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Originally posted on my reviews blog at heavymetalspotlight.blogspot.com
"Dalla Nebbia", I believe, comes from the Italian for "By Fog". The two-member atmospheric black-metal project from the USA ardently, and rightly, claim to be "...a far-cry from the corpse paint and spiked gauntlets of the Scandinavian orthodoxy...". The band seem quite correct in this assertion, which makes for an interesting EP to listen to.
From looking at the cover art, to the first few seconds of music, it's almost immediately apparent that Dalla Nebbia's EP is going to be something a bit different, perhaps also, a bit unconventional. It is. Only three tracks, maybe, but three long tracks, which are filled to the brim with variety and generally forward-thinking musicianship. Much like the mist, the band have a wispy thin, ethereal atmosphere, very suiting of their name, with a typically high pitch and floating, disembodied feel. The music occasionally does dip into a more rumbling and riff-driven path, for example in the final track "Shade of Memory", there occurs the occasional deeper, heavier guitar sound, interestingly utilised in a bouncy, but somehow still very black-metal sounding riff. It's fairly clear that this isn't, however, the mainstay of the band's sound - The EP is certainly a ride in a hot-air-balloon, and not a wild chase through the woods. The band blend many of the styles of atmosphere which black metal can have - being at times epic, psychedelic, upbeat and yet simultaneously mournful. It's interesting too, that the atmosphere definitely becomes more palpable and enjoyable with a couple of listens, and where before the lack of lower-end could be a little deterring, and make the music feel like it lacks substance, in the second listen, I began to get the feeling that the high-pitch is mostly just another facet of the atmosphere.
The well-deployed synth really compliments and uplifts the guitar parts, and there are some really great moments throughout the EP in which the two elements come together nigh-on-perfectly. There are some places too, in which it sounds a little bizarre - There's a short, prog-esque section of keyboard in "The Apex of Human Sorrow" which whizzed past my ears to the sound of my inner monologue going "hang on... what was that? It's quite a fun, out-of-the-blue little hook, and certainly made me pay even more attention to the music, in case such little devices were used again. It's certainly an aspect of the band which I enjoyed, that is, the sheer variety of influences within the music - more than I could name, and more than I know the names of. It really does a good job of keeping the EP exciting and engaging, and definitely gifts the band's sound with a level of uniqueness which adds to it.
I must say, this is an EP which really impressed me. More so than I was expecting to, and consequently, I have to say I recommend it to anyone who likes atmospheric black metal. There are some really tasty soundscapes in this EP, and it's a free download on Bandcamp, to boot.
Despite the current emergence and apparent popularity of "post" black metal bands having a keen fixation on all things to do with Mother Earth, I approach any release by a band with a marked amount of hesitation, personally I don't quite grasp the correlation between 'nature's so pretty' and one of the harshest forms of music in existence (perhaps this is just my close minded foolishness, alas) + the fact I don't see what can be done to top the works of early Ulver, Borknagar and Enslaved; this being said, this release was better than what I envisaged, particularly so for a cover that has a sketch of a bird on the front...
Hailing from South Caroline, U.S, this duo have constructed a fine E.P that clocks in at just under half an hour, the music is undulating, diverse in inspiration and surprisingly refreshing to listen to (perhaps it's just the recent assault of NoEvDia releases I've been re-visiting). Whilst there is nothing new here and it is not carving new territory it is a competent debut that flows (relatively) well over the relatively long track times; this I feel is the albums strongest point, a decent amount of ideas are placed into each song, from beautiful open acoustic parts, to soaring tremolo riffs, blast beats, thrash-y riffs and at times some surprising programmed pieces, although some ideas may leave you questioning the turns the songs take.
In honesty I feel it somewhat pointless to dissect the songs as I think doing so would be to remove from their parts as a whole. Each song seems to work well within its own entity and although the songs can appear to divert and stray off course from their initial outset they seem to come back towards their initial influence in the end.
