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Nagaarum : D.I.M.

Nagaarum's latest is a dreamy sort of Stoner/Black Metal rather than Doom, but it's still a damn fine trip into what the underground has to offer.

Nah, I'm not even going to try to sell you Nagaarum as any sort of Doom project. It's one of those oddities that lives outside our particular world, sometimes flirting with it, sometimes taking elements of it, but generally doing its own thing. And still, we've had the Hungarian band on our books for a long old time, based perhaps, mainly, on the joint release with Funeral Doomsters Dreams After Death (before my time, to be fair, so I don't reallly know the motivation). But whatever else Nagaarum may be - or not be - it is, at least, consistently interesting to anyone with a passing interest in the underground. And so...

2014's 'Rabies Lyssa' gave us lengthy, cinematic Doom-infused soundtracks to a plague-ridden extinction event, and, true to the band's previous form, it's now been followed by something completely different. From a usual arc of influences that span everything from experimental Electronic/Ambient to full-on Black Metal, 'D.I.M.' is constructed more of the latter, but with a generous helping of psychedelic and post-rock textures along with some injections of dark ambience. You could almost call it Stoner/Black, if that's not a complete oxymoron: somewhat softer, dreamier and with more outright strangeness than other practitioners of prog/psych-influenced Black Metal, such as Nachtmystium.

Once again released through GSP - this time in conjunction with Endless Winter and Outer Line - it's still not an obvious attention-grabber. Trees silhouetted against different-coloured skies, a faded, almost-invisible, logo and title for the cover, and a booklet mostly printed in Hungarian make for an obscure and understated package. That extends to the track titles - obviously, chemical elements, but not an obvious list or combination, and with the lyrics being amongst the untranslated information, not easily decipherable as to meaning. I didn't want to guess (especially not incorrectly!), so I asked the band about their significance. So: the album is an homage to the 'D.I.M.' of the title - Dimitri Ivanovich Mendeleev, the Russian scientist who originally formulated the Periodic Table - and the tracks are representations of the different characteristics and qualities of various elements, representing each of the classic 8-period + transition metals model of the table. (Plus, of course, from the unstable Actinides block, 'Md' is Mendelevium). English translations of the lyrics are available on the Nagaarum website.

So, it's more of a loose-linked association than a full-blown concept, but one that certainly explains something of the "Stoner" idea - to be honest, if a musical exploration of chemical elements and their natures doesn't provoke memories of artificially-stimulated late-night existential musings, it's hard to think what would. Though, even then, it's not an entirely weird idea: there's clearly a certain correlation for each element, depending on how volatile, reactive and destructive it may be, that lends itself to a baseline for musical interpretation.

I don't say this very often, but, for my money this whole album would have been fine - possibly even better - as an instrumental. Not that the vocals, a pleasant enough mix of male clean and harsh voices, are bad. They're far from that, but - as ever - in native tongue, they simply add a layer of sound rather than meaning to non-Hungarian speakers. It's more that the real beauty of the album is in the surging dynamics of the music. Sure, it's best to know a bit of chemistry to get the best out of interpreting them, but if there's one thing Nagaarum does brilliantly, it's blend together their various diverse elements and instruments to create an eclectic, yet consistent, whole. The musicianship, as always, is top-notch - particularly the percussion: for a solo project, being an experienced drummer makes a huge difference to having to use programming. But there are also deft, spacy touches of keyboards steering the melodies, distinct basslines mingling with the layered and satisfyingly heavy lead guitar lines, and a crystal-clear mix bringing them all together, all of which turn the basic idea into a very solid and well-executed actuality.

At just over 40 minutes, 'D.I.M.' sticks very much to the point, wasting little time on build-up or fade-out, and transitioning quickly and smoothly between different passages within the longer tracks. There's a certain amount of doominess to be found on tracks like the solemn 'Ar', but the bulk of it steers a "Post-Black" path of ambience, atmosphere and aggression that actually deserves to have quite a wide appeal, sitting somewhere on the spectrum between Agalloch and Wolves In The Throne Room but without the long-windedness of either. Like all Nagaarum albums, though, it's a singular beast, once again occupying a very different niche to the rest of the discography - I recommend taking it entirely on its own merits, whether or not you've encountered other works by the band. It's not Doom, but - regardless of you want to call it - it's still a damn fine trip into what the underground has to offer.

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Reviewer's rating: 8/10


Tracklist :
1. Rb
2. Cl
3. C
4. As
5. Hg
6. Ar
7. Md
8. Po
9. H

Duration : Approx. 41 minutes

Visit the Nagaarum bandpage.

Reviewed on 2016-08-11 by Mike Liassides
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