Nephren-Ka, a group of French brutalizers with a welcome thematic devotion to the universe of Frank Herbert’s Dune, made a very impressive full-length debut with 2013’s The Fall of Omnius. Four years later, they are returning with a new opus named La Grande Guerre de L’Epice, which will be released on October 13 (tomorrow) by Dolorem Records. And although it’s predictable that people may wonder whether the band will fall prey to the dreaded sophomore slump, fans can rest easy. With this new album, Nephren-Ka have moved from strength to further strength.
The new album, which includes French lyrics for the first time on some of the tracks, is a concept record consisting of nine chronological phases based on the Houses prequel stories written by Frank Herbert’s son and deals “with the attempt to create synthetic Spice and the ensuing imperial war”. We previously hosted the premiere of a slaughtering track named “Watch and Learn“, but now we have a full stream of this breathtaking album on the eve of its release.
And yes, it’s true — a straight run through the album is likely to leave most listeners breathless, slack-jawed, drooling, your eyes rolled back in your head with only the sclera showing.
The music is fast — really damned fast — and almost overpowering in its destructive force, a furious mix of deliberately monstrous and tyrannical mass execution and utterly deranged frenzies of violence. But there’s more going on here than rampant obliteration — which I’ll come to in a minute.
The main through-line of the album is as I said — a blinding hurricane of speed and power, composed of hyper-accelerated double-bass roaring and equally furious snare eruptions; layers of blizzard-like riffing segmented by blink-of-an-eye stop-starts, huge groaning chords, bursts of merciless, pile-driving hammer blows, and spidery fretboard skittering, leaping, pulsating, and squealing. Even when the drum rhythms slow to a pace you could imagine a normal human being executing, the guitarists and bassist are usually still flying at an eye-popping pace.
On top of all that, you hear monstrous guttural roars, blistering shrieks, and raw, maniacal cries — which are part of what accounts for that blending of atmosphere I mentioned earlier. And as I also mentioned, there is more going on here than annihilation on a planetary scale. The songs really are ingeniously composed, and include filaments of melody and fluid soloing that come across as eerie, alien, exotic, sorrowful… and very catchy. The songs are definitely mind-spinning, but they’re head-moving, too.
There are few breaks in the album’s break-neck pace — most prominently at the end of “New Melange For the Real God” and at the beginning of the closer, “From High Hopes To Complete Failure”. But the band really aren’t very interested in letting you breathe. They are instead dedicated to electrification — and it seems that there is enough electrifying power in the album to supply the electrical needs of a sprawling metropolis. It is a huge adrenaline rush of technical, remorselessly brutal death metal that should appeal to fans of such bands as Hate Eternal, Hour of Penance, and Origin.
La Grande Guerre de L’Epice was mixed and mastered by H.K. Vamacara, and it features artwork by the French artist, Stan W. Decker. To pre-order, use the link below.