posted on 3/2012 By:
As much as metal strives for universality, the parochial rears its head in many ugly ways. Presently, it does so by making it virtually impossible to discuss this worryingly bland debut album by Nothnegal without making some reference to the fact that the band is from the Maldives, an archipelago nation made up of well over 1,000 islands off the west coast of India. The unfortunate fact is that, given the aggressively unremarkable music offered up on Decadence, this geographical curiosity will be the biggest (and likely only) hook working in Nothnegal’s favor.
Still, it takes a certain kind of courage to play exceedingly dull, third-rate melodic death metal in 2012, but that hardly means Nothnegal will find itself on the receiving end of much acclaim or enthusiasm. Decadence displays little of the nimbleness typically associated with its Gothenburg progenitors, and is instead primarily preoccupied with thick, plodding riffing, rather like the very worst of Fear Factory, backed by reasonably sprightly if unimaginative guitar arpeggio workouts. The really quite awful harsh vocals of guitarist Fufu dominate Decadence, which is particularly unfortunate given the rich, confident voice of band member Affan. One of the most baffling decisions here is for Affan’s clean vocals to appear only in the album’s final two songs.
Nothnegal also boasts two hired-gun journeymen in its ranks for Decadence, with Kevin Talley (of Dying Fetus, Chimaira, Six Feet Under, and approximately three hundred other bands) on drums and Marco Sneck (most notably of Kalmah and Poisonblack) on keyboards. Talley’s drumming is suitably professional but frustratingly one-dimensional (read: forty minutes of mid-paced double bass workout), while Sneck’s backing keys manage to be many things at many times, but none of which are particularly positive: futuristic, schizophrenic, cloying, monotonous, saccharine, intrusive, and almost always cheesy.
It’s not that this condemnation comes from an across-the-board hater of melodic death metal, either -- it’s just that the cheesiness that was often attendant upon the earliest efforts by In Flames and Dark Tranquillity was often forgivable within the context of a subgenre finding its footing. When a band like Nothnegal cops that style’s least interesting components while amplifying its most irritating, and does so with such anachronistic abandon, no similar quarter is given. Nor does the songwriting ever hint at subtlety or untapped potential. A song like “Janus” has an interesting enough opening, but that opening never leads to anything more developed. There’s some nice solo work scattered throughout the album, but it’s almost a complete waste when surrounded by such directionless musical trappings and a terribly flat mix that lacks any dynamics or separation of instrumental voices.
In his monumental (if rather high-minded) study From Dawn to Decadence, French historian and cultural critic Jacques Barzun writes that the term "decadence" does not imply “loss of energy or talent or moral sense,” but that it describes an age that is “particularly restless, for it sees no clear lines of advance. The loss it faces is that of Possibility. The forms of art as of life seem exhausted… Repetition and frustration are the intolerable result” (p. xx). Nothnegal’s Decadence is thus the most aptly named album to surface in some time, right down to the letter. The spirit, though, that’s the problem.
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