Recommended for fans of: Spectral Wound, Uada, Woe
I don’t know whether it makes me a hypocrite (but, then again, aren’t we all?) but while I retain a more than healthy scepticism about any sort of so-called “supergroup” (sure, some of them are great, but most of them are just famous – and sometimes not-so-famous – musicians trading solely on their names to sell you their latest mediocre side-project) I have a lot more time for solo artists with multiple projects.
Actually, to be more accurate, I have a lot more time for those solo artists I actually like – as I am famously very picky when it comes to projects which are the product of just a single individual – which is why, upon learning that Non Est Deus was another artistic endeavour by the same person behind both Kanonenfieber and Leiþa, I knew I had to check it out.
As it turns out, not only is Non Est Deus a predictably excellent slab of sleekly savage, mercilessly melodic Black Metal – one that’s not afraid to groove, or gallop, as the situation dictates, while also being willing to throw in the occasional unexpectedly esoteric curve-ball just to keep you on your toes – it’s also actually an older and more prolific project that either of the other two, having already released both The Last Supper (2018) and There Is No God (2019), with a third album, Impious, set to be unveiled this Friday via Avantgarde Music and Noisebringer Records.
All of which, obviously, makes Non Est Deus a prime candidate for The Synn Report, so let’s cut to the chase and get to the music, shall we?
2018 – THE LAST SUPPER
While there’s no doubt that Non Est Deus is vehemently and viscerally anti-religious in its outlook, they’re also not afraid of being a little irreverent with their blasphemy either, as epitomised by the lyrics of their debut album, The Last Supper, which lay out – in the sort of gruesome and excruciatingly gory detail usually reserved for a certain type of Death Metal band – the story of a man driven by “divine inspiration” (there’s a reason, why the term “god-touched” used to mean “insane”) to sever, cook, and consume various parts of his own body.
It begins with the simmering sounds and moody instrumental melodies of “Serve Me” – a knowing double entendre which sets the tone for the rest of the album – before kicking into high gear with the hip-shaking swagger and bone-rattling blasts of “Preperation”.
Guitar-wise it’s a crisp combination of sizzling tremolo melodies and broiling grooves, all building to a heart-racing, harmony-drenched climax, and while there’s certainly a touch of Uada to the song’s undulating rhythms, the raw energy and the rough edges of the music ultimately make me think that (early) Spectral Wound is perhaps a closer, and better, point of comparison.
“Starter” is almost the flip-side of the coin to its predecessor – where that song grooved, this one blasts, and vice versa – but still delivers the same blend of fiery fury and harmonic hooks, while “Main Course” not only doubles-down on the grim grooves (though, don’t worry, there’s still plenty of blast-driven, tremolo-fuelled intensity in the mix too) but also introduces some anguished, DSBM-adjacent moments to help elucidate the self-inflicted torment of the record’s narrator (“I need the meat / the pain is worth it“).
Penultimate track, “Dessert”, continues this theme, beginning with a litany of agonised screams, before settling into a rugged groove reminiscent of the Mgła/Groza/Grimah school of Black Metal. It still possesses a few effective tricks of its own, from its scalded, screeching vocal style, to its prominent, clanging bass-lines… as well as an extra thick layer of frosted melody… which help it stand out from the crowd.
Now, obviously, I’m not going to pretend that The Last Supper is breaking any new ground here – it’s composed, more often than not, of some very familiar ingredients after all – but it’s still an album well worth getting your teeth into, and serves up a recipe for future success which Non Est Deus would then go on to embellish and expand upon even further. As you’re about to find out.
2019 – THERE IS NO GOD
The second Non Est Deus album is no doubt an angrier, even more aggressive diatribe against the evils of organised religion… not that you’d notice at first, as “Poisonous Words” begins with a sequence of dark, lilting piano and portentous spoken-word.
But when it does finally explode into life, it’s immediately apparent that this is an album which aims to hit harder, and more cleanly, than its predecessor, downplaying (though not totally exorcising) some of the Mgła-esque grooves of its predecessor in favour of a more intense and impactful approach heavier on both hammering drums and extravagant, Uada-ish lead melodies.
