(In this 27th edition of The Synn Report, Andy Synn reviews the discography of a recently dis-banded group of talented Spaniards known as Nahemah.)
Recommended for fans of: The Ocean, Swallow The Sun, Borknagar
Ok, let me let you in on a little secret. Although each edition of The Synn Report may seem like a spontaneous explosion of brilliant exposition and stunning hyperbole, there is in f act a guiding plan behind the whole thing. I have a list of bands I want to introduce to you all, laid out in a general order – which is subject to alteration and adaptation as circumstances dictate.
For example, I decided to rearrange things to cover both Ludicra and Oceans of Sadness after learning of their dissolution, and just last week I chose to tweak the order a bit, dropping in a feature on Crocell to break up the overwhelming blackened trend of the column.
So obviously, certain bands get moved back. In fact I can think of several that have been moved back multiple times – but that’s just the luck of the draw. Today’s edition focusses on a band who have suddenly found themselves thrust to the front of the pack by the advent of some new, and unwelcome, news.
Because Nahemah announced a few days ago that they were breaking up. Which is sad news indeed, but definitely one way to ensure your band gets priority. It’s a bit of a drastic move, however, and not one I’d really recommend.
The 5 piece progressive/post- metal group calling itself Nahemah hail from Alicante, Spain, and came together way back in 1997. Their first album wasn’t released until 2001, while their third (and now, it seems, last) album came out in 2009. While they may not be the most prolific band on the planet, they more than make up for that with the sheer quality and ambition of their material, coupled to a raw and passionate sense of emotion and integrity.
Chrysalis – 2001
Like a diamond in the rough, glistening with untapped potential, and betraying the strongest black metal influence of their three records, Chrysalis gets off to a rousing start with “Ochre Mantle Stare”, which strides defiantly out of the gloomy light in a defiant procession of electrified melodeath riffs and delicate piano work.
The guitars wind round and round in a smoky swirl of archly progressive melody and distortion, while the vocals build from a thunderous growl to a hair-raising shriek. The soft and haunting acoustic interlude near the track’s end is pure Opeth worship, providing a momentary pause before the song reaches fulfillment.
“Autumn Is My Sin” immediately has a more aggressive vibe to it, mixing ragged scraps of Swallow The Sun’s tortured and emotive death metal with a touch of Enslaved’s progressive verve, producing a multi-faceted display of prismatic light and shade, scorched and blackened around the edges, propelled along by an energetic drumming performance. Sudden shifts into acoustic, oaken grandeur provide a surprising change of pace, while the song’s mid-section is a glorious display of moonlit majesty and aching clean vocals.
Opening with a waltzing organ sound, “Bloodstained Carnival” takes its sweet time getting going, but eventually it detonates in a flash of blinding riff-work and dizzying lead guitar with more than a touch of Be’lakor to it. The waltzing rhythm of the track is seductive and beguiling, adding a regal sensibility to the track’s piercing twin-leads, a meditative grace to the flowing proggy mid-section, and an icy sheen to its harsh closing bars.
“The Teardrop Fall” is a phenomenal piece of unusual structure and avant-garde melody, interweaving complex guitar work and shimmering keys with strained, blackened screams and monstrous gutturals. This guitar and keyboard interplay allows the rhythm, lead, and piano work to slowly build into a greater whole, before a stunning piece of flamenco-influenced guitar work provides a bridge to transform the song into a mesmerising display of scintillating, starfire guitar lines and propulsive kick patterns, leading to a suitably epic conclusion.
The unconventionally heavy “Ligeia (Immortality Through Crime)” betrays a recognisable Borknagar influence in its progged-up, blackened riff work. Its headlong gallop is intermingled with spiralling piano melodies, and raw-nerve tremolo sections, its many peaks and valleys characterised by a seamless transition between incisive melodic riffage and calm acoustic meanderings, providing a microcosm of the band’s multivariate influences in one progressive, indulgent composition.
Sample Song “Ochre Mantle Stare”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/NahemaH-Chrysalis-Ochre-mantle-stare.mp3|titles=Nahemah – Ochre mantle stare]
The Second Philosophy – 2007
With their second album, Nahemah added even more ingredients to their unique formula, without unbalancing the resultant blend one bit, producing a glorious record of progressive death metal with a post-rock undercurrent and a doomy, melodic flavour, shot through with subtle elements of esoteric black metal.
“Siamese” opens the record in a sizzling display of rolling power and subtle nuance, building from a calm beginning into a storm of forceful death growls and grandiose riffage, with a nice line in shimmering keyboard melodies and a vibrant, Tool-esque structure. This is followed by the similarly stunning “Killing My Architect”, which strikes a careful balance between raging metallic force and soothing, strummed chords, mixing in calming electronic and soaring clean vocals, leading up to a darkly symphonic conclusion.
