PICK OF THE WEEK: Eye of Nix look into the face of fear, anxiety on dramatic, violent ‘Black Somnia’

Eye of Nix in their current form (Photo by Briana Jones)

It’s a monumental day here at Meat Mead Metal, one that only comes once a year. It’s the final Pick of the Week and last review of the calendar year. Where the hell did 2017 go? Anyway, it used to be tough to find really strong material to cap off a year, but good shit comes out all through December, and this year is no different.

If you’re not yet familiar with Seattle’s Eye of Nix, see to it you change that soon, and you can start with their enthralling second record “Black Somnia.” It’s a shame we haven’t heard more from people about this record in the onslaught of year-end coverage we’ve already faced, because this six-track album is an absolute gem, a dark, morbid, mysterious piece that tackles fear, control, and anxiety in a way that’s enrapturing, heavy, and outright volcanic. The band’s 2015 album “Moros” was one of our favorites of that year, and, big hint here, this won’t be the last time you hear us going on about “Black Somnia” in 2017. Out front is vocalist/guitarist Joy Von Spain, an amazing singer who can go from operatic drama to guttural growls within the same song. She demands your attention and, instead of waiting for you to succumb, she seizes control. Alongside her on the record are guitarist Nicholas Martinez, bassist Gerald Hansen (he since has been replaced by Zach Wise), drummer Justin Straw (Luke Laplante now sits behind the kit), and effects wizard Masaaki Masao, who bring apocalyptic madness and breathtaking wonder musically, making this one of the most inventive bands in heavy music.

“Wound and Scar” starts us off with a slow, doomy path that’s interrupted by jarring, vicious shrieks from Von Spain and organs spilling in the horrors. The pace destroys for a stretch before working into a brief gazey storm that brings chaos on the other end. Wild cries increase the drama, while the band levels some massive thrashing to end this phase. “Fear’s Ascent” has an eerie beginning, as Von Spain lets loose her operatic range, letting the signing float before the bombs drop. Her singing belts you in the chest hard, while the sound wall builds, and after some relent, the song kicks back into high gear and goes to a high boil. “A Curse” is re-imagined from their 2013 demo, as noise wafts, whispers swirl in the air, and the song gains momentum. The music simmers as the singing swells, and the loose, mind-altering playing feels improvisational to an extent, as damaged rhythms and raw shrieks pave the way. Later, chaos erupts, the vocals stab, and the track comes to a traumatic end.

“Lull” starts with aggressive acoustic guitars rushing in, the singing going tornadic, and the band doing their best to haunt you. They delve into a prog corner, which is pretty interesting, and then the power explodes. Von Spain’s voice reaches for your lungs, while heavy acoustic lines sit underneath the thunder, with the band howling, “Your lies control!” It’s a killer track, arguably the best one on here. “Toll On” lets guitars wash in, as chilling calls make the flesh go cold, and Von Spain’s quiet, yet expansive singing gets into your head. The song goes echoey and moody before things rupture, and the volume reaches a new level. The drums rumble gloriously while the vocals let loose, and everything comes to a blasting end. “A Hideous Visage” is the 8:37 closer that takes its time, burning slowly over its first minutes. The track then deliberately stomps, with the leads cutting a path, the elements getting dark and gloomy, and singing mixing with maniacal screams. The tempo continues to kick hard, unleashing menace, as ominous riffs and bruising expressions bring the record to a mammoth close.

I know it’s late and you’re looking forward to a lot of good stuff in 2018, but don’t let Eye of Nix pass by you. “Black Somnia” is a heart-stopping experience, a record that combines all the shadowy forces we fear and delivers them in a moving, massive presentation. It’s not every day we get bands that truly stand on their own, but Eye of Nix is one of them, and they’re a force with which the world might not be fully ready to contend.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/EYEOFNIX

To buy the album, go here: http://www.scryrecordings.com/posts/discography/eye-of-nix-black-somnia/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.scryrecordings.com/

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