It has been a fantastic year for black metal. Releases from all over the black metal spectrum have been hitting listeners left and right. From the return of legends like Wolves In the Throne Room to tripped out new comers in the vein of Asira, black metal has both reborn and brought back to its essentials in 2017. As deep winter descends and the year winds down to a close, the book of frostbitten sounds must remain open for just a little more as we induct Nullingroots among these great names. These guys have been active since 2014 and have always paddled in a type of post black metal that should be immediately accessible and appealing to fans of the classics; there’s something remaining here of the austere and depressing atoms of the genre, gilded with plenty of progressive and gaze-y influences.
The first thing you need to know is that Into the Grey has a lot to say and it doesn’t apologize for that; tracks (except for the first one) all hover around the twelve minute mark. The astonishing thing is that, despite how much goes on during one of those track times, they never overstay their welcome. You can chalk that down to the amount of shifts, counterpoints and variety there are on this album. Where other works in the genre, especially in the sub-genre of post black metal, focus on a pummeling approach to instrumentation, Nullingroots are all about contrast and depth of expression. Thus, you won’t find tremolo picking that goes on for most of the track or screeches that span the eons; the idea here is to pull you in and make you run a full gamut of emotions rather than cut deep with just one or two.
Take the closing track for example, an eponymous track. It starts with a quiet passage containing only guitars, heavy on the delay effects, but soon give way to a blisteringly intricate series of riffs, screeches and blastbeats. Pay special attention to how good this drummer; somehow, he manages flourishes of expression usually reserved for more melodic instruments with his cymbal choice alone. These ideas only become more and more chaotic as the track approach its quarter mark, some of them strumming chords so fast as to almost belong on a thrash album rather than a black metal one. Near the four minute mark, this assault is cleverly transmuted into a quieter passage, this time involving the entire album sans vocals.
This passage is not just a retread of the beginning; it has its own style, including an achingly beautiful progressive near its middle which sounds like the brighter moments of Alcest‘s career. Especially pleasing here is the way the bass works underneath the guitars to add variety and impact to their delivery. These quieter moments eventually, near the middle of the track, sublimate into a heavier segment but one which, again, doesn’t simply retread the original to which it calls back but rather approaches the same intention with a different palette. Here, the chords are more spaced out and melodic, much more evocative rather than pummeling.
Finally, the closing track returns to its no-holds-barred aggression, revisiting the accelerated and frantic noises of its beginning. And this was one track; other places on the album include hints towards doom metal, more classic black metal gestures and much, much more. All of this, added to great production, makes Into the Grey an album well worth your time as this fantastic year draws to its close. It has the clever sort of approach to black metal that has characterized the scene in the recent months and adds another milestone to the progressive of black metal during them. Make sure not to miss out on this one just because we’re getting to it late; it well deserves your time and attention if you’re a fan of black metal in any way.
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Into the Grey released on November 14th via Prosthetic Records and you honestly owe yourself at least one listen.