Posted by Nick Skog on Thursday, May 2, 2019 Under: English
From: The Metal Observer
Published: May 1, 2019
Hailing from upstate New York, Mavradoxa renders mental images of North American woodlands in the autumn and early winter with a tapestry of black metal, hints of prog, and more than a taste of the slow, doomy post-metal that made Agalloch famous. As the band’s third album, Nightmarrow, drifts back and forth between serene acoustic bits, streams of meditative black metal and occasional progressive flourishes, a massive vignette of naturalistic grandeur unfolds. As a slab of evocative atmosphere, it might not be quite as effective as Saor’s or Wayfarer’s most recent releases. However, Nightmarrow is still a satisfying listen in its own right.
A lot of albums like this start with ambiance rendered with an acoustic guitar, some folk instrument or a synth. Not this one. “Maple,” the album opener, gets right down to business with a brisk marching riff that sounds like it got cut from Mastodon’s “Once More ‘Round the Sun.” From there, “Maple” continues with a series of introspective riffs and some enthralling melodic tremolos and leads that carry you over the finish line. The song’s progression gives one a good sense of how the rest of this album will go. Throughout its roughly 43 minutes, Nightmarrow maintains a thoughtful, restrained character amid the riffs as they steadily evolve. “Black Crystal Snowfall” follows a path that’s similarly satisfying for the most part, starting with a darkly jangling acoustic bit that gives way to driving streams of power chords that are no less melancholy before finally culminating in a tense flurry of hammer-ons and pull-offs, though there is a bit of a lull in the middle of the track.
The album has a mood that evokes an ancient forest near the Canadian border and manages to do so without resorting to moments of pure acoustic or synth-driven atmosphere all that much. Aside from the two shortest tracks, “Rustling Leaves” and “Umbra,” both of which are calm acoustic pieces, there’s very little ambiance on the album that isn’t augmented by metal drumming or some sort of riffwork. Mavradoxa instead seeks to craft its riffs and leads delicately to give the music a naturalistic feel the former members of Agalloch would nod at approvingly. Subtle note progressions with a bit of a shoegaze flavor lurking in the background, particularly in “The Carrion Shade,” appear sporadically as well to spread out the melancholy goodness.
In creating this music, Mavradoxa’s members walk a fine line between careful restraint and energetic bombast. Even if this album progresses at a slow and deliberate pace needed to provide its introspective flavor, the band members ensure the album still has some fight in it. On the kit, Lux has an unusually kinetic performance on “Maple,” with busy, Brann Dailor-esque fills and flourishes that somehow don’t distract from the mood popping up occasionally. For the rest of the album though, he mainly sticks to relatively slow drumming patterns, his instrument just high enough in the mix for the cymbals to provide some sharpness that keeps the music from losing your attention. Guitarists Nival and Tyler Stasierowski are crucial as well, with their riffs, leads and thoughtful textures layered over each other, giving rise to the grandiose, wistful flavor this album depends on. Completing the picture, you have the vocals, which bring more than a hint of darkness to the picture, like the ghosts of murdered travelers that still haunt the woods. Nival and a few session vocalists yowl periodically throughout the album’s four lengthier tracks, their shrieks sounding distant and tortured and providing the album’s naturalistic flavor with a sinister undercurrent.
Anyone who was turned off by Mavradoxa’s ponderous, overlong sophomore album, Lethean Lament should not give up on these guys just yet. Since that record’s release, the band has refined its approach and their effort has paid off. Nightmarrow is far more concise while still providing its compositions enough room to flourish. Not entirely free from bloat, the album proceeds mostly at a satisfying click, making good use of hypnotic repetition when the time is right and delivering an atmospheric experience short on soft, sparse ambiance and long on solid riffs and songwriting.
Reviewed by: Jackson French
In : English
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