic noise.
The album includes some proggy bursts of guitar improv as well as some outright howling explosions of shred and even a few bars of surprising melody here and there — but the music is mainly a puzzle palace of darting rhythm.
Every song is packed with multiple riffs, any one of which a less inventive band would be quite happy to build a whole song around, because they’re that good. In fact, there were many times on this album when 7th Nemesis would shift into an awesomely infectious, eminently headbangable riff that I’d immediately get into — and then they’d leave it in favor of something else well before I was ready to let go of it.
Sargon’s vocals are just as stricken with attention-deficit disorder as the instrumental work. He growls and shrieks and gurgles and drops into deep gutturals at a furious pace, rarely staying at any one place in his musical range for more than a fraction of a second before bolting into a different part of the range — and even falling into a whisper on “Severance”.
His vocals were disconcerting at first, but the more I’ve listened to this album, the more I’ve decided that his frenzied leaping and falling is well-suited to the band’s overall plan of guerilla attack. And seriously, just as a pure display of vocal ambidextrousness, it’s amazing what the dude can pull off.
I wouldn’t say this music is what you would pick if you wanted to get into or out of a particular mood, and it certainly won’t do as a selection of background accompaniment for something else that’s occupying the biggest part of your attention.
Its fascination comes when you pay close attention, when you allow yourself to just swim in the sounds. And for better or worse, its merits become most clear only after listening more than once. Much of the fun is just appreciating how tightly connected all the performers are as they play off of, and with, each other as the songs progress through the maze.
This album was released in mid-2008. Where is something new? As best we can tell, the band has been recording a new album, to be called Deterministic Nonperiodic Flow, for at least the last year. I guess I’m not surprised. These dudes strike me as perfectionists, and making a really good puzzle takes time.
For now, here’s a track from Archetype of Violence. If you’re interested in progressive technical death metal (for want of a better term), check it out:
MANY THANKS to ElvisShotJFK, whose frequent comments on this site are always thoughtful and interesting, for turning us on to 7th Nemesis.
And now here’s the band’s official video for the song “Aporia”. Don’t watch this if you’re an epileptic (with or without blue hair).