The Opening of the Primordial Whirl
posted on 2/2011 By:
Considering how flooded the black metal scene is with new projects these days, its becoming harder and harder as a reviewer to come up with ways to describe bands as comfortably middle-of-the-stack as Italy’s Near, but never to come up with reasons to recommend their music when its as agreeable as it is on this debut. A hazy, spacey mixture of black metal’s traditional and more ambient-heavy sides, The Opening of the Primordial Whirl doesn’t really measure up to many of today’s projects in terms of trailblazing innovation or genre-bending experimentation. It’s a fairly straightforward black metal offering, and most listeners with even a passing interest in the genre have heard comparable stuff before. But Near’s effort is also skillfully constructed, tastefully delivered, and all around surprisingly well-executed, and that makes it well worth a listen in my book.
While all of the requisite ingredients found in black metal’s more blistering strains are present here – buzzing guitars, pulsating bass, harsh vocals and blasting drums – the music isn’t exactly what I would call “intense.” The focus here is more on conveying a hazy, ominous atmosphere through leering repetition, and to this end, The Opening of the Primordial Whirl is very effectively composed. Near has a good grasp of the dynamic ideas necessary to make music like this stick and not just waft on by the listener. The riffs are cloudy and atmospheric, but it never feels like they’re just hovering around; there’s a feeling of intent and momentum maintained throughout these nine songs, which keeps things engaging throughout a mostly one-dimensional listening venture.
While the instrumentation on this disc is about as traditional as it gets – it's pretty much straight tremolo picking on the guitars backed by a mix of blasts and slower drumbeats – Near is definitely able to put their own stamp on the sound. There’s hardly any keyboard use despite the heavy emphasis on atmosphere, and it's really not even missed in this case. The compositional impact of the core instruments is enough to get the point across, and the intricate mid-paced melodic surges that occasionally break up the flow help lend Near an air of originality despite their music being mostly in line with traditional black metal standards. While the straightforward and repetitious nature of the songwriting means that The Opening of the Primordial Whirl does occasionally slip into background-music status, the band doesn’t linger on any tedious ideas for too long; the ambience is achieved not so much by repeating riffs into the ground as it is stringing them together in a cohesive and interesting manner.
Aside from some small production complaints (namely a mildly irritating snare sound), I can’t think of any reasons why most people wouldn’t get a kick out Near’s debut. Most of the material on here treads on well-worn ground, but the music is well-composed and played with conviction, and draws from a good variety of influences that should appeal to anyone with an interest in quality atmospheric black metal. Give it a shot.
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