(We’ve already published one review of Nervosa’s new album (here), but now take the unusual step of presenting another one by long-time NCS writer TheMadIsraeli, who has pursued an unusually exhaustive approach to assessing it.)
This year I’ve decided to take an unorthodox approach to reviewing. Any album you see me review this year, for the most part, will have been bought for money with me basing my purchase decision purely on the available singles, even when we have promos. So far I am enjoying this odd “put my money where my curiosity is” approach to checking out music in a critical perspective on 2021. It’s also allowing me to approach metal I otherwise might not take a second glance at.
I am also trying to make a commitment to upping the quality of my writing. A benefit to reviewing Perpetual Chaos long after it was released is it gave me the ability to assemble a full spread of materials to consume surrounding the album. Just for this review I listened to the album ten times in a row, not counting listening in the car or as background during gaming sessions and the like. That’s 44:30 x 10, which comes out to four hours and forty-three minutes. I also consumed the band’s entire track-by-track video (here) and watched all four parts of the Perpetual Chaos recording documentary.
I also did a once-over pass-through of the band’s previous work, that being 2014‘s Victim Of Yourself, 2016‘s Agony, and 2018‘s Downfall Of Mankind. I further used my sense of perfect pitch and my skills as a guitarist to learn to play every song on Perpetual Chaos so as to become immersed in the composition approach and riffing mindset of guitarist and founder Prika Amaral. I recommend watching all of the aforementioned videos before reading my review in full. The record also contains two surprising left-field but fantastically implemented guest appearances, with “Genocidal Command” featuring Destruction’s iconic banshee wailer Schmier, as well as Flotsam And Jetsam‘s Eric A.K. on the track “Rebel Soul”.
From a philosophical standpoint Nervosa represent a commitment to music that is an exceedingly confident display of simplicity, power, and energy. Just look at Prika Amaral, the band’s very face and you’ll see that, in a lot of ways, Nervosa is a reflection of her. She herself is a gorgeous, fierce, warrior kind of a woman with a considerably un-ignorable lack of pretension when she speaks. Even with her limited English, she has a very considered and deliberate way of expressing her thoughts. Nervosa, as a result, is an eclectic mix of metal’s most fundamental styles and outside influences of thrash, death and black metal combined with punk and hardcore that streamlines all of this into unpretentious, considered, deliberate yet fiercely wild extreme metal that is enviably honest and sure of itself. I think most people would agree with me that this IS Nervosa at its core as a concept.
This is a new chapter, though, for Prika Amaral’s passion project, as this is her first time without her partner in crime Fernanda Lira, who occupied the primary vocals and bass spots since the band’s inception. While of course none of us outside observers can say what the root cause of the split was, it does force us to confront that, likely, one of the two in this equation was difficult. Nervosa obviously being Prika’s thing begs the question of whether or not, as a primary visionary, she might be a bit difficult to work with. In spite of all the compliments I paid her, great art does tend to be produced by people who simply might not play well with others. I am okay with this, as I think most are, but for a lot of Nervosa fans they see this split as something the band can’t come back from. This is what we might call an example of a musical entity’s fans becoming more consumed with the brand and the image of a band, as opposed to the actual heart and soul of the band.
It’s as a result of this that Perpetual Chaos is, in a lot of ways, a rebellious middle finger to doubters of the project’s capacity to continue, as well as the formation of a quite formidable lineup of feminine power that radiates in the pagan and cosmic sense. Diva Satanica of Bloodhunter, Mia Wallace of Abbath, and Greek drummer Eleni Nota have all come together to create an album that feels like they were all destined to make in some way, shape, or form.
(I know this review is off to a pretentious start here, but I revel in feeling superior to others, as does frankly most everyone else here at NCS.)
The thing about that first riff of opening track “Venomous” is that it just fucking snarls at you and makes the hairs on your neck stand up. “Venomous” is about as good of an opener as it gets, insofar as it is a mission statement for the entire record. Prika’s riffing combined with Diva Satanica’s snake hiss growl exudes a corrosive belligerent energy that makes you feel like your bones are being eaten away, and that is excellently complemented by Mia Wallace’s thick, rounded-out bass tone, which adds heft on top of the guitars’ rusted razor-wire tone. Moreover, Eleni Nota’s straight-for-the-jugular drumming approach sounds like the percussionist’s equivalent to someone who participates in an underground fight club, beating the shit out of all comers for fetishized kicks.
Another thing I appreciate about Perpetual Chaos is how socially conscious it makes an effort to be, though the record in a lot of ways is auditory brutalism. “People Of The Abyss”, a song about the horrors of sexual assault, feels like it’s perfectly conceptually capturing the terror and brutality of the reality of sexual assault, whereas songs like “Pursued By Judgement” rightfully point the finger at cancel-culture mob participants as people often looking to merely bolster their own egos and paint a reality, at any cost, where they’re the good guys. Regardless of subject, every song on “Perpetual Chaos” is approached with this napalm degree of intensity.
To be honest though, while I do give a shit about lyrical content and the ethos surrounding a band and what they’re about, as a guitarist I give the most of a fuck about the riffs at the end of the day. Nervosa has always had a good reputation as a consistent riff generator, and Perpetual Chaos burnishes that reputation. I love Prika Amaral’s approach to riff writing. It’s powerful and hook focused, with tiny infectious details. I love the pinch harmonic that caps off the little chromatic hook in the verse of “Genocidal Command”; I love the Chaos A.D groove and Entombed-esque bleak Swedish blues stylings of “Perpetual Chaos” in it’s entirety, and the black metal and almost grindcore, primitivist, meaty power-chord and octave-intensive nature of “People Of The Abyss”, as well as the punk and D-beat meets Motörhead nature of “Time To Fight”. There is a lot to love here. Prika, for a guitar player who does not strive for technical or progressive heights, is more diverse as a song-writer and more memorable as a riff-writer than many bands in either the technical or progressive realms.
Oh man, and then there is that sick as fuck Sabbath-ian intro of “Godless Prisoner” before it goes into a militaristic marching death metal groove that explodes into blackened death blast-beat ecstasy. Everything this woman writes is so crafted and deliberate I can’t get over it.
As you might be able to tell, I think Perpetual Chaos is pretty good. Maybe one might say great.
So in summary, if you want deliberate, controlled intensity and ferocity which combines just about everything that serves as the foundation of extreme metal as we know it today, written by some rather ferocious women who are highly skilled purveyors of their craft, you might like this album. I kind of fucking love it myself.