MISCELLANY is probably the most irregular of the regular features at NCS. Though I’ve found that it’s a good way to discover new music, I often let weeks or months go by before revisiting the series. But this week there will be an unusual burst of activity. I have the 65th edition today, and both the 66th and 67th editions are in various stages of completion. With luck, I will post them over the next two days — three in a row!
Here’s how the game works: I pick bands whose music I’ve never heard, usually focusing on under-the-radar groups whose names I’ve never heard before either. The selection process is random; for these three editions of the series, I tended to focus on bands who’ve written us recently. I try to limit my listening to a song or two and then write my impressions, while streaming what I heard so you can form your own opinions. I don’t know in advance whether I’ll like the music, so there’s an element of surprise involved (good or bad). For this listening session I investigated the music of three bands.
Nihilo are from Switzerland. They’ve released three EPs, as well as a previous full-length (2010’s Concordia Perpetua). In March of this year they released a new album entitled Dum Spiro Spero, which features cover art by Paolo “Madman” Girardi, and was a promising sign, all by itself.
Dum Spiro Spero is available on Bandcamp, and the full stream is below. I checked out the album’s second track, “On the Brink”, since it’s the first one that launches on Bandcamp. It’s a real head-slamming sledgehammer of death metal, alternately pounding really hard, swarming like hornets, and chugging like a big locomotive. Lots of spine-tringling grooves in this song, and a good mix of hi-lo vocals, too.
There’s an immediate segue into the next song, “Infected”, so I decided to stay with it. That was a good decision, because apart from more convulsive grooves and disgusting vocals, “Infected” includes a very nice bass rumble and an eye-opening guitar solo. I’m giving Nihilo two thumbs up!
VALLEY OF HINNOM
After taste-testing Nihilo, I turned next to Valley of Hinnom, a one-man project of Rich Stancato from Chicago, who is also a guitarist and vocalist for the death metal band Warforged. At the end of last month, Valley of Hinnom released a three-track EP named Acquisition of Guilt.
I’ll just cut to the chase on this one: I listened to all three tracks and really, really liked what I heard. The music combines elements of black metal and post-rock in a way that made me think of Deafheaven and at times Lifelover. The music is dynamic, the songs well-constructed, moving among periods of shimmering, reverberating guitar melody accompanied by big steady beats and explosions of blasting drums, razoring guitars, and ear-bleeding vocal shrieks.
In the softer passages, the melodies venture into depressive territory but are just as often meditative or wistful. And whether the music is unleashing an attack of heavy artillery or casting your mind into an ambient daydream, it’s emotionally gripping. And the production quality is top-notch: this sounds great.
Acquisition of Guilt is a “name your price” download on Bandcamp. Stream it below.
I ended this listening excursion with Existentium, a Baltimore band formerly named Alhazred who bill themselves as a “progressive death metal” group. They released a demo in 2012, and then a debut album named Decadent Desecration near the end of March this year, which features some full-frontal nudity.
I visited the album stream on Bandcamp. Because the length of the first song suggested it was some kind of intro, I listened to the title track as my sample for this test. Man, especially after listening to the last Valley of Hinnom track, this was an immediate jolt of high-voltage electricity — a merciless, driving charge of death metal venom, delivering piledriving grooves spiced with changing time signatures and a big dose of flashy instrumental pyrotechnics. It put me in mind of Gorod.
It includes a couple of seering, head-spinning guitar solos, and an attention-grabbing bass that steals the spotlight here and there. But the impressive technical volleys are really well-integrated into the song as a whole, so that the music is cohesive and flows (and gets your head nodding). Based on this track, I think the rest of the album will be worth exploring in depth (I did listen to one more track before stopping to write this — “Possession” — and it’s excellent).
Decadent Desecration is available on Bandcamp and through the band’s web store.