Most bands I can fairly easily explain to someone who’s unfamiliar with a group’s music. I usually even can give a relatively educated guess as to philosophies and lyrical content, shooting at least for the confines of the ballpark when venturing a guess. But now and again one comes across that throws me for a loop and I’m forced to feign a major injury and scurry from the room.
Try as I might to fake a severed artery in my leg or a major chest injury, I kind of can’t hide from my own site. So it looks like I’m going to take a stab at trying to explain Nihill and their fascinating and bizarre third record “Verdonkermaan.” It’s the final act of a trilogy that kicked off with two equally impressive records “Krach” from 2007 and “Grond” from 2009. In fact, I specifically remember trying to decipher the latter album while drunk and watching a Pitt/Navy football game. That was a remarkably stupid idea on my part, and it didn’t really help me come to any other conclusion than, “I’m pretty messed up and this record isn’t helping.” I mean that in a nice way. And that came a few months after their debut had reached me via Hydra Head, who certainly don’t fear a musical challenge.
Like their first two records, I’ve relished picking apart “Verdonkermaan,” a title I believe translates into “embezzle,” and found myself captured by the bizarre vortex of sound this band captures and turns into avant-garde black metal magic. There’s no easy way to describe exactly what’s going on musically with this band and this record, and my best advice would be to spend a lot of time soaking up Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega and then try to come back to this. If you’re already indoctrinated into Nihill’s world, you’ll have a far easier time adjusting. But I, too, have spent countless hours with “Grond” and “Krach” and still had to get properly tuned to these hellish transmissions before I was ready to translate my thoughts into words. This is not an easy adventure, and don’t go into it thinking you can coast by. You’ll drown in the shadows.
Nihill is made up of three figures — M. Eikenaar (also known for his work with, uh, slightly more accessible Dodecahedron), V. Koreman (Encircled), and J. Agema (ex-Edge of Anger, ex-Posthuman) — are responsible for the madness discovered on “Verdonkermaan,” and their artistry is both confusing and frightening. I can only describe their sound as a metallic tornado sucked into space that along the way picks up a ghoul world and heads slowly toward the sun to bring upon destruction. What the fuck does that mean, you ask? I have no idea at all. But it sounds like that thing I just typed. It would scare the shit out of me if I saw that thing, by the way. So there’s that.
The five cuts on “Verdonkermaan” are pretty lengthy and don’t have much of a beginning, middle, or end. The songs sort of slip into the picture, already formed, and they shape-shift over their duration into a weird, tyrannical beast. There certainly is melody to be found on these cuts, but there’s just as must compositional weirdness and poisonous fog created by every element of these songs. If you’re looking for lines to howl back, a sign of a hook or a chorus, or anything conventional whatsoever, you’re going to be searching a long time. You need to let these songs breathe and envelop you. The album requires you to be an active participant to try to make sense of what’s around you. If you don’t, chances are “Verdonkermaan” and Nihill won’t make a lot of sense to you. If you give in, you’ll find one of the more adventurous records to surface this year.
“Vuur: the deathwind of resurrection” starts off as unsettling as possible, with strange string strikes and pained warbling that eventually dissolve into destructive weirdness and a firestorm of punishment. The guitar work is tricky, the atmosphere is thick and cloudy, and the vocals are gurgly and strangling. “Spiral: the tail eater” has a really off-kilter launch, but it eventually becomes one of the more approachable songs on the record. Take that description “approachable” with a grain of salt, because listeners not ready for this still will be knocked aside. “Oerbron: returning to the primal matter” is the heaviest song on here, with the fastest pace, shakiest tempo, and most stomach acid-inducing presentations. It is complete damage and obliteration from start to finish, and it really does need the breather that is “Gnosis Part IV,” a carryover theme from “Krach.” This piece is built with eerie whisper loops, doomy ambiance, and swirling sounds that’ll have you hearing voices and mysterious noises in your head well after the track is over. Closer “Trauma: crushing serpens mercuriales” is weird, chugging, scraped with static, and bludgeoned with disruptive, sinister melodies that bring the trilogy to a thunderous, shocking conclusion.
Nihill’s creative inventions indicate the band isn’t interested in playing by rules or coloring between the lines. Much of the time, they don’t even sound human. They make cosmic, disturbing black metal that defies logic and label and should make your skin crawl. Words cannot do their mission or their sound justice so yeah, you probably should try on their bizarre art to truly understand them. Every portion of this trilogy has been exciting and unique, and I’m curious to see what corner of psychosis they explore next.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.facebook.com/nihillofficial
To buy the album, go here: http://www.bluecollardistro.com/hydrahead/categories.php?cPath=4
For more on the label, go here: http://www.hydrahead.com