Release DetailsLABEL Battle Kommand Records
RELEASED ON 3/6/2007
posted on 11/2007 By:
Ex-Krieg frontman N. Imperial returns with...a mandolin? And a cover of Big Black's "Bad Houses." This is not your typical black metal album. But it's not too far from the norm, either. N.I.L. stands for "Nihilism Is Liberation" and for once I think a black metal outfit chose a fitting name.
The music has been all but stripped to its simplest, barest bones; entire songs plod on without any real significant change, just a few slight temp shifts here or there, maybe a faint melody buried deep below the rumbling bass and the crashing cymbals. Case in point: That previous sentence basically sums up the whole of the seven-minute "Here I Found No Shelter". While the simplicity doesn't detract from the music's effect, the real focus of these songs is Imperial himself, whose despondent vocal performance is truly captivating.
My first few listens were terribly unrewarding. This droning, primal blackness went right over my head because I was expecting a completely different beast. I was hoping for something like Xasthur, or Leviathan, maybe. But this is more like Om than Xasthur. The only connection to the USBM scene are the vocals and the vocalist's other band. Check out the mandolin playing that sets the mood, the ringing bell behind the guitar in "Serpent Circle", and the bell in "Leaving The Self Behind" that could either signal the end of the album, or the end of meditation. Minus the break of pace (it's jarring, really) that "Bad Houses" brings to the experience, this album is just over half an hour of meditative hopelessness, a concentrated effort to explore negative emotions through music that feels genuine and succeeds in drawing the listener into some really dark places. Lots of black metal gets to be called "primal" if its production value is raw; N.I.L. is primal black metal because it really seems like they have, especially in the vocal department, translated natural, elemental feelings and forces into the most primitive and fitting music.
I like this release because of its impact, but the songwriting isn't perfect by any means. For all the depth that some tracks show after repeated listens, some simply just don't fare as well as the others and remain cold to me ("Sinking" and "Negative Frequency Entity" for instance). This is a promising album and an interesting project. I hope to hear more from these guys in the future.
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