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Natem : Natem EP


An interesting combination of Stoner/Death/Doom from young German band Natem.



Funny how it works sometimes, but it just so happens this is the second Doom band from the small and picturesque city of Hildesheim to cross my desk this week. Unlike the more Trad-oriented, back-to-the-roots Iron & Stone, Natem have a fairly eclectic Stoner-meets-Death Doom take on the world. The four band members come from slightly different musical backgrounds and preferences (Black/Death/Hardcore/Psychedelic), and like to bring all those influences to bear on the band's direction, which probably explains the difficulty in easily pigeonholing their style.

'Natem' the EP is a DIY CD digipack pressing, a little short on information, but not on quality: it doesn't look, feel, or sound, cheap. Perhaps not too surprising, given that one of the snippets of fact available is that it was a year and a half in the recording, mixing and mastering process. That's certainly long enough to get things right, if one wants to, and Natem clearly did. The presentation is solid, as is the sound engineering, with a satisfyingly deep and crunchy edge to the mix. I'd been assuming that the band name was taken from the shamanistic psychedelic drug brewed from the Amazonian ayahuasca vine, but the reed-choked rivulet of the enigmatic cover art could easily also tie in with the Latin meaning (subjunctive form of to float/swim/flow) of natem. Either way, you might expect to encounter a certain amount of drifting trippiness - correctly so, as it transpires.

Mainly, this is evident during the opening track, 'Eternally They Seek', which kicks off with a somewhat misleading Sludge/Stoner instrumental vibe. I say 'misleading' only because a good chunk of the Death influence within the band is realised in the typically harsh growl vocals which permeate the remaining tracks, which means they come as something of a surprise just over ten minutes later, when 'Beneath The Soil' starts up, and you realise this isn't actually some sort of Post-whatever experimentation. In fact, overall, it steers a pretty balanced line between Electric Wizard-ish slow, heavy Stoner moments and Winter-ish slow, heavy Death moments for much of the body of the EP. Not really continuing the trippy feel of the opener - in the sense of being happily spaced-out, at any rate - there is nonetheless a darkly hypnotic pull to the deliberate and cold riffing in keeping with the serious pathfinding/teaching psychedelia of entheogenic ritualism. It isn't unrelievedly bleak, though: the lead often winds up to a comparatively cheery wah-pedal sound, laying some counterpoint melody over the deep rumbling layers of the percussion section, and the more stoic riffing of the second guitar.

If that sounds like an odd sort of combination, well, perhaps it is, but it works rather effectively, and gives Natem a quite cerebral, thought-out and worked-out feel. That's all exemplified by the epic closing track 'Rustling Leaves', working its way from a sinister Death/Doom opening, via nods to some old-fashioned Black Sabbath-sounding riffs, all the way to a slow but almost ethereally-vibrant Stoner guitar workout. Quite the journey, delivered with a stately, uninterrupted and solemn tightness that makes it entirely convincing.

Despite being labelled an EP, the four tracks cover a good 40 minutes of music, and provide quite a variety within that. I will admit that my initial surprise at the exclusively growled vocals - sometimes seeming an odd juxtaposition to the music - made it a little difficult to consider immediately accessible, but the combination becomes more intriguing and appropriate with repeated listenings. Persistence, in this instance, does prove rewarding, especially if concentrating on what I would consider the better second half of the release. Best approached with an open mind, and a willingness to perhaps not be bowled over immediately, but certainly worth investigating. For the moment, there are still copies of the limited CD pressing available, and at a price that won't break the bank if you fancy venturing some distance away from the entirely predictable.


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Reviewer's rating: 7.5/10

Information

Tracklist :
1. Eternally They Seek
2. Beneath The Soil
3. Back Into The Ether
4. Rustling Leaves

Duration : Approx. 40 minutes

Visit the Natem bandpage.

Reviewed on 2015-07-27 by Mike Liassides
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