Tech Death Thursday: Nostoc
We’ve got fresh blood this week! Let’s take a look at the debut from Nostoc and see if we can figure out why it’s so damn good.
- Emperium have a lyric video out for their song “Dimensions,” and it’s awfully depressing for such a fun song. Dubious English and bleak imagery aside, the music is a bit like the latest Enfold Darkness with some Allegaeon-style shredding. Check it out if you like your melodeath with a side of tech.
- Newcomers Xenofaction just put out a crazy two song promo. Definitely check this out if you’re into Hour of Penance or Hideous Divinity, and I imagine fans of the last Wormed album will get some mileage out of this one as well.
- If you’re looking for something a little more on the brutal death side of things, check out the newest tune from Verminous Mind. Lots of OSDM influence on this one, and the solos are brilliant. Look for the full album tomorrow.
- The new Inverted Serenity is streaming in full. Please insert it into your earholes at your earliest convenience. As Spectres Wither is out on the 7th.
A word of warning about today’s selection: Ævum is very dense. Not dense in the Gorguts sense, where your ears feel like they’re trying to navigate a foggy quagmire for fear of drowning in the muck. No, this is more like a thick slice of cheesecake; it’s rich and satisfying, but it feels like you’re going to spend the next week digesting it when you’re done. I also don’t recommend three consecutive helpings of it, because you’re going to feel like death by the end.
Dark, mid-paced prog is at the center of each of Nostoc’s expansive compositions, but it’s taken in so many different directions that it’s hard to pin down a solid descriptor for their sound. “A Path to Ascend” opens things up with some chill clean guitars, turning into some a spacey synth chord and sparse drum fills that sound like they’re building into a metal cover of “Money For Nothing.” Fortunately, we’re spared a rich guy’s rant about how whiny poor people are when the band brings in some warm, somber, crunchy chords and sliding micro-melodies that travel up and down the fretboard. The song continues to morph from there, adding in a beefy tremolo-picked riff and blastbeats, a major-key tapped section, and some pure headbanging grooves. You’ll even get a little Middle Eastern-style percussion and a big doom riff right before the end. Keep in mind, this is all one song; it’s nine minutes long, sure, but that’s still a lot of ground covered.
Nostoc’s immense variety is one of their greatest strengths, but depending on your stomach for prog, it could also be their biggest weakness. While each song is clearly built around a central theme, the ways those themes are explored don’t always feel cohesive. Tempo and time signature changes are sudden and frequent, and I’m not sure I heard a single riff or idea revisited throughout a song’s run. I personally think that each individual section is strong and focused enough on a song’s main idea that they work as is, but I can understand how others would be put off by this.
If there’s anything Ævum could have used more of, it’s clean singing, because it’s fucking great. Sung vocals only show up once about halfway through “Transmute,” and they’re gone as suddenly as they appear. I get that it could be part of the band’s unspoken “never do the same thing twice” rule, but given the strength of those cleans, they feel disappointingly underutilized. Don’t get me wrong; the harsh vocals are fantastic too, with a throaty style similar to Jake Dieffenbach of Rivers of Nihil that occasionally dives deep into a hideous growl. The album certainly isn’t crippled by a lack of singing, but it would have been nice to hear more of it.
I realize that this might not sound like the most glowing recommendation I’ve ever given, but with an album like this, it’s far easier to pick apart its few flaws than it is to pinpoint exactly why it works as well as it does. It’s varied, it’s heavy, it strikes a great balance between melodic and rhythmic hooks, and it’s just a great listen. If you’re into cerebral music with emotional heft, technical flair, and the occasional lounge jazz breakdown, then you’ll love this through and through. If not, you’ll find it easier to take in small chunks; put some space between listening to each song, and I think you’ll still be able to enjoy it.
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