(Here’s Andy Synn‘s review of the new album by the Italian band Nero Di Marte, which is set for release on January 24th by Season of Mist.)
As someone who occasionally dabbles in releasing music himself, I’ve often pondered when exactly the “optimum” time to release an album is.
After all, put something out too early in the year and you risk being forgotten about by the time all the December “End of the Year” lists roll around, but put something out too late and you’re probably going to struggle to get yourselves into contention for the summer festival season.
Nero Di Marte clearly have good reasons for deciding to release their new album right at the start of 2020 however, as Immoto is such a dense, intricately layered piece of work that it’s likely to take their audience the rest of the year to fully unpick and unpack everything it has to offer!
For those of you unfamiliar with the band (and, considering it’s been over five years since their last release, that might be quite a few of you), the Italian quartet deal in a particularly abstract and angular, not to mention atmospheric, form of what some have started to refer to as “Post-Death Metal”, situated at a nexus point somewhere between Ulcerate, Gorguts, Meshuggah, and Isis.
On their first, self-titled, album, Nero Di Marte certainly hewed closer to the “Death Metal” side of things, focussing more on sharp, wiry riffage and propulsive forward momentum – albeit all wrapped up and entangled in a series of complex, contorted structures and arrangements – while their second record, 2014’s sublime Derivae, expanded their sound by incorporating additional layers of ambience, dissonance, and atmosphere into the mix.
With Immoto the band have pushed the envelope of their sound even further – more ambience, more dissonance, more atmosphere, more angularity – to the point that anyone searching for a comfortable ride or an easy listening experience would be well advised to look elsewhere.
Riff-wise the band continue to eschew the traditional or the predictable, favouring skewed, asymmetric rhythms and seething dis-chords over classic 4/4 chugging or string-skipping technicality – although that’s not to suggest that their guitar work in any way lacks heft or heaviness, as the dramatic, down-tuned impact of songs like slow-burning opener “Sisyphos” and the colossal “La casa del diavolo” demonstrates so emphatically.
Adding to the album’s weighty sonic presence is the impressive prominence of Andrea Burgio’s humongous, high-tensile bass tone and the equally impressive performance of new drummer Giulio Galati (also of Hideous Divinity), whose creative drum work embodies calculated chaos at its most carefully controlled and precisely patterned, all of which is topped off by the inimitable, idiosyncratic vocals of Sean Worrell, whose unique voice remains as strikingly vulnerable, yet intensely visceral, as ever.
But what really makes Immoto so special, and so challenging, is the songwriting, which this time around proceeds in a fluid, almost stream-of-consciousness, fashion – lengthy passages of impressionistic ambience and brooding, dirge-like atmosphere left to simmer and swell at their own pace, cascades of dissonant discordance sweeping in from the edges, rumbling, roiling riffs gathering pace before erupting in an avalanche of punishing sound and fury – reminding me at times of the similarly unconventional (and unconstrained) approach of artists like Oranssi Pazuzu and Imperial Triumphant, albeit with a much more deathly musical foundation.
It’s a dense, demanding, album that’s for sure (possibly even a little too long for its own good, in fact, as I’m not entirely convinced that “La Fuga” makes for a better closer than the moodier, doomier strains of “Irradia”), and every single track, distinct and diverse in both form and function, requires a lot of patience and attention from the listener to fully appreciate all they have to offer.
But for those who are willing, and able, to engage and immerse themselves in this record the rewards are potentially huge, as while Nero Di Marte’s incredibly distinctive sound will perhaps always mark them out as a square piece in a world of round holes, when you finally discover the right way to fit them into your own mental model the results could well be revelatory.
One of the first truly “Great” albums of 2020? Only time will tell…
NERO DI MARTE: