The Eternal Return
posted on 10/2010 By:
As is often the case when getting to know an album I am set to review, I took the laptop up to my regular house of coffee, scones, and yuppiedom in order to take some notes on The Eternal Return, the sophomore release from Maltese doom adepts Nomad Son. Café Americano at my side, upper-middle-class whitey discussing politics around me, and high-quality noise-reduction earphones on my skull, I hit play on the album and dove in. Not long into opening track “The Vigil,” I realized that I was damn-near doing the involuntary headbang in this most unmetal of all unmetal environments, and something big dawned on me: nothing, and I mean nothing, gets to me quite like some fresh top-tier doom.
And make no bones about it, Nomad Son is top fucking tier. On The Eternal Return, they employ a predominantly up-tempo form of the doom tradition -- that which still qualifies firmly as rock & roll -- and they do so to resounding success. Guitarist Chris Grech alternates his riffing between the lumbering giants heard on “Can’t Turn The Tide” and a slow thrash/trad approach, such as on the ridiculously infectious “Guilty As Sin” (go ahead, try and get that chorus out of your head). Keyboardist Julian Grech is a major highlight here, often working in the ominous cathedral organ style, but also going into full 1970s proto-metal mode with his wickedly refreshing soloing. All of this is supported by a rock-solid rhythm section consisting of drummer Edward Magri and bassist Albert Bell (the guy in Forsaken, not the whackjob baseball player).
While the instrumental members of Nomad Son play their parts to all-star levels, it is vocalist Jordan Cutajar who gives the band that much sought-after something extra. Like a merging of Blackie Lawless and Ronnie James Dio assigned to replace Bobby Liebling in Pentagram, he is the type of singer that would fit several styles of rock and metal, but is absolutely perfect for The Eternal Return. In addition to his normal smoky wail, his full range of deliveries contributes hugely to the album’s subtle variety and engaging pace. For example, the chorus of “Sigma Draconis” sees him in preaching mode while the title track shows off the more sensitive side of his powerful pipes. Some listeners may find his strong presence to be a point of contention, but most will see him as the strongest asset in a band built of them.
Despite Nomad Son typically fueling their doom at a higher octane, they know how to bring it down to a snail’s pace, and the 11-minute “Winds of Golgotha” may just feature them at their best. Like all quality music of its ilk, this foreboding and planet-sized dirge brings repetition to an art, layering the monolithic riffs with that juicy organ sound while Cutajar builds the intensity himself. In this slower environment his boisterous rock fervor comes across more as veiled madness, and he makes the most of the space he is given.
The Eternal Return is that rare doom that will appeal to many outside of the genre’s normal denim-n-patch-clad hordes. Traditional metal fans will eat it for breakfast and blast it in their cars; younger fans will fail at their attempts to resist its oozing charm; and even classic rockers and proto-metal maniacs will find a lot to enjoy. The album teems with professionalism, from the strong compositions and band charisma to the elephantine production and well-balanced mix. But most important is how Nomad Son not only brings the requisite doom, but also the pure unadulterated asskickery.
Hail doom, and in this case, long live rock & roll, as well.
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