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Fresh off the back of the tremendous Let the Devil In released at the back end of last year, the ever industrious Shatraug returns with Mortualia this time, and teams up with Swiss stargazers Nychts who themselves have been on the receiving end of a fair bit of acclaim lately. If you've heard “Zwischen Leere und Nichts” off the split with Wedard then you should have a good idea as to what Nebelstern des Nichts sounds like, and when combined with Shatraug's ability and experience the foundations are there for something very unique. Each band has their own 'movements' of sorts, they don't play in unison as I first thought, but Nychts handle the first twenty minutes or so and the last five, while Mortualia take the reins for the middle, with each section entwined by sampling and ambient work handled by the mastermind behind Nychts, Trähn.
Some brief electronic gibberish gets the ball rolling we're engulfed by Trähn's meandering guitar wash pierced by his wretched screams which I suspect wont be to everyone's taste, but when you're a Silencer fan I suppose you can pretty much stomach anything. I've yet to hear a metal band who can capture that astral sound anywhere near as good as Nychts, the way Trähn utilizes acoustic guitar, organs, piano and that Tangerine Dream like ambience is astounding, it's the same sort of sound present on Limbonic Art's Moon in the Scorpio but with more of an overall desolate and vacuous semblance with a massive funeral doom influence beneath it all. Some of the sounds and samples are just downright bizarre, emphasizing the sheer alien nature to Nychts music. Diverse doesn't even come close, hell we even get what appears to be a guest appearance from something that sounds suspiciously like Darth Vader at the nine minute mark. Trähn's vocals are strange, they aren't actually harsh in the typical black metal manner, more of a wailing scream submerged among the huge wall of spatial obscurity, creating an overall vibe that this track is one big acid trip through an astral wasteland gone horribly wrong. They've been described as 'musical jewelry' and in a way seems a very apt description, scintillating and absolutely enamoring.
After an interlude of a few minutes of strange beeping and a heavily echoed bass drum the Mortualia section kicks in and is a lot more orthodox than Nychts contributions, the vocals are raw and vicious, unmistakably Shatraug, a lot of the focus is centered on the guitar riffs and colourful lead work which remains tasteful throughout. The drumming is another excellent aspect about this release, it's comparable to the way Summoning programmed their drums on their later work, focused centrally around building the atmosphere first rather than just a backbone for the music, the sound off the bass drum is vast, echoing in the background as if it were a bell tolling doom. The last five minutes where Nychts take over again are incredible, the culmination of the destitute guitar melodies and Trähn's lost vocals backed up by that huge drum sound along with the night like ambience and what even sounds like a backing choir is pure audacity, but absolutely genius.
Ambitious would be one word, the concept of two bands performing alternating passages back and forth together throughout a forty minute song is something which as far as I'm aware has never been attempted before in black metal let alone metal itself. You'd expect something as elaborate as this to have some slight faults and potential conflicts and inconsistencies between both bands, but the execution and seamlessness with which it is performed and stellar arrangements which are truly astonishing. You can tell when each performer comes in and leaves again, but at the same time it doesn't sound as if it's two separate projects at all.
Bands like Darkspace etc take note, this is how it's supposed to be done. Atmospheric black metal which is as limitless as the universe itself, Nebelstern des Nichts is a terrifying journey into the undiscovered infinities of the cosmos; black metal which is utterly platonic and thoroughly engaging throughout every single minute of this release. The sooner Nychts release a full length album themselves the better. With Nebelstern des Nichts, these two black metal wizards unleash what could only be described as one of the finest attempts ever in the black metal genre at putting to record everything that is contained in the thought devouring wilderness of night's firmament. Essential.