|Musical Style: Doom Metal||Produced By: Nomad Son & David Vella|
|Record Label: Metal On Metal||Country Of Origin: Malta|
|Year Released: 2013||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 9||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 51:38|
Ask a doom metal aficionado the most-liked qualities to the genre, and you’ll inevitably hear at least these three things: It emphasizes dark and down-tuned low-end heaviness in generous portions; extremely heavy and slow paced riffing lends to a gloomy atmosphere; lyrics correspondingly deal with the darker side of issues. I could not think of a better way to describe Malta’s Nomad Son and its aptly entitled third full-length album from the summer of 2013, The Darkening. Tracing its history to an impromptu studio jam session between bassist Albert Bell and Frenzy Mono members Jordan Cutajar (vocals), Chris Grech (guitar), Julian Grech (keyboards) and Edward Magri (drums), Nomad Son evolved into a permanent band when the five started to rehearse and compose new material. The aftermath was the recording of the group’s 2008 full-length debut First Light and sophomore effort from 2010 The Eternal Return.
On The Darkening, Nomad Son continues to stress a classic brand of Hammond organ-driven traditional doom metal. The album, accordingly, evokes its share of emotion. On one hand, you will find moments giving rise to a dark, biting and astringent feel - as befitting the doom genre - that crawl and plod in incisive fashion. On the other, a more robust mood - at times almost chaotic - also presents itself in that the group is not afraid to kick up the tempo and approach things from an emphatic standpoint. Consider also how Nomad Son is not afraid to mix both its slower and faster sides within the same song. Such focus on variances helps turn The Darkening into that much more an immediately accessible work- at least in comparison to what some within the genre have created. Regardless, those partial to Candlemass, Krux, Forsaken, Pylon, Faith and Trouble will find a lot to like in Nomad Son.
Album opens to four of the best traditional doom metal pieces you will find. The high-energy aspect to the group presents itself on “Light Bearer”, an unusually fast paced (and engaging) song for the doom genre that touches upon power metal with its silvery linings. “Age Of Contempt” also delivers its share of forthright impetus (with catchy riff to match), albeit making the more pronounced doom based statement - at times bordering on thrash - with its periodic forays into the weighty and crushing. “The Devil’s Banquet” completes the transition to full on doom, caustically driven but also atmospheric from its somber organ ambience. The headlong doom focus continues on “Only The Scars” in aligning an understated melody with a bruising guitar impetus and galloping approach.
Every bit intriguing (and of the same quality) is “Caligula”, somber and brooding with its Gothic overtures but also leaning towards the extreme in terms of sinister and harrowing aggression. Albums title track brings an ominous, mid-paced demeanor in giving rise to a groove-orientated doom accent, while “Descent Into Hell” and “Orphaned Crown” add variances with time signatures (from slower to faster and back again) that border on the progressive. No, the four in question might not be the catchiest but deliver the brute force impact one expects from doom all the same.
To perform successfully music of this capacity a band requires a vocalist lending his own distinct style- and such is what we have in Jordan Cutajar. With a varied delivery rooted in traditional metal, Cutajar maintains a raw and roughly hewn mid-register basis (in a positive sense) but proves more than capable of reaching for a dramatic hi-octane falsetto. Such multidimensional abilities allow Nomad Son to branch out and include aspects of the already noted power metal, thrash, Gothic and extreme metal to its doom entrenched sound, a particular a more limited vocalist potentially prevents it from accomplishing.
Chris Grech delivers the goods guitar wise. Credit him for the heavyset riffing throughout the project, slow and churning in capacity but not to the point of overdone, reflected in how at a moments notice he can take off at a more up-tempo direction. Soloing shines as well, as his searing lead guitar on “Only The Scars” and spine tingling direction to “The Devil’s Banquet” aptly attests. Bassist Albert Bell plays no less notable a role, aligning with drummer Edward Magri to anchor the subterranean low end. The albums transparent production best allows his adroit bass work to rise above the mix on quieter sections to “Age Of Contempt” and throughout “The Devil’s Banquet”.
Nomad Son has gained renown for its use of Hammond organ, of which Julan Gretch skillfully contributes. My impression is that organ and keyboards add to the albums atmosphere but without drowning the songs. One reviewer that stated the following sums things up best: “The guitars are not entombed beneath layers of keyboards. The organs move across the riffs, setting the emotion by enhancing rather than smothering, while the guitars churn and chug underneath them”.
No, Nomad Son is not a Christian band. That said, Albert Bell, the groups lyricist, noted the following in a 2008 online interview with Metal-Temple.com: “Yes, there is certainly a Christian outlook permeating Nomad Son’s lyrical vision. This does not mean that we are set on a mission to evangelize humanity or anything like that, or that we are tied to a specific religious denomination intent on converting the world. However, (that) said, I personally value the basic tenets of Christendom (solidarity, compassion, belief, tolerance etc.) highly and shall not shy way from pronouncing my faith, even if this means that some people might not like it.”
Lyrically, Nomad Son, similar to most within the doom genre, is not afraid to address darker subject matters, such as the infamous Roman Emperor Caligula on the song of the same name (adapted from Caligula, Book IV in De Vita Caesarum by Suetonious). Other topics covered include Lucifer and his fallen state (“Light Bearer”), the hopelessness brought on by the devil on us here on earth (“The Devil’s Banquet”), soldiers who lost their lives during WW II (“Descent Into Hell”) and the second coming (“Orphaned Crown”).
Doom metal fans have found a home in Nomad Son and its third full-length offering The Darkening. But it is not all doom in that the bands inherit flexibility allows for influences up to and including power metal, thrash, Gothic and the extreme, with the resulting accessibility leading to a more immediate impression in comparison to some releases within the genre. If into the first two from Nomad Son or doom metal in general then by all means make The Darkening a necessary purchase.
Track By Track
Opener “Light Bearer” proves the albums fastest, brimming of youthful energy for its angst-laden verses (and highlighting the enthusiasm often common to power metal) but decelerating for the stauncher layers of its booming chorus (playing up the groups trademark doom sensibilities in the process). All the while, the song gives rise to quite the undisguised melody. Lyric snippet:
Conjuring the demons of rancour and rage
From the towers of Tyrus upon the earth he shall gaze
Forfeiting the Creator’s affection and favour
The sour sting of defeat he will savour
Accuser: Invoking infamy, unrighteousness and sin
Light bearer: With this humanity most foul you are most akin
Lucifer: The day-star for the empires you founded
Betrayer: The vices and weaknesses of man you so siphoned
“Age Of Contempt” also delivers its share of verve, albeit not to quite the same extent as its predecessor. A scalding blend of hammering riffs and organ initiates the song before it descends into the chill maelstrom that are its verses, impetus not picking back up until the approach of a seething chorus interwoven with choir-like backing vocals. A Medieval feel cannot help but come to the forefront as a result. Instrumentally, a searing organ solo gives way to intense lead guitar.
Nomad Son goes into full doom mode on “The Devil’s Banquet”. In other words, the faster portions to the previous two songs are missing here. Rather, you will find trenchant bass lines and simmering guitar cauldrons joined with a baneful tempo to put in place what amounts a threatening environs. Chorus, surprisingly, is quite catchy in featuring more Medieval flavored backing vocals. Lead work proves equally chilling. Lyric snippet:
He reigns on this soulless dying earth
We are cradled to graze with his flock – the blind flock
We sit and feast on the morsels at his table
Where hate, depravity and lust are served
He is the face in the mirror
The shadow behind each meaningless step we take
He is the black flame that inflames our despair and anger
He is the leviathan, the beast that thrives on the
Shameless transgressions we make
“Only The Scars” maintains the mid-paced penchant. With symphonic keyboards highlighting the backdrop, the song establishes a forthright tempo with knife-edge guitar riffs and Cutajar’s brazen vocals aligning with the galloping feel at hand. Impetus abruptly picks up at the halfway point for an intensely done passage that segues to more raging lead guitar. Despite the grim atmosphere at hand, another decisive melody hold sways.
“Descent Into Hell” represents as no-nonsense a piece as you will find. The song starts to a chaotic opening prior to powering ahead at a full on tempo, occasionally plummeting for a passage taking the stauncher turn only to regain its demonstrative edge in plowing ahead. Chorus brings chills to your spine, creating an effect not quite as memorable as the four that precede but proves listenable all the same. Lyric snippet:
Descent to hell; our screams sound your death knell
You dance with death; greet your end on the soil we are sworn to defend
The mortars wail; the dawning of our reprisal draws near
Shelling the line of sight; tooth and nail
The tame can find no shelter in this playground for the damned
In the bizarre theatre of war, Thanatos, the fiend inside
I summoned to the fore
Album title track comes across in the form of heavy groove orientated doom. A weighty as it gets feel holds sway, as massive guitar walls lightened by tinctures of organ carry the menacing setting front to back. An extensive instrumental section advances to staunch guitar harmonies. Again, not quite as accessible as some here but the all out power cannot be denied.
“Caligula” is not for the faint of heart. The song proves a brooding seven minutes, plodding its first two to threatening keyboards and equally dire sound effects. The caustic guitars that cut in help lend an almost extreme feel, with tormented vocal melodies highlighting the somber backdrop as the song impales itself forward to create a tortured effect. Am I out of line to suggest a hint of the Gothic here?
Straightforward, full-on doom, “Orphaned Crown” trudges its full length, starting slow and plodding only to gradually build impetus in forcefully powering its way to prevailing riffs and incisive bass lines. Moments once more slows to a near crawl for the astringent chorus. The twists and turns at hand almost bring to mind the progressive mindset of Pylon. Lyric snippet:
Beatifying a splicing and defacing technology
Bureaucrats and white coats the new theocracy
Strangulating us in orgies of phlegm and slime
The panacea for our ills, a surrealistic mime
The archetype weeps for the bleeding earth
Watching his word ground into ash
Holding no shame in cesspools of decay we will drown
His time is near, He shall reclaim His orphaned crown
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Light Bearer” (4:55), “Age Of Contempt” (6:11), “The Devil’s Banquet” (7:38), “Only The Scars” (6:56), “Descent Into Hell” (5:03), “The Darkening” (6:20), “Caligula” (6:55), “Orphaned Crown” (5:11), “Epilogue” (2:29)
Jordan Cutajar – Lead Vocals
Chris Grech – Guitars
Julian Grech – Keyboards & Organ
Albert Bell – Bass
Edward Magri - Drums