Mithridatic – Miserable Miracle
Location: Saint-Étienne/Rhône-Alpes, France
Label: Kaotoxin Records
My love of the French extreme metal scene grows with each new band I “discover.” Home to some of the most atmospheric and intense bands on the planet, France continues to produce top-shelf extreme metal at a steady pace. Mithridatic, for instance, have created one of the most atmospheric blackened death metal records I’ve heard in some time with their latest release, Miserable Miracle.
Starting things off with eerie choral vocals, ambient washes of sound, screaming filtered in (as if from another dimension) and clips from horror movies, Miserable Miracle quickly establishes itself as a terrifying slab of metal. The blend of black metal atmosphere with death metal brutality is near-perfect on tracks like “…For Terror and The Crowd,” coming off as a mix of Behemoth and Anaal Nathrakh. Brutally heavy death metal riffs with mid-ranged growls (think Nile) coupled with a echo-y, reverb-laden production, Mithridatic terrifies the listeners, while beating them senseless. “Oxydized Trigger Sabotage” is a nightmarish landscape of sound, and captures the spirit of the record perfectly.
There’s not much to dislike here, since the black metal and death metal tones are given equal footing throughout the album. Miserable Miracle is heavy on atmosphere, but is also a brutal record. Don’t expect Belphegor here, but more like a mix between Behemoth and Deathspell Omega, and some Anaal Nathrakh thrown in for good measure. These comparisons don’t quite do the overall sound justice, though, as Mithridatic have created their own unique version of atmospheric blackened death metal. This is a band you’ll want to keep both eyes on.
Nadja – Sv
Location: Toronto, Canada
Label: Essence Music
Canada’s Nadja have been testing the patience of listeners since 2002, with their unique brand of droning, ambient doom. Mind altering guitars, slow-as-molasses drumming, and the kind of claustrophobic atmosphere you get on a Neurosis record, Nadja are nothing if not unique.
The duo’s latest offering, simply titled Sv, consists of one long track comprising of electronic tones and sparse drumming. Like most of the band’s releases, the track has a hypnotic edge, and slowly builds into a cacophonous wailing of electronics and pounding drums. You could almost dance to it, and wouldn’t be out of place in a club scene for the movie Blade. Mechanically precise in execution, Sv isn’t quite the chaotic mess it might seem to the average listener. If you have the patience, you can pick up on some pretty catchy hooks hiding under the screeching electronic washes of sound.
For fans of Nadja’s previous releases, this might be a bit of a leap to make, as there’s very little to suggest that this band played doom metal before. Fans looking for Sunn O))) and Boris sounding drone might be disappointed with the industrial direction Nadja have taken. But if you can keep an open mind you’ll certainly find a truly immersive listening experience with Sv.
Sacrilegium – Anima Lucifera
Location: Wejiherowo, Poland
Label: Pagan Records
It’s rare that a band takes twenty years in between albums, but (and you probably saw this coming) that’s exactly the case with Sacrilegium and their second album, Anima Lucifera. Having made their debut with Wicher back in ye olde ’96, the band claims to be taking a more occult approach this time around, citing Yeats, Pessoa, and Leopold Staff as significant influences on their thematic style.
Establishing a hard, semi-traditional black metal style with room for melodic emphasis by the first song, “Preludium / Heavenwings Shrugged”, Sacrilegium continue from there to form an impressively-crafted album, one which flows from track to track without dropping a beat. Pounding drum-work and guitar shredding bring a hearty viciousness matched by the rough vocals, but there’s more to each of the eight tracks than simply belting out the venom, not that it disappoints on that count.
The songs really have a feel of pains-taking development, with their arcs and twists knit together in ways that highlight the individual moments while enriching the full construction. Intervals of mournful piano, sudden bursts of speed, sparing use of textural effects, and counter-rhythms are just a few of the techniques employed by the group, in ways that enhance the formative bones of the music without distracting from that vitalism. The beats and energy have a way of seizing bodily control even while stimulating your mind with complexity,
While I can’t call it perfect, it does manage the mean trick of being an album two decades in the making that doesn’t seem to have squandered any of that time. There’s a distinguished air to the rage, sophistication to the antagonism, and a fervent urgency that comes through with no hindrance from the time put into its development. Highly recommended, with the acknowledgment that it’ll take a few plays to reach full appreciation.