Distributor/label: Wolfspell Records
Buy Album: https://wolfspellrecords.bandcamp.com/album/ad-mortem-et-tenebrae
Band Website: https://www.facebook.com/Nyctophillia/
Grief – All instruments.
1. Until Death…
2. With Hate Freezing My Veins
3. Ad Mortem Et Tenebrae
4. When Stars Shine No More
5. Through Fullmoon Forest
Doing this reviewing gig has its major upsides (the money, the fame, the cars, the mountains of chocolate, etc.), but it does come with a few downsides. One of which is an almost crippling sense of self-doubt. Sure, if you fancy spinning an album, then writing umpteen iterations of “it’s crap”, then do that, pal. But, much like one of the chief questions in life, if you want to answer the question “why?”, then you need to think a little more on things. And that’s where the doubt comes in.
Now, you’ll never see this form of doubt come in when critiquing an album you enjoy, oh no. You’ll sing its praises like the hunched, clawed, off-smelling computer canary that you are, but if it’s not something you’ve enjoyed, you begin to wonder a few things. Are you being too harsh? Are you missing something? Are you a dick? There’s bound to be a number of people out there who’d argue the affirmative for all three, but therein is the doubt. Are you justified in your opinion; can you give your reasons?
The reason for all that may give away the crux of this review before we’ve even really started – NYCTOPHILIA’s “Ad Mortem Et Tenebrae” is yet another black metal album to hurl onto the pile. Another album doing the same old things that have been done before, with little intrigue to keep on for subsequent listens. Even the song titles are just oh-so typical! Perhaps that suggestion it’s like everything else done before can be considered a little unfair given that there is actual variety on the album – a luxury in this genre. Opener “Until Death…” spends the vast majority of its time ripping you a new earhole (that’s earhole) with furious riffage and tremolo, blast beats and a particularly angry-sounding shriek, yet subsequent tracks bring different flavours to the pot.
The album’s title track incorporates some doom properties into its midsection, with an atmospheric outro that assuages the chaos before it – very good. Following track “When Stars Shine No More” continues the use of melody and atmosphere, bringing forth an absolutely morose mood that would be better used in conjunction with a thoroughly miserable day (preferably a Tuesday). It’s this variety across the album and within tracks that makes for a better experience, but it’s still just not quite enough to nail it to the brain’s memory.
Now, this could be for a number of reasons, but two spring to mind most fervently. Firstly, the production: crusty like a delicious loaf, or a month-old pair of socks. It’s hardly the most pleasant of caresses to the earballs, but that’s the joy of metal, right? No, it’s the lack of true impact the heavier sections gain from it all – everything becomes a greyed-out blur, merely content to exist.
The second comes from the blurb provided: “NYCTOPHILIA runs riot across myriad classicist-minded black metal tropes – hypnotic BURZUMIC trance, rotten DARKTHRONED rocking, grim IMMORTALIZED fury, atmospheric tundra drift – and often within the same song, each of these five epics exuding the passion and emotion that can only come from truly organic creation [sic]”. Now, let’s not be above demonstrating our influences (after all, that is all there is in music now), but when it’s quite so explicit that what’s being done is nothing new, moreover referring to them as “tropes”, there’s an issue. How can anything be expected to stand out if you’re taking hallmarks from bigger bands, and not properly breaking them down to then rebuild in your own image? Being a one-man band birthed in 2014, NYCTOPHILIA’s fourth album cannot be accused of being inorganic. It can, however, be accused of lacking innovation.
Now is this being too harsh? We all use our influences when creating music, and sometimes it can be patently obvious, but in a genre that has a glut of bands producing similar albums, it hardly stands out. Look, “Ad Mortem Et Tenebrae” is not a bad album – it’s listenable. There will be plenty who’ll appreciate the melting pot of influences, the atmosphere and heaviness, so this small-time curmudgeon will prove to be something of a minor speed-bump in the road. But if you’ve a complete wall of black metal records that you collect, then this will be an average addition to the scores of others.