That saying “seeing is believing” apparently goes a long way when it comes to Dutch black metal nightmares Nihill. I’ve never witnessed the band live, I’m sad to say, but reports I’ve read about them from some very reliable sources are they are a band that must be experienced in the flesh in order to be fully absorbed. I look forward to that day with great thirst.
Until then, the band’s incredible studio albums are all I really have to go on, and they’ve been some of the most warped, intense, and vicious recordings the genre has produced the last decade. I get the sense that had they been a part of the Second Wave bands, they might have been one of the ones revered the most. Their original trilogy of records was brought to the States courtesy of Hydra Head Records, and the reason I indulged in the band in the first place is because I trusted that label’s tastes and figured if they saw promise, there must be something there. Was that ever an understatement? Over the course of debut “Krach,” follow-up “Grond,” and series finale “Verdonkermaan,” the band established itself as one of the scariest, most unique bands in all of black metal, a breath of pestilent air among a scene that could benefit from a true sense of danger and malice.
Nihill have returned, seeing to it that our December is as black as possible, with their crushing fourth record “Verderf,” a mind fuck of an adventure that’ll peel the paint off your walls and color your nightmares with sights unseen and unimagined before. The eight-track, nearly 55-minute opus is pure Nihill, but it also has them upping the fury and bizarre nature of their creations. It’s an album that might take some time to set in and really infect your bloodstream, but once it does, you’re finished. Even I, a longtime Nihill fan, had to take a few trips with the record before it made its true character and intentions known to me, and I have since offered my submission to its force. It’s noisy, sometimes violently monotonous, and always bubbling with crazed terror, and what this band—vocalist Michiel Eikenaar, guitarist/drummer V., and bassist Jelle Agema—accomplish here are ear worms headed straight to your brain to warp you forever.
Opener “Ghoul” is a quick instrumental cut that’s sort of like the band opening the tightly squeezed jar lid on their world of horrors. Noises shriek and pierce the senses, sounds build like a storm, and you feel like you’re being sucked into a vortex on your way to “Carrion Eaters.” The ominous guitars, the relentless pounding, and vocals that sound like they’re being spit along with black blood and tar greet you. The whole damn thing pulsates in your ears, shaking your mind to its core, and they just keep building layer upon layer of filth to this thing until it swelters and tortures you to its end. “Kolos” runs 8:36, and its damaged, slurry guitar work lets you know right away that things are not normal. The vocals sound like a furious wind of moans at times, with Eikenaar howling, “Sow the seeds of heresies!” likes it’s an outright command and not a suggestion. The sounds swirl in air, causing an entrancing scene from which you cannot escape, and the machine-like churning and burning stay in their lane and rub your face into the dirt over and over again. “Wielding the Scythe” rages open, with monstrous growls assaulting you and riffs bending like sheet metal but refusing to break. If anything, they’re twisted into a new, sicker form, with melodies rising up like a swarm, riffs feeling meaty and troubling, and the crazed vocals joining with all of those elements and eventually succumbing to a noise haze.
“Spiritum” screams opens and then sludges away on a slow-driving pace designed to exact punishment in doses. Some of the lead lines feel stabbing and sulfuric, with the madman vocals stretching over top everything to give the track an extra dose of terror. Guitars buzz hard, the melodies sicken, and the band refuses to leave their path, instead staying the course and burning everything behind them. “Morbus” crashes open and starts on its campaign of absolute tyranny. The vocals are more like yelled diatribes, as if Eikenaar is on a pulpit directing his darkness to the masses, while the band clubs relentlessly and sometimes weirdly. Feedback sizzles and rings out, chunky sections emerge that should get your blood flowing and you right in line with the band’s agenda, and the final push of charred carnage at the end is a last chance to offer your flesh to them. “Engorged” changes the pace and face entirely. It’s a 10:43-long noise sermon, with pockets of chaos making like an electrical storm and the vocals coming off like hellish rants and stream-of-consciousness threats. Often times, the track seems like a dream, one from which you are roused not into consciousness, but into a different level of sleep you didn’t know existed. Try as you might, you won’t awaken until your mind is given permission. Closer “Ossuarium” revisits with razor-sharp guitars, chest-caving drums, and devious growls that sound monstrous. This is one of the more conventional (for Nihill, that is) songs on the record, but it’s still a pretty strange beating you take and a song that’s head and shoulders above what most other black metal bands are pumping out these days. It’s a track that keeps lacing you until it mercilessly bleeds out into the night sky.
Nihill’s legacy may be short, but it’s true. They’re the actual embodiment of horror, a band that should make your skin crawl. In fact, if they don’t, you might be doing this wrong. “Verderf” is another in a line of punishing, penetrating, and outright damaging records from this beast of a band, and if this is your first foray with Nihill, prepare to be damaged beyond belief. You might not hear black metal the same way again, and apparently if you witness them live as part of their congregation, you’ll never feel the same way about the darkness ever again.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/nihillofficial
To buy the album or for more on the label, go here: http://burningworldrecords.com/