14 May 2012
by Tom Dare
If the world has seemed like a beautiful, wonderful place recently – if you’ve had joy in your heart and a spring in your step, if you’ve been listening to the new Anathema album way too much and you just saved a bundle on your car insurance renewal – then the new Nachtvorst album, Silence, will fix that for you in short order. This is an album to prove why the world is an awful, hopeless realm of torment and misery.
Silence opens in a slow, funereal dirge heavy enough to flatten a car like an orange juice carton, all gloom and despondency. This is quite easily the most cheerful bit of the album. From here on in, the world gets progressively more woe-filled, and if you can reach the end without needing to call the Samaritans, you’ve probably not been paying attention closely enough. But rather than being an out-and-out monotonous crush that risks becoming boring, Nachtvorst change direction in the most smooth but unlikely ways.
The out-and-out doom opening to ‘The Serpent’s Tongue‘ gives way to piano-led melancholy (think ‘Sorgens Kammer‘ from the original recording of Stormblåst by Dimmu Borgir, only with the evil menace of that song replaced with depression, and the shoddy production values being upped astronomically in quality), with the guitars floating like fog in a Victorian London-set horror film. Then the crush returns once again in full, eerie tremolo leads wafting over the top. And then the piano returns, and suddenly you realise you’re on track three already.
Silence is as varied as it is dejected, shifting from doom and dirge to more aggressive, deranged moments and in and out of quiet, reflective introspection. Everything sewing this all together is top notch – the melody makes you want to curl up into a ball and cry, the heavier bits make you want to rage at the sky at the bleakness of existence like a very angry Sartre. But what makes it more than the sum of its parts, what sustains the mood to the point it’s hypnotic and overwhelming, is the seamless way it’s crafted. There are no visible joins. This isn’t a collection of songs, it’s one coherent work, woven together with individual themes like a symphony, one idea flowing into the next which flows into the next, and all part of the same cohesive whole.
Listen to ‘The Serpent’s Tongue’ by Nachtvorst:
The effect of all this is fairly horrendous on your psyche, but right at the end, after a beautiful post-rock-esque ramble through the ether, the shackles come off, the pace ramps up to frantic and full on black metal ferocity is unleashed, making the muscles of your gut clench as the final three minutes of closer ‘A Way Of Silence‘ provides catharsis. The pent-up awfulness that’s been building throughout the course of the entire album gushes out like a torrent from a burst dam, the vicious wrath working everything you’ve been made to feel out of your system in a flood.
This glorious, violent resolution is what cements Silence as the brilliant record it is, drawing you into the most profound emotional distress before providing the perfect way to let it all out, dumping you at the end exhilarated, in need of blowing your nose and drying your eyes, but feeling very much alive and better able to cope with whatever dreadfulness is thrown at you. For such a genuinely upsetting record, Silence leaves you feeling oddly positive at the last. Maybe that’s why it’s such a compulsive listen.
Sounds like: Shining (the Swedish one) + Altar Of Plagues + doom + a piano.
Top tracks: Listen to the whole thing or miss the point.