The moody sway of “Nothing” showcases a different aspect of the band’s sound, a groaning, down-tempo form of melodic doom, accentuated by a host of pulsating electronic elements and synthetic soundscapes.
The chiming flow of “Like A Butterfly To The Storm” indulges the band’s proggy, melodic side more fully without sacrificing the cathartic power of their crackling guitar lines or raging, leonine vocals, while “Labyrinthine Straight Ways” immediately sets itself out as an unusual track with its unusual organ-led and drum-heavy intro. It proceeds from this through a section of skittering snare and whispering keys, over a backbeat of throbbing electric impulses, before finally exploding into a Cult of Luna-style clash between melodic alpha and metallic omega,
Mixing the unashamed emotion of Oceansize with the harmonious grandeur of Isis, the oddly titled “Subterranean Airports” blossoms into a verdant display of fluctuating electronica and tidal ebbs of raging post-metal guitar, while follow-up “Phoenix” is a far darker piece of brooding theatre, shot through with Noirish stabs of saxophone and based around a stomping, cracking drum pattern which climaxes in an impenetrable wall of groaning metallic fury.
“Today Sunshine Ain’t The Same” combines soaring post metal dynamics with an introverted death metal power, juxtaposing visceral riffs with floating keyboard lines, tinged with a hint of melodramatic melancholy. Oddly distorted clean vocals weave a thread of despairing melody into the musical tapestry, which slowly draws in on itself around a core of soft, ringing guitar chords and cleansing ambience before bursting open once more in a dynamic display of metallic power and melodic restraint.
Sample song: “Today Sunshine Ain’t The Same”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/09-Today-Sunshine-Aint-The-Same.mp3|titles=Nahemah – Today Sunshine Ain’t The Same]
A New Constellation – 2009
In hindsight you can see that Nahemah actually deserve the “progressive” tag so carelessly thrown around these days They’ve grown from their relatively humble beginnings into something more enigmatic and sumptuous, maintaining links to their earthbound roots, yet reaching for the stars with every breath.
Their third album begins with the swirling ambience of “Much Us”, relying on a slow-build of ambiguous, teasing layers to reel the listener in, branching out into a distinctive collection of jazzy drum fills and smooth, mellifluous bass lines. The song has a stream-of-consciousness structure, while the riffs have a similarly progressive inclination, weaving in and out of the thunderous drums and looping, cosmic keys.
“Absynthe” takes the band’s post-rock, post-metal inclinations and welds them into an amalgamation of polished, ringing chords, scattershot drums, and subtle, seditious synth lines. The mid-section is another unusual mix of slow-picked clean notes and drifting drums, coupled with an intriguing saxophone part, while the ending offers up a heartfelt portrayal of monumental power and aching fragility.
The bouncy, energetic drumming that introduces “Follow Me” adds a snappy, agile flair to the roaring vocals and sweeping keyboard symphonics, variations on these same beats providing a thread of continuity through the track’s many digressions into Alcest-like ambience. Conversely, “Reaching The Stars” is a more steam-driven, propulsive number overall, its anguished vocals and ceaseless drum work crafting a strong backbone for the river of ethereal melodies, which ebbs and swells throughout the track.
The second half produces a sudden eruption of shadowy dissonance that continues on into “The Perfect Depth of the Mermaids”, where the captivating growls take pride of place amongst a panoply of technicolour keys, incandescent riffs, and flowing bass-lines, whose fire slowly dissipates as the song winds towards its conclusion.
“Under The Mourning Rays” is a lengthy and progressive musical odyssey, matching the piercing clarity of its melodic vision with the crushing embrace of its doomy, metallic power. The faultless mix of these elements drives the song confidently through its atmospheric mid-section, where ghost-like keyboards and sweeping guitars are joined in a progressive symbiosis, leading a vast and expansive post-metal conclusion.
By contrast “The Trip” is a more self-contained and direct shot of raging hormones and indignant ferocity, an alchemical reaction between crashing power chords and sublime keyboard melodies, showcasing both extremes of the band’s style, from the breaking waves of emotional upheaval to the calm waters of reflective melody.
Sample song: “Under The Mourning Rays”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/07-Under-The-Mourning-Rays.mp3|titles=Nahemah – Under The Mourning Rays]
EDITOR’S NOTE: Here are Nahemah web links:
Three Nahemah songs are available for free download here., and this link will take you to a place where you can get the albums and other merch. The last two albums are also available on Amazon mp3 and iTunes. And here’s an offiicial video:
NahemaH – The Perfect Depth Of The Mermaids from NahemaHband on Vimeo.
The hardest part of writing this was the “Recommended for fans of…” part, as I had to drop references to Anathema, Cult of Luna, Isis, Vintersorg, (early) Opeth, Novembre, Burst, Oceansize, and a shit load of others (some of which I included in the text) while whittling it down to just 3.
“You had me at… NahemaH”, whatever it means.
As long as I have you, that’s ok.