Thursday, November 4, 2010

NJIQAHDDA – “Valsuaarposmiis” Review

Extended Play,
E.E.E. Recordings
November 2, 2010

The rise in popularity of black metal has led to numerous trends for better or for worse. One of those trends has been prominent with the technological revolution that is the internet. Many so called “bedroom bands” came into existence when members of said bands discovered the primitive recording styles of early raw black metal bands and the ease of producing such albums.

The problem with this is while the earlier acts were doing something new and mastered the aesthetic of said recording technique (despite it merely being a statement against mainstream music), many of these modern BM bands tend to attempted to replicate the style of their inspiration, but more often than not fail miserably and produce B rate imitation of said inspiration at best.

It’s rather frustrating for me when I try to discover new lesser known acts I have to sift through this unoriginal garbage, like searching for a diamond in the rough, until I find something worthwhile to listen to. Some bands even go to absurd measures and release albums with totally undecipherable sounds which we only can assume is drums and guitars. To make matters worse they release way too many albums a year, which makes it seem like they simply do this to sell more and completely disregard waiting for inspiration to make something truly memorable. Then they have to follow the stereotypes associated with black metal which makes things even more tedious. But I digress.

Njiqahdda is one of those rare examples of a self produced black metal band that offers a more than rewarding experience upon listening. They even have over 40 releases under the name (as well as its alter-ego so to speak, “Njiijn”) and while I’ve maybe heard only half of them, I can safely say they have the formula worked out almost perfectly. Recordings aren’t over polished with mainstream quality, but they are very decipherable, yet still have a nice feedback. Lyrical themes are very interesting and different focusing on meditation, transcendence and nature as opposed to mere clichés in the genre. Finally their musicianship is very ergonomic for their psychedelic black metal style (solid but not show-off like) and they have developed a distinct sound that is their own (and not gimmicky) yet slowly progress the style with each release so it stays fresh and relevant. When I recommend this special act to more casual listeners I describe it as a lovechild between Burzum and Pink Floyd, but I think a more accurate description would be an Earth, Eloy and Drudkh hybrid, but even that isn’t anywhere near describing the sound.

With that, I believe Valsuaarposmiis is their 43rd official release, and with that we are offered a different release than other works, and again it is still very Njiqahdda sounding. I will admit I do prefer a few previous entries to this one, but that will not take away the merits of this EP. We have three tracks totaling in 37 minutes and 37 seconds, so you know you’re in for some long ones, but that is expected from Nji. I noticed from the beginning this album seems to have a lot more drone influence than previous ones (disregarding the Njiijn releases of course) and the chord progressions are a bit depressive compared to the more mystical sound we are used to from these Illinoisans. We are also greeted intimately with beautiful acoustic guitar passages that are a nice addition to their arsenal.

The opening piece “Valsuaarposmiis I” brings us into a relaxed state with calm and melancholic acoustic guitar backed by tremolo strumming which reminds me of the acoustic bits of Negură Bunget. We are then brought into Njiqahdda’s signature style black metal, but with more complex drum patterns that are strange yet delightful for the genre, which organically flows into some space rock passages.

“Savantuu Savoari” is probably the most straightforward song on the album with the first half being pure atmospheric black metal and eventually turning to drone doom metal toward the end. I really like the main riff of this one, very reflective and saddening.

The concluding track “Valsuaarposmiis II” is by far my favorite on this release and possibly in my top 10 Nji tracks so far. The static distortion on the mantra-like speeches and screams and the hauntingly mournful clean vocals make a very appropriate ambiance for a “thinking song.” The noise inspiration is a very nice addition to the ambiance as well as is the organ in the background while we are greeted with a repetitive strumming of just a few guitar chords (which actually came out very nice and not tedious at all.)

To conclude, this album comes highly recommended as one would expect from Njiqahdda. I don’t know how they manage to release so many CDs a year and still keep fresh without sacrificing their core style, but I’m definitely not complaining about that. I would not just recommend it to my fellow metal heads, but to anyone interested in eclectic or progressive music. Well worth the investment.

Reviewed by; Matt Coughlin

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