- Year 2017
- Genre AmbientBlack MetalDoom Metal
- Country Hungary
- Label GrimmDistribution
- Rating Excellent
Black metal as an ever-shifting landscape of experimentation will never cease to astound me. For every Abbath-worshipping riff-factory, there’s a Thy Catafalque who turns the weirdness up to high gear. Not that there’s anything wrong with the former, but it’s the visionary trailblazers who will always get my attention the quickest — which brings us to Hungary’s Nagaarum. I’d never heard Nagaarum’s music before, which I’d describe as a malevolent melting pot of black metal, doom, psychedelic, industrial, with a pinch of post-rock. Surprising, given that this prolific one-man project has been slugging it out since 2011, and this month’s “Homo Maleficus” marks his fourteenth (go ahead, count ’em!) full-length album. If you aren’t afraid to seek out black metal that’s off the beaten path, the kind you have to crawl through a hole in a rusty chain-link fence and wade through knee-deep pools of acid muck and bleached bones to get to, just wait ’til you hear this one.
Nagaarum swaps parts wherever it suits his fancy, but on the whole, “Homo Maleficus” feels more focused than a rampant, madness-fueled science project.
The “experimental” tag is often an invitation to introduce a whole host of oddities into a base genre. Electronic, industrial, classical, doom, post-rock — the range of strange influences knows no limits, and these can be sprinkled throughout the course of an album in surprising, even jarring ways. “Homo Maleficus” certainly plays around with some of these, swapping parts wherever it suits Nagaarum’s fancy to craft a unique monster to terrorize us with — but on the whole, “Homo Maleficus” feels more focused than a rampant, madness-fueled science project. Each song shows enough variation in tempo, mood, and dynamics to be distinct from each other, but they’ve all got the same poisonous alchemy pumping through their veins. Sterile programmed drums pulse and pop while toxic guitar riffs rise like poison clouds. Disparate echoing leads drift through a haze of noxious fog like a bad trip amid a post-apocalypse. The vocals hark back to the phlegmy range of “Ordo Ad Chao”-era Mayhem, only far more manic than his countryman Attila Csihar. Nagaarum’s corrosive delivery morphs into babbling barks, double-tracked chants, and low, glottal growls that bubble and prick the back of the throat. The atmosphere Nagaarum creates with the instruments is potent, crafted with diabolical focus and spilling over with radiation. The album’s production doesn’t seem overly cared for — the guitars don’t have the full, layered effect many modern releases have, for example — but I feel that only enhances the overwhelming dreariness of “Homo Maleficus.”
Nagaarum doesn’t stop there; there’s head-nodding rockin’ to be had, too. Vassal nevelt is a tempo-twisting journey with a bombastic declaration of a chorus, while Dolgunk vegeztevel falls under heavy Rotting Christ hypnosis and then rips away with a furious, thrashy Immortal-esque riff (see, we got there eventually). Az elvhu follows a fairly strict motif of chunky, distorted riffing but bends it up and down the scales in a frankly unnerving fashion. All seven songs — even the instrumental Brian Eno hellscape that is Kolontar — see multiple stages of evolution that cycles through old parts and weaves new ones throughout. No single-celled simplicity here; song structures are complex and provoking organisms, earning themselves multiple listens to properly understand their DNA.
“Homo Maleficus” sounds like the slow entropy of an entire species — a decaying descent into schizophrenic chaos heralded by a single degenerate harbinger. I’ve only just accepted Nagaarum as my personal irradiated savior, but if there’s more like “Homo Maleficus” in our future, I’m more than willing to follow him for another fourteen albums. All I know is wherever we’re going, it’s going to be somewhere deep, dark, and primal.