Weak points of the album in my opinion are initially with the drums; they're programmed, I have no problem with this normally as long at it serves the music, the main issue in this case is that the beats used are incredibly simplistic with little variation. My biggest criticism is at times I struggle with is 'What does this band want to play?', there is an eclectic range of influences here, and it seems to be as much a blessing as much as it is a curse, occasionally the songs seem to take a turn for the realms of thrash, prog and industrial, and whilst with the right hand these elements could be crafted into a great form, a lot of parts leave me bored.
The lyrics are pretty plain in my opinion, nature worship, fantasies about destroying dogmas, current societal constructs and lamenting about your own demise as you watch the leaves fall from a tree, etc. etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseum; these kind of lyrics leave me cold and do nothing for me
I find it unlikely that this would ever find its way into my usual playlist as it does little to engage, confront and/or entertain. Whilst it is a commendable effort for their first effort, this machine still needs polishing and greater work needs to be made to present a coherent release. I look forward to their next release, if they can pull their ideas together into something more consistent and maintain stronger themes in the music, whilst still progressing with their more 'Avant-Garde/progressive' ideas they could be one of the stronger acts to come out of the U.S in some time.
Considering that they've only been around for about two years, I must say that South Carolina's Dalla Nebbia ('From the Fog') has one of the most refined senses of melody in their songwriting that I've ever experienced from black metal in the US. The band's tremolo streams glisten like the tears of clip-winged angels forever severed from their heavenly host, and they usher in enough dynamic range in the three songs of this EP that they can easily comport themselves through 8-9 minute track lengths without dragging the listener under the usual haze of thoughtless repetition and pretentious bloat. Thy Pale Form... is made even more impressive by the fact that it's the work of only two musicians, vocalist Zduhać and multi-instrumentalist Yixja.
The three tracks presented here do well to showcase the band's emotional poles, from the charging and near gladiatorial onslaught of lower pitched chords that inaugurate "The Apex of Human Sorrow" to the lush clean guitars and keys that simulate sorrow through closer "Shade of Memory". All of them, however, possess the duo's aesthetically consistent, exotic rivers of harmony that instantly sweeten the ear like sugar on a tongue, in particular the opener "Thanatopsis" which is through and through the catchiest of the three, from its eerily hypnotic blasted sequences, to the mellow breakdown with cleaner narrative vocals (quoted from an early 19th century poem), to the eruption of blazing, melodic doom in its depths. It would be hard to pin down the sound precisely: certainly there are roots in Swedish black and death metal like Dissection and Katatonia, conjured up through the longing subtext of the guitar melodies; the first Fall of the Leafe album came to mind, perhaps even a touch of the earliest Opeth (Orchid) in the sheer breadth of the songs and their contrast of floods and calms, but these are mere building blocks in the group's DNA, they do not emulate anyone directly.
The rasp throughout Thy Pale Form... is brazen, roaring and creates a carnal counterpoint to the thinner, higher pitch guitar tone it's often set against. On the whole, I felt like the mix of the EP was a bit skewed towards the higher end, so it has this ability to pierce straight into your skull, which works well enough for the melodies but perhaps not so well when the band strikes a more brooding pose. Also, the drums here have been programmed, which is nothing novel for a black metal project like this, but while they're synced up well with the varied riffing patterns, I do feel that an actual live drummer would benefit this music if only for the natural inflection of the bass, snare and cymbals, not to mention the fills. My only other complaint would also be cosmetic: the cover art is probably just something thrown together to create a rustic mood, and the music and introspective, solemn lyrics certainly conjure such a space, but Thy Pale Form... deserves better.
Otherwise, Dalla Nebbia is quite a surprise, from an area one doesn't normally associate with the style, and the pieces are in place here for a promising career, balancing beauty and harrowing aggression. The guitar architecture feels fresh and imperative, not jaded in the least, and fans of other newer US acts in this field like Autolatry, Sylvan Realm and Obsequiae should not hesitate to check this out.