Collaborations are always a process that, from the audience’s point of view, hold a huge amount of possibility. Although the artists/bands in question may have a very specific sound they’re going for, nobody outside of the collaborative process knows exactly what elements from each the writing process will wed; thus, we often find ourselves fluttering somewhere between anxiety and excitement, unaware of what the results could be.
This year, so far, has been an excellent year for collaboration in the metal universe. 2015 has seen the release of Alkaloid’s debut, a band whose lineup is a “who’s who” of European tech metal, the stellar XoroAHbin, a collaborative album from The Body and Vampillia, and, more recently, the first album from prog metallers Good Tiger, whose self-titled first album is one of the most interesting and dynamic releases in progressive metal since the last album from The Safety Fire (the band from whose ashes Good Tiger rose). And now, here to add onto this growing list, comes N.V., the collaborative effort from black ambient artist Gnaw Their Tongues and noisy death metal stalwarts Dragged Into Sunlight.
N.V. starts off with a horrifying intro: a monologue about a killer constricting someone’s windpipe to the point that it starts to bend and his fingers cramp so much that he has to stop and then reapply his grip. The victim is “writhing on the ground… gurgling and moaning… half dead and half alive,” according to the would-be strangler. This is the perfect metaphor for what N.V. seeks to do to the listener. From the first initial burst of static and feedback to the release’s final death throes, this collaborative project constricts its audience, crushing its helpless victims mercilessly between the twin assault of unsettling, grimy noise and blackened death metal that reeks heavily of sulfur and hate. Everything here is pummeling, brutal, and constant; even the brief respites of ambience work towards building an absolutely insane amount of tension. Each element that could be good here, is: the drums provide a disgusting backbeat as the guitars and bass slink through the murk and mire, and the vocals wail like a pair of banshees over it all. The collaboration works wonders, and the twin sounds at work here compliment each other incredibly well, making for a listening experience that is wholly new, but will still be intimately familiar to anybody who has ever perused the discography of either band.
The album’s sound must be given notice as well: N.V. was produced by none other than Justin Broadrick (Jesu, Godflesh, Napalm Death), and the incredible studio engineering that went into this project elevate it to a wholly new realm of evil than anything either of these artists have been able to accomplish before. Everything sounds appropriately raw and alive, beating with some sort of horrid pulse, yet the polish that Broadrick has brought to the sound allows for a greater amount of subtlety and nuance than either band has yet been able to achieve in their solo discographies, something which the album takes advantage of tremendously.
N.V. is not here to fuck around. It is not here to make you happy; it is not here to be enjoyed. Gnaw Their Tongues and Dragged Into Sunlight do not wish to appease the listener or lull them into a state of bliss. Nothing about this album will bring any sort of joy into the life of the listener. It will not alleviate suffering or allow one to forget it. N.V. will repulse you. N.V. will make you extremely uncomfortable. And you will love every second of it.