Narcissus Rising, the second album by the Austrian band The Negative Bias, was released almost two years ago — though due to the pandemic time-dilation effect it seems like two decades ago. That album, which we enthusiastically premiered and reviewed here in advance of its release by ATMF, opened many eyes to the band’s impressive but unsettling talents. We wrote then:
“The new album by the Austrian alchemists The Negative Bias is so ambitious in its conception, so extravagant in its composition, and so tremendously powerful in its execution that it merits the often-overused term “visionary”. It becomes a form of breathtakingly dramatic musical theater that seems calculated to create shock and awe, to assault and bedazzle the senses, forcibly shattering commonplace perceptions in order to make the mind more receptive to new and unexpected visions.”
It was thus exciting to learn that The Negative Bias had recorded a new EP for release this year, and today we have the pleasure of presenting a full stream of that EP — entitled Tapeworm Pyramids — the day before its issuance via Vendetta Records.
As in the case of that monumental last album, Tapeworm Pyramids is a rich embroidery of sounds and styles, combining ingredients that include (but are not limited to) atmospheric black metal, death metal, and ambient music, as well as a changing array of vocal expressions, to create patterns of spell and shock. And as before, the band make clear that they follow their own muse in persistently surprising and often disturbing directions, without the hindrances imposed by formulaic genre boundaries.
The EP consists of three tracks, the second of which is itself a two-part composition. At the outset of the long opening track which shares the EP’s name, glistening astral reverberations create a mesmerizing effect over a low, distant drone. The mesmerizing shine of those radiations builds until spoken words provide a prelude to an immense storm of sound, drums blasting and thundering beneath a great roiling mass of riffage, soaring synths, and scorching vocal vitriol.
There’s a feeling of desperation in the searing, flickering melodies, and one of grim cruelty in the heaving low-end frequencies. Choral harmonies add an element of sorrowful solemnity, just before a deep humming bass and a syncopated drumbeat surface as the intensity of the music briefly subsides. But the song again becomes feverish and storming, and an anguished yet magisterial melodic motif rises once more. The choral voices and those barbarous snarls create a closing call-and-response, and then fade away into the recurrence of the shimmering melodic rays of cosmic mystery that began the song.
The following two-part song, “The Alpha, The Omega / Nebulatorian Machines“, allows no easy breathing at the start but instead erupts in an immediate surge of intensity, and presents a rolling wave of memorable melody that seems to encompass yearning and anguish. Those sweeping melodies are emotionally gripping, but so are the urgent bass lines, the blistering percussion, and the diabolical growls. When the drum rhythm segues into a skipping beat, the guitar work twists and turns in an almost joyous and magical display, made even more ecstatic by fiery lead-guitar spirals and heroic singing.
The song continues to morph, with rocking beats providing the foundation for heavy, perilous, yet sorcerous, riffing and pinging keys. The song changes again, resuming the magnificent charging storm of sound, with choral voices again rising fervently over the machine-gun drumming and swarming guitars. An abrupt stop signals the second part of the song — a collage of ambient sounds that create an atmosphere of cosmic wonder, accompanied by frightening whispers and distant thunder.
Some of you may be familiar with the roots of the EP’s final song, “Anywhere out of the World“, but we’ll focus on how it sounds in the hands of this band. The onset combines brilliant ringing tones, slow, heaving undercurrents of grim distortion, and momentous drum rolls. The rhythms shift into a head-moving percussive pound and jolting chords. There’s naught but singing in this song, but it’s a riveting experience to hear the voice soar upward from gloomy goth intonations.
The vocals carry the melody, but a slowly slithering guitar solo has its own place, creating a feeling of misery that climbs into anguish. The song as a whole climbs as well, taking flight in a burst of blasting drums, beseeching guitars, and towering, cyclonic riffing — which fades away into a celestial realm.
All in all, the EP provides further confirmation of this band’s thrilling talents, and of the need to keep a close watch on their future activities.
Vendetta hasn’t launched pre-orders for Tapeworm Pyramids, but order opportunities will become available tomorrow coincident with the record’s release.
THE NEGATIVE BIAS: