This makes the second time in as many years that we’ve hosted the premiere of music by the Italian black metal band Nott, which is the creative vehicle of the lone wolf Mortifero from Lombardy. Last year the occasion was a song from an EP named Vestigium Mortis, and today it’s the advent of Nott’s fourth album, simply entitled 4.
Like the album title, the eight songs presented here are identified by numbers — chapter numbers in a musical volume. And this particular volume of Nott’s works will be released on November 30th by Third I Rex, in advance of which we’re hosting this complete stream of the music.
As usual, Mortifero composes and performs everything, handling guitar, bass, drums, and voice, though he also credits J. Priest for solos in “Capitolo Terzo” and “Capitolo Settimo”, and keys in “Capitollo Primo”, as well as Coatl M Evil for additional vocals in “Capitolo Primo”, “Capitolo Sesto”, and “Capitolo Ottavo”. (Mortifero is also responsible for the album art and layout.)
In listening to the song from the preceding EP that we premiered last year I was struck by an aspect of traditional black metal that might seem to embody a contradiction, at least to listeners whose encounters with the genre are relatively new. I summed it up this way:
“People often speak of music like this as examples of pitch-black belligerence and nihilistic death worship. And while Nott’s scalding vocal hostility is indeed cold and cruel, and the rapidly vibrating riffs consist of freakish pulsations and seething swarms of menace, a forlorn yet grand through-line of melody rises and falls, plucking at the heart strings of sorrow just as effectively as the music shreds the flesh.”
4 rekindles those thoughts, but reveals other dimensions of Nott that are more overtly melodic and atmospheric. Hammering percussion, roiling riffs, and strangled growls and shrieks are still an important presence in the music, channeling full-throttle hostility and sulfurous viciousness. And Mortifero again makes melody an important part of even these most ravaging passages.
Quite often, these melodic through-lines are cold, bleak, and desolate. Even as the rippling chords rise like fire, the feelings of delirium they channel are often either cruel or despairing, and in either case are devoid of hope. In addition, Nott also down-shifts the drum rhythms in order to introduce filaments of eerie guitar dissonance (also hopeless in their sound) or melodic fanfares that partake of imperious grandeur — which are more frightening than they are glorious. Nott also introduces melodies that are expansive and panoramic (but no more uplifting)
While the songs prove to be quite dynamic in their momentum — among other changes, there are swaggering rock cadences in the music (“Terzo” is a prime example) as well as funereal marches (“Ottavo”, for example) — and in the emotional responses they trigger, it’s fair to say that the album’s overarching atmosphere is one of unearthly menace. Maybe at times you will detect a feeling of spiritual reverence for such hostile paranormal forces (augmented by chant-like clean vocals), and at others the extinguishing of yearning and the resignation to death.
It’s not “comforting” music, but it begins to feel like a form of sonic sorcery, with each new melody, each segue into head-moving rhythms, becoming increasingly seductive at the same time as the atmosphere of poison and peril grows increasingly more oppressive. Plague vectors spread through the music, leaving degradation and death in their wake, but the music’s grip is relentlessly powerful.
And, to be clear, there are also feelings of defiance and retribution in the music, and moods of fiery triumph that emanate from the vivid vibrations of the leads and the soaring clean song (“Ottavo” being a prime example of that, despite its brutally bleak opening passage).
In a nutshell, 4 is a very engrossing album of black metal, not one in which your attention is likely to drift away. And while some people (including perhaps Mortifero) might not want to label it “melodic black metal”, the emotional power of the melodies is what makes it so compelling.
4 was recorded, mixed, and mastered at Unreal Studio in Brescia by Jimmy Priest during the months of June/July 2019. Third I Rex is making it available on CD and as a digital download, and you can place your orders here.