(In this post DGR gets around to reviewing a 2013 album that appeared on his year-end list of best metal.)
For those of you who suffered through my gigantic list of music that I enjoyed in 2013 (which btw, was trimmed down!), you may have spotted, out of nowhere, a disc by a band hailing from Andorra called Nami. I made reference to the fact that by the time the list was read, I would have already been well on my way to reviewing the group’s latest release, The Eternal Light Of The Unconscious Mind, which came out on November 4, 2013. So, welcome to what will likely become something of a recurring bit here on NoCleanSinging called, “DGR attempts frantically to review and talk about a whole bunch of discs that came out last year”.
My discovery of Nami actually dates back to the last few days of the previous site I wrote for. My editor GroverXIII reviewed the group’s debut disc Fragile Alignments and really sang the praises of it – which in my mind was an almost immediate tip to check this band out. He was right. Fragile Alignments had its issues, but the disc was really ambitious for a band just starting out and it held some heavy promise of what this group might do in the future.
Fast forward to 2013 and I see the name again, this time attached to a new album entitled The Eternal Light Of The Unconscious Mind. Having not yet heard it, all I could think was that while Fragile Alignments was an ambitious album in terms of its ethos, lyrics, and what the band were trying to do with the progressive death metal sound, it sure had a mouthful of a name. However, I immediately dove into the disc. Were it not for the fact that I spent much of the back half of the year swearing up and down that I wasn’t going to forget about all the fantastic music that hit in the early part of 2013, Eternal Light Of The Unconscious Mind would’ve ranked super-high on the list — because it is an album that has enveloped me as a listener every time I have given it the chance to do so.
Here’s the thing about The Eternal Light Of The Unconscious Mind: Nami are not the same band that they were on Fragile Alignments. Yes, the roster from that disc is still largely the same, but Eternal Light sees the group in an entirely different headspace compared to their last release. Within the span of two albums, the group have altered sounds and shifted genres rather suddenly. Eternal Light sounds like Nami’s take on the progressive and post-rock/metal scenes at the moment, while eschewing huge chunks of what people knew of them before. It sounds like a disc that was written after the band went on an insanely heavy binge of Isis, Neurosis, The Ocean, and Tool. It also sounds like one of their most inspired works though, like the band really gave it their all — and you can hear that passion for this particular sound in every song.
Fragile Alignments was a really heavy disc in comparison to the new one. Eternal Light has its heavy moments, for sure, but the band were obviously more interested in creating an atmosphere with long, extended sections to which their listeners could just close their eyes and drift along. The song “Ariadna”, for instance, has a “best of both worlds” scenario. It opens like a breakdown-heavy metalcore tune that wouldn’t be too out of place in the Misery Signals discography, but then quickly changes into a lightly narrated, clean-sung, progressive rock song, and Nami pull off that shift effortlessly – it truly feels like that was where the song was meant to go.
They do that time and time again on Eternal Light Of The Unconscious Mind, too. The songs cover a variety of different spaces, but each one feels like it was meant to go in the direction it follows, so there aren’t any jarring shifts or sudden neck turns where you question what you heard. The whole album has an organic feel, like the songs were nurtured into what they represent on this album.
The vocal approach on this album is probably the most significant change, because Nami now use a three-pronged vocal attack, with Roger Andreu taking up the main vocalist position and then drummer Sergi Verdeguer and guitarist Filipe Baldaia filling the backing vocal spots. Roger has a hefty growl on him, but he’s shifted his approach to a more prog-rock singing style, as well as unleashing some desperate wails that are probably the biggest addition to Nami’s sound — the first few songs may make you think like you’ve landed on an entirely different band because of it. All three guys sync up multiple times throughout the disc, pretty much covering the spectrum of screams available to them.
The group have had a small lineup shift in guitars since Fragile Alignments with the addition of Iván Marín back in 2012, but he and Filipe are super-creative and on top of their game on this disc. They sound like it was a very early decision to shift into this style of music and they just ran with it, morphing the band into something very different from what they were beforehand. There’s even some heavy synth use throughout the disc, but at the moment I’m not sure who to credit for that. Drummer Sergi and bassist Ricard still make up a very solid rhythm section. Eternal Light is a guitar-heavy album, and it seems like the guys know this, but they are still able to slip enough flair and subtlety into their playing style that you could get a whole lot out of just chopping off the top half of the disc and listening to those two on their own.
“Silent Mouth” is by far one of the strongest songs on Eternal Light. I spent weeks at a time with the differing grooves, riffs, and lyrics stuck in my head, just singing the song to myself. It’s such a starkly different tune from what Nami were doing with Fragile Alignments, but it fits in perfectly with the current incarnation of the band. It also signals a really big shift in the sound of the album as a whole, as Eternal Light goes real heavy on the post- and prog elements after that song and the band get very adventurous with their own songwriting. You could look at the flow of The Eternal Light Of The Unconscious Mind like this: Two really good songs up front, “Silent Mouth”, and six more really good songs that reach a variety of different heights.
That said, “Silent Mouth” is the one that I keep coming back to, over and over, like a junkie in need of his fix. The song itself slots in easily with the much-used line, “Best song _____ has never written”, on top of being a really good tune outside of that. It is one of those songs that you can easily break down into a variety of elements and influences, and as someone who has been familiar with the bands that the song reminds me of for a very long time, I can easily identify almost to a T which parts of which band make up that track. But it is the combination of all those elements into one delicious omelet that for some reason someone has NEVER done before that really makes the song click.
You almost feel dumb, like one of those guys watching TV who sees an invention and goes, “That’s so simple! I thought of that years ago!” — and just never did it. Of the many bands who have tried (with mixed results) to combine the sounds of a Tool, Isis, and The Ocean tune into one track and call it their own, Nami pull it off the best. There is just enough of each band to keep a super fan of those groups standing in place (especially in the case of Loic Rossetti of The Ocean, dude has the best moment in that song), and on top of that, it is just enough of its own track to make you realize that “Silent Mouth” is just a really good goddamned tune. Hell, the fact that I just dedicated three paragraphs to that song alone is kind of frightening — because the band put a showstopper at song 3 of this disc.
I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: Anybody who has been all over Pelagial by The Ocean needs to check out this disc. It feels like these two albums are different sides of the same coin. They walk hand in hand with each other. With The Eternal Light Of The Unconscious Mind, Nami have really defined themselves as a band and pulled off the very difficult feat of shifting genres — that they did so like it was nothing is an impressive act. It is an album that feels like a journey, one of those discs clearly meant for the headphones and the eyes-closed approach, letting the band paint their pictures with sound. It has its heavy moments, but it’s clear the group are just as content to drift in swelling choruses and ambience as they are to bring the occasional super-heavy groove and growl. They adapt and switch across a vast swath of the post- and prog genres, but never to the point of allowing you to guess where they are going next, so it becomes a dynamic adventure.
Eternal Light is another stunningly ambitious disc from an ambitious band, and this time they have executed almost flawlessly. It’s the weapon Nami needed to really break themselves out of the pack and it shows a ton of promise in their future — if not just to see what happens the next time they sit down to record and how different that might be from what we have now. And now is as a good a time as ever to jump on board with these guys.