Not content to assault their listeners from only one direction, the title of the latest offering from Nigredo constructs a thematic duality of body and mind that is fully reflected in the band’s unique combination of visceral, punishing thrash metal and mind-bending, otherworldly blackened influences. The prominent theme of duality also seems particularly fitting given that Nigredo is the two-man brainchild of drummer Maelstrom and vocalist, guitarist, and bassist A. Although Flesh Torn – Spirit Pierced marks the debut full-length effort from Nigredo, this Greek duo will be no strangers to many fans of extreme music, having already made a name for themselves in projects like Ravencult, Dephosphorus, and Embrace of Thorns.
However, it would be wrong to reduce Nigredo so hastily to a band that is only prepared to explore two opposing ideas at a time, because what makes this project so compelling is their ability to seamlessly blend influences from every corner of the black metal spectrum. At the band’s core is a blackened thrash sound that harks back to black metal’s first wave, and Nigredo adds to this foundation all the standard tropes one would expect of a black metal release – icy tremolo-picked guitar lines, suffocating blast beats, raspy abrasive vocals, and nihilistic lyrics. But woven intrinsically into this traditional sound are atonal and avant-garde flavours that completely reframe and revitalise Nigredo’s old-school, nostalgic influences into something more unique and exciting. Indeed, some of the off-kilter riffing present on Flesh Torn – Spirit Pierced will probably sound familiar to fans of Deathspell Omega or Dodecahedron. Plus, just for good measure, there are some black n’ roll sections scattered throughout the album that adds zany occult flavours and breaks up the relentless push and pulls as black and thrash elements compete for centre stage.
Nigredo also adds a modern take on classic sounds with the album’s production, which is uncharacteristically clean and tight for black metal. This approach really lends itself to the guitar lines, which generally consist of busy and detailed riffs. In particular, the big, open dissonant chords which are so often responsible for injecting an avant-garde flavour into Nigredo’s otherwise thrashy or traditional guitars are really brought to life by a crisp production quality that allows each piercing note to ring out discernibly. Similarly, rather than being buried in the mix, the vocals sit conspicuously above the fray, allowing the menacing growls and anguished wails to garner the attention they deserve. Special mention also needs to go out to drummer Maelstrom, who prevents the record’s relentless riffing from becoming one-note with some really creatively constructed grooves. While there’s no shortage of blasting to be found on Flesh Torn – Spirit Pierced, Maelstrom also knows exactly when to fall back into the pocket to let the guitars breath, and he expertly builds tension by regularly breaking up the pace of his playing.
Stand-out tracks on this album include “Choronzon Possession”, which leans hard on the band’s black n’ roll influences to great effect, and which contains some of the album’s most irresistible grooves and mesmerising, otherworldly chord progressions. Similarly, “Mental Glimpses at Cosmic Horrors” builds on Nigredo’s otherworldly themes with allusions to a Lovecraftian occultism and showcases the band’s penchant for working genuinely hooky riffs and even the occasional dissonant melody into their blackened cacophony.
If one criticism could be made of Flesh Torn – Spirit Pierced, it might be that the record doesn’t delve deep enough into the thematic ideas that clearly informed so much of the writing process. The band cites ‘total negativity and anguish’ as the source of their inspiration, and supernatural themes distinctly course through the tone of the lyrics and riffs. It certainly would have been interesting to hear what the band would have made of these themes had they experimented with more varied arrangements, instrumentations, or atmospherics. Indeed, whilst Nigredo has definitely found a fantastic niche to fill with their sound, it’s almost disappointing they didn’t push their weirdness and originality even further. One noticeable symptom of this issue is that every track on the record works with very similar run-times, tones, and tempos, which leaves them in danger of blending into one another.
The band does at times hint towards atmospheric passages, but they never let them build too far before returning to fast-paced aggressive riffing. Album closer “Raging Tides of Man”, for example, teases at an atmospheric build around the one minute mark before reverting back to safer, blast beat-focused territory, which is where Nigredo feel most comfortable. This track does also contain some recurring harmonised atmospheric tremolo lines that are reminiscent of Krallice, but again these elements are hardly glimpsed before being whisked away in a flurry of furious thrash riffage and pummeling drums.
Nigredo clearly didn’t want to let atmospheric considerations distract from the central aim of this project, which is to hammer the listener relentlessly with blistering, mind-bending riffs, and which there’s no denying they accomplish very successfully. Although it does feel like there’s untapped potential in this project, the sound on display here is so confident and well-crafted that it’s easy to forget that this is a debut album, even if it is one that comes from a pair of fairly well-established musicians. Nigredo has released a front-to-back solid and formidable record with Flesh Torn – Spirit Pierced, and they have barely begun to scratch the surface of their unusual, expansive, and thoroughly abrasive sound. Contrary to their nihilistic subject matter, Nigredo is a band able to give old sounds new life, and one with an exciting and promising career ahead of them.
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