Posted by Nick Skog on Friday, August 9, 2013 Under: Album Reviews
Published: August 5, 2013
Everyone has to start somewhere, and for Texan three-piece Nethermost that place is basically 'from first principles'. Proof, if you like - to paraphrase Voltaire - that if Katatonia did not exist, it would be necessary to invent them. But, of course, the Swedes fairly successfully invented themselves, just in time to create one of the more enduring, recognisable and influential strands of the whole Death/Doom sound. Given that they swiftly moved on to spend the rest of their career embroiled in the longest online 'what-genre-are-they-now?' argument ever, though, there aren't actually all that many Katatonia albums which sound like 'Brave Murder Day'. However, there are plenty of albums by other bands which do, and joining that particular list is this debut EP 'Alpha'
It's not automatically a bad place to be: for one thing, the original owners weren't interested in staying there and left it vacant for possession; for another, it's been quite a successful launch point for bands who went on to blaze more individual trails; and for a third, it's a pretty good sound, deconstructing the building blocks of classic melodic Death/Doom to a fundamentally purist level. Where the points are scored, or lost, is not necessarily in the sheer originality of presentation (which is, these days, a near-impossibility given the ubiquity of the influence) but in the quality of execution of those principles.
As ever, Hypnotic Dirge were good enough to send us a copy of the full release CD, which has something of a traditionally gothic presentation in the crumbling-angel-and-cathedral artwork. It didn't immediately seem to relate to the publicity release description of "a tribute to nature and the four elements", to be honest, but it does point in the right sort of direction for the music contained. That is presented through a reasonably balanced and clear mix which puts a high-end dynamic punch front and centre of proceedings.
Somewhat unfortunately, that clarity also serves to highlight a certain lack of musical depth. As a trio comprising vocals and two guitars, that leaves a lot of space to fill with overdubs and programming. I'm not ideologically opposed to drum machines, but there aren't many that can carry a song like the Sisters Of Mercy's infamous Doktor Avalanche: far more struggle to reach a level much beyond a slightly artificial, utilitarian beat-keeping, as here. It's supported by a background buzz and rumble of bass, but the overall sound is very much weighted towards the lead guitar and vocals, which pretty much have to do all the heavy lifting.
On the bright side, the guitar does a good job of capturing that laconically-riffed, slightly jangling and treble-biased edge beloved of one Anders Nyström, Esq. and the growled vocals fit well with that. Both rely on developing structural changes, in similar fashion to the way Katatonia would vary rhythm and pattern rather than pitch and register. As noted above, though, there isn't quite enough depth in Nethermost's sound to completely rescue this from dipping into monotony rather than the desired atmospheric shades of grey. Opening track 'Phasing Currents' does it best, maintaining a degree of thrust and urgency thoughout: the momentum carries through to 'The Untroubled Kingdom Of Reason', but after that, it becomes rather a case of 'just more of the same'.
That's a bit of a shame, because Nethermost do seem to have a decent-enough grasp of the stylistic requirements of the genre, but haven't yet mustered enough individuality to set a personal stamp on it or enough tools to deliver a completely seamless imitation. It's really not a million miles off the latter, but the big problem with working in a classic style is that that's usually enough to fall into the trap of vaguely familiar-sounding anonymity. It is only a debut EP, though, and does have a reasonable degree of talent behind it, so perhaps the next step will be the one that really nails the target.
Reviewed by: Mike Liassides
In : Album Reviews
Tags: nethermost alpha ep death-doom metal katatonia brave murder day october tide daylight dies guttural death growls melodic doom