The poetically-titled “Fuckfest of Blood” then builds upon this even further, showcasing an even more focussed and punishing percussion style (which, again, brings to mind the more aggressive and energetic approach of Spectral Wound, to my ears at least) and a more uniquely interesting riffing style, in and amongst the usual plethora of icy tremolo melodies, while also showing off yet another showboating guitar solo leading into the unexpectedly proggy and pensive fretwork of the track’s moody, morose mid-section.
“Coffin of Shattered Dreams” gets off to a brooding, slow-burning start, before suddenly erupting in a torrential deluge of devastating blastbeats and scything distortion… not to mention a surprise, and surprisingly effective, accordion break in the middle… after which “Hobson’s Choice” opens up a darker, doomier, chapter for the album, one which slowly but surely picks up steam as the song goes on, while also throwing in some unexpected surprises – from ostentatious lead guitar work to half-crooning, half-croaking, semi-clean vocals, to some soulful percussive grooves – along the way.
The album’s fifth and final track, “Godless”, picks up practically where its predecessor left off, opening with a dark ‘n’ bluesy solo section that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Southern Rock record (or, perhaps more appropriately to the situation, a Glorior Belli album) before unleashing its full fury in a barrage of bracing blastbeats and biting tremolo guitars.
The first half of the song is practically unrelenting in its pursuit of unwavering Black Metal bombast – and that’s not a complaint or a criticism by any means – but the second half of the track takes a much more interesting and varied tack, its constantly shifting rhythms anchored by a looping, hypnotic lead part that swiftly worms its way into your head and leads the music towards a surprisingly sombre and solemn finale.
2022 – IMPIOUS
One thing that strikes me about Impious (set for release this Friday) is how it has adopted a much more nuanced approach to religion, acknowledging that perhaps “faith” itself is not the problem… it’s those who would use and abuse, corrupt and co-opt it for their own perverted purposes who are the true enemies of humanity.
That’s not to say they’ve softened their stance by any means, however… in fact, there’s an extra level of viciousness and venom to the lyrics and vocals which suggests that Non Est Deus have really zeroed in on their target this time around.
Musically speaking too this is a more refined and streamlined version of the band’s already well-defined sound, one that feels altogether tighter, punchier, and more vibrant, and possesses an even better grasp of structure and dynamic – opener “Save Us”, for example, has a touch of Batushka‘s grim grandeur to it, especially during its early segments, but balances skull-shaking power and ear-catching hooks in such a way that any similarities to other bands feel when compared to the song’s internal push and pull between atmosphere and aggression.
Similarly, the Woe-esque “Burn It Down” and the succinctly-titled “Fuck Your God” hit your ear with a mix of irresistibly infectious energy and hook-fuelled, high-voltage intensity, the former shifting between cock-sure swagger and moody introspection, the latter effectively distilling the band’s music, and their message, down to three-and-a-half minutes of mercilessly melodic Black Metal in its purest, most primal form.
“Hexenwahn” is a little under seven minutes of bone-chilling melodies, fire-breathing vocals, and rippling tremolo runs, constantly shifting shape and speed, while the furious, face-melting “Flagellation” simply goes for the throat in a way that, like its name-sake, hurts too good to stop.
The tongue-in-cheek titled “Christraping Polka” then slows things down to take the album in a darker, doomier direction – shades of The Infernal Sea coming through in both the song’s infectious percussive patterns and virulent vocal hooks – before the short-but-sweet savagery of “Celebrate the Selfdestruct” delivers yet another harrowing, hook-ridden heretic anthem.
Closing with the emphatic riffs and energetic rhythms of “The Ascension” – a song which, in just over six minutes, contains a multitude of moods and sensations while still retaining its essential blackened “essence” – it should have become obvious by now that Impious is easily the most dynamic, and definitive, Non Est Deus album yet, one which captures both the sound and spirit of Black Metal in all its glory, and which is more than worthy of being held up alongside any (and all) of the band’s more (in)famous peers and predecessors.