Monday, April 23, 2007

N.I.L. - S/T

N.I.L. – S/T
(Battle Kommand Records)

The current wave of ‘prolific’ underground USBM is mainly supported by the ‘one-man band’ format, although there are exceptions (i.e., Nachtmystium). Krieg was always very hit or miss to me, mainly due to incredibly avant-garde drumming and production (although this is not the case with late-era releases). I’m not a snob about production, although I find it hard to find reasons for continued listening when the drums are inaudible. Krieg main man Imperial has since focused on two new projects (March Into the Sea and N.I.L.), both of which are quite different than expected.

N.I.L. finds Imperial and March Into the Sea co-conspirator J. Marcheski creating an experimental, drone-based black metal hybrid, incorporating acoustic guitar passages, occasional mandolin (albeit buried in the mix), and something called a singing bowl. The song structures are akin to Xasthur, although much shorter in length and avoid the aimless wandering that much of Malific’s later material has possessed.

The vocals are great – deep, low moans, screams, and growls that resound of painful despair and hatred. You can also hear enunciation without them losing their power, which is something that I appreciate. The guitars move between an oppressive wall and atmospheric moods, but remain at the forefront. The bass is audible and prominent, yet the drums suffer much of the same treatment that many of the Krieg recordings did – all cymbals, tiny snare and kick sounds. The production values waiver at times and some songs do find the drums more balanced in the mix, but it’s a mild point in the scope of this release. It’s an annoyance, but the songs and overall feel of the record still hold up. Even the Big Black cover of ‘Bad Houses’ seems to fit comfortably here with the rest of the music, although it is the melodic sore thumb.

Clocking in at around 34 minutes, N.I.L.’s first release has me captivated and anticipating future recordings. Hopefully future releases will continue to be on the shorter length of things like this record. Hails to Imperial and Marcheski! Keep the nihilism coming!