Monday, 3 March 2014

Aleph Null – Nocturnal (album review)

Aleph Null is an A1 band.  They were one of the first doom/sludge bands that I discovered on bandcamp.  The 'Dale' E.P. was the band’s opening statement and it spoke volumes.  What sold me as an impressionable doom/sludge youngster was the massive guitar tone which drew me back to it continuously.  “Kill the Colossus” in particular is now one of my all-time favorite songs.  “Dale” and “Protogrammar” are no slouches either.  Then came the ‘Belladonna’ E.P. [read the Paranoid review], early last year, which was a psychedelically-tinged change of pace.  The tone was still there but the overall mood had brightened some.  ‘Belladonna’ was capable of thrilling the listener too, with an ever present threat looming that all the psychedelic brightness could slip into a bad trip at any given moment, but my distinct impression was that it was a lighter effort than the chain and shackle-dragging ‘Dale’, and the colors!  Oh, the colors …

Now comes the debut full-length.  Proving themselves to be as restless as ever, ‘Nocturnal’ finds the band reveling in their weighty tone and simplifying things musically, or rather containing them.  I would chart the band’s progress like this:  ‘Dale’ found the band pissed off and brooding, ‘Belladonna’ went cosmic, while ‘Nocturnal’ is Zen, reason in the face of chaos.  In many ways it’s the story of the mental and emotional development of any young outsider from mid-teenage to late twenties.  It’s the backstory of the individualist, the type of character that I like and identify with.  Aleph Null is an easy band to root for.

Simply put, ‘Nocturnal’ is an incredible album.  I’ve had a number of conversations about it already with some online buddies and everyone seems to agree that this album is insane!  “Backwards Spoken Rhymes” is the best new song I’ve heard in ages.  Ages!  Not since Alice in Chains released the song “Grind” in advance of their ultimately disappointing self-titled album back when I was in the ultimately disappointing Grade 9 have I heard such a powerful single that cuts to the heart of a band’s sound.  Chugging riffs and close harmonies are enough to melt my butter every time, but when they’re this good, the stuff just gets flash fried.

And how do they follow up on that potboiler?  With “The Muzzle of a Sleeping God”, that’s how.  A steady stomp and snare march bleeds into a cowbell driven rhythm, punctured by a slowly developing melody during the verse.  Again, this is reason in the face of chaos.  The relatively simplistic rhythm which drives the bulk of the song creates a brilliant conceit for showcasing the complex idea of the segmented verse before the band finally heads into the fray, heads down, charging through, but soon come up against a brick wall as the song ends all too suddenly.  “Black Winged Cherub” then introduces another idea, which is then interrupted and otherwise snuffed by an effectively choppy and effects laden verse.  If you take nothing else away from these song descriptions, take away the fact that it’s so breathlessly difficult to describe what the band is doing succinctly.  Just keep in mind that the band makes it all sound so unforced and natural.  Aleph Null are like Egyptian undertakers, they take what’s given, break it open, stick things in between and sow it all back together.  Thankfully, these undertakers are artists.

“Stronghold” is another of the best song I’ve ever heard, it’s got an amazing chorus with an excellent Black Sabbath like riff (but that tone, though!) leading into a batshit crazy vocal which goes from strength to strength.  But controlled, you see.  It’s plain to see that Aleph Null can handle a livewire, they have the ability of Vincebus Eruptum, control of chaos.  The two part, 15-minute title track which closes the album puts a big wrap on this minor chord thread which had been developing throughout its length.  The constant minor chord textures give ‘Nocturnal’ a rusty or earthen hue and remind me of the classic albums I grew up listening to in the early nineties, not the least of which are Alice in Chains’s infallible ‘Dirt’.

Two years later and they’re still giving it away for free.  This Düsseldorf trio’s impressive catalog now spans three releases, 17 songs and over 100 minutes of music and it’s all available as a FREE DOWNLOAD on bandcamp, there isn’t even a “pay what you want” option, it’s just FREE.  If you haven’t jumped on the Aleph Null bandwagon yet, there is no further excuse.

Highlights include: "Backwards Spoken Rhymes" and "Stronghold"

Rating: 5/5

Total Run Time: 42:24

From: Düsseldorf, Germany

Genre: Sludge, Doom, Grunge, Psychedelic

Reminds me of: Alice in Chains, Conan, Slomatics

Release Date: February 15, 2014

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1 comment:

  1. Diggin the write-up amigo; and gonna jump damn fast on the bandwagon! ;)


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