Horizon Ontheemt by NusquamaRelease date: March 22, 2019
Label: Haeresis Noviomagi/Eisenwald
Haeresis Noviomagi = yes. That’s my new guiding principle when it comes to nosing around underground black metal crypts (and also in terms of selecting what to review for E&D). The overlapping crews of Lubbert Das, Iskandr, Solar Temple and Turia have all spawned awesome releases of supremely assured darkly psyched black metal out of the nether gloomy corners of the Netherlands, and Nusquama appears to be a related collection of entities in a new guise (T. and O. from Turia on vocals and guitar, and N. and S. from Laster and Northward on bass and guitar says the press release).
Compared with some of the extensive experiments of some of the earlier bands mentioned, here there’s nothing wildly avant-garde: the songs here are straight up either furious black metal power or powerful black metal fury; the shortest of the six tracks is five and a half minutes, the longest seven and a half. Rather than extensive deconstructions or kosmisch expansions, the band here seem chiefly concerned with how to condense cosmic realms of black metal into monstrous blasts of blackhole density. Each track bursts into evil life with such force you’d be forgiven for forgetting your own name: the opener gives you a few seconds of false security before a single smack of a drumbeat pushes you onto the tracks just before the train comes hurtling over you; next track ‘Wrevel’ flares like a match, the jagged distortion minutely preceded by a microsecond by the pierced initiation of a scream.
The most experimentallish we get is about 20 seconds of reverberating solo guitar picking in the middle of each of ‘Vuurslag’ and ‘Eufrozyne’, presumably as an excuse to emphasise ANOTHER crunching riff and ANOTHER ferocious throaty yell-at-the-sky from T. the vocalist. Her wild screeches make a gripping contribution to the record, real screams-to-claw-God’s-eyes-out stuff.
Not to say that it’s just endless brutality though: throughout there are amazing harmonic passages that are exhilarating… a musical equivalent of being squeezed in the lungs by a constrictor snake, with the lack of oxygen then prompting a hallucinatory lightheadedness despite the pressure. ‘Atmospheric’ is a term so over-used in the subgenre that it’s run out of meaning, so perhaps this is better described as representing a kind of unsentimental nostalgia for wildness, or a melancholic expansiveness in fist-gripping intensity: the record label have described it as a mix of ‘prideful stoicism and venomous rage, longing affirmation, and vitriolic despair’ which seems about right to me.
The album is out in March and I can’t wait to see the full thing summoned into live existence no doubt by way of skull-and-incense ritual at this year’s Roadburn fest in April. Stunning as in a powerfully affecting piece of art, and simultaneously in the sense of getting hit in the head by a blunt object.