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Calculated restraint yields a masterpiece - 100%

triggerhappy, July 21st, 2013

After a year of relative inactivity, the ever-prolific Njiqahdda have put forth their first full-length in 2 years, heralding yet another stylistic shift. On “Serpents in the Sky”, Njiqahdda have toned down the staggering complexity found on their previous full-length, “The Path of Liberation from Birth and Death”, in favour of catchier and more memorable riffs. In fact, this album is probably their most accessible yet. However, do not make the mistake of associating accessibility with blandness and lack of creativity. Far from it, Njiqahdda have managed to create one of their best albums in recent years with this simplified style.

First off, the style of music found on this album is closest to that of the three tracks composed for the 2012 split, “Departures of the Golden Temple”. Guitars are competently handled by /, retaining their signature, albeit hard to describe, Njiqahdda sound. The riffs are nowhere near the speed or level of technicality of “The Path of Liberation from Birth and Death”, but they’re still engaging enough to keep things interesting throughout. The title track also features a guitar solo (a rarity for the band) that’s incredibly simple yet thoroughly captivating.

/ sings with a throaty growl, at times going out of tune, seemingly intentionally. He doesn't exactly have the best voice around, but I couldn't think of a better singer to complement the mystical riffