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Norilsk : Japetus (EP)

Norilsk's debut EP is a quality appetiser for the forthcoming full-length album.

Norilsk, Siberia: an ex-Gulag in the Arctic Circle permafrost, sitting atop the largest nickel deposits in the world; a vast mining and smelting operation with one of the highest heavy metal pollution levels to be found anywhere. Cold, dark, miserable and brutally hazardous: as qualities for inspiring Doom go, it pretty much sums them up. Even if you happen to be in Canada, as the veteran musicians of Norilsk the band - Nick Richer (drums, backing vocals) and Nic Miquelon (project originator, everything else) - are.

Their debut three-track, twenty-minute 'Japetus' EP is a self-release, both taster and demo for a full-length album already waiting in the wings. Viewed in that light, it makes perfect sense to showcase a leader of the band's capabilities, in a brief and to-the-point format - and that they have achieved, in spades. There's nothing quick or cheap about the work the duo have done: it's all been properly and professionally laid down, recorded and mastered, with the limited CD pressing getting the third track; the download version has only two.

Music-wise, what you get is a brace of self-written tracks bracketing a (CD-only) Voivod cover, all three of them flowing well together, leading in from the apocalyptic punch of the titular 'Japetus'. Voivod might seem like an odd choice, but from the off, it's apparent why the cover was chosen: just like their countrymen, Norilsk are very seriously fond of the bass taking front and centre, more of a second lead/rhythm guitar than a percussive backbone. Fortunately, the hefty and varied drumming is more than capable of handling those latter duties unaided, giving the necessary underpinning for such a massively heavy, infrasonic-infused front end to the sound.

Where it gets a little tricky is in trying to pin down what surrounds that bass-driven core, especially when the expansively-distorted catchiness of it carries a strong flavour of Sludge/Post-Metal regardless of what else is going on. But 'Japetus', at its heart, is a construct of mid-tempo Death/Doom architecture, early Peaceville-style, with harsh vocals supplied through both growls and venomous whispers. Contrastingly, closer (and my standout favourite) 'Potsdam Glo' shapes similar materials into a far slower, spacier trek through an eerily funereal - almost Funeral, in places - minimalism, mixing in cold whispers and clean backing vocals as it goes. In between, 'Negatron' - unavoidably, as it sticks quite closely to the original, albeit tempering the thrashy Metal of the bridge with a doomier, sludgier sound - stands with a foot in both camps.

It's hard to fault that level of contrast and variety - however hard it might make it to apply a simple label to the band - and impossible to doubt the strengths on display here, or the care and attention that has gone into the crafting. Complementary in style, yet equal in their dispassionate grimness, both original tracks convey a slowly-building, brooding and comfortless atmosphere apposite for the frozen hell of the band's Siberian namesake. That promises much for the coming album: as an exercise in whetting the appetite for it, I'd have to say this EP ticks all the right boxes.

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Reviewer's rating: 8/10


Tracklist :
1. Japetus
2. Negatron
3. Potsdam Glo

Duration : Approx. 20 minutes

Visit the Norilsk bandpage.

Reviewed on 2014-09-07 by Mike Liassides
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