Review: Nixil- All Knots Untied
There is literally no other form of metal I enjoy more than a well-executed progressive black metal album. The mixture of unrelenting darkness and musical complexity is absolutely addictive to me, especially when the album also manages to incorporate anti-cosmic themes in an appropriate way. Well, mes amis, All Knots Untied, the debut album from Maryland’s Nixil, is one of those albums.
On All Knots Untied, Nixil plays a style of orthodox black metal that should be instantly familiar to fans of the French black metal scene. In fact, the promo mentions a direct sonic kinship with Glorior Belli and Blut Aus Nord. I’m also hearing a bit of similarity to the best elements of Germany’s Ascension and Switzerland’s Schammasch. Another way to put it is that this is a fantastic album for someone who likes the styles of black metal put out by World Terror Committee, but who doesn’t want to support the fascist owner of that label. Oh, I guess this is a good time to mention that Nixil are explicitly anti-fascist, although their music is not really political.
Like the above bands, Nixil goes for a ritualistic and corrosive atmosphere more than a cold or bleak one. This is accomplished through, well, accomplished musicianship. The thick aura of darkness and fanaticism produced by these tracks could simply not be created by lesser musicians. The guitars swirl about in a way that effortlessly moves between mild dissonance and epic melody, giving the whole affair an intensely mystical tone. The drums and bass play with time and rhythm to produce the mood of a feverish ritual. Finally, the vocals utilize everything from the expected screeches and growls to low, moaning chants and everything in between to grant the vibe of a desperate sermon or deranged psalm. I’m not saying that Nixil is putting on a tech death level display, but it feels like the band put everything they had into every track, and their efforts have been appropriately fruitful.
All Knots Untied is not just a display of great musicianship, though. The songwriting is simply ungodly. First of all, each song is highly varied. There’s essentially half an album’s worth of ideas and riffs in every song. Every track shifts fairly regularly, never allowing a riff to get stale. Despite this, All Knots Untied never feels disjointed, nor does it lose its atmospheric potency throughout this steady cycling of riffs. It just sounds diverse and well thought out. Think Storm of the Light’s Bane-era Dissection rather than Paracletus Deathspell Omega. It’s a 39-minute album, but I swear that it isn’t long enough. Even after repeated listens, I really want to hear more. I never once got bored, even though I must have listened to this thing 7 or 8 times over the course of three days. Hell, I’m still listening to it as I type. Check out “Make Me the Voice”. Hear what I hear.
Okay, the instruments are well played, and the songs are well crafted, but how well can you hear them? I’m happy to report that thanks to the excellent recording/mixing by J. Robbins and the stellar mastering by James Plotkin, everything sounds great. All instruments are clearly audible, and each one occupies its own sonic space, filling out the soundscape wonderfully. Though, this fullness of sound owes as much to the high grade songwriting as it does to the skilled production. Now, I know that a rawer production is generally seen preferable for black metal, but the professional style actually really works here. There’s just so much going on here that a rawer production would probably have been a poor choice.
Moving on, anybody who is into this kind of black metal knows that the lyrics are of utmost importance. Nixil are resolutely up the task. All Knots Untied is focused on anti-cosmic gnosticism and spiritual suicide, a topic that can either lend weight and dignity to an occult-centric album or turn it into an edgelord shitshow. Luckily, Nixil handle the subject with grace via a focus on the concept of spiritual death as an escape from suffering and limitation. For example, in “May This Flame Flicker Out”, Nixil pens:
In a small lamp of oil
This flame was brought
In hubris snatched
And tossed into suffering.
The closest comparison would be the gnostic Luciferianism of Glorior Belli or death worship of Mortuus‘s De Contemplanda Morte album. Though, Nixil eschew that esotericism of the former, while dodging the malice of the latter. In other words, the lyrics fit the phenomenal music perfectly.
All in all, All Knots Untied is an astoundingly good album that any fan of progressive black metal should enjoy. It’s one of the strongest debuts I have heard in years. I wholeheartedly endorse this album, and I strongly recommend that you give it a shot.
5/5 Self-Destroying Toilets
All Knots Untied is out now. Get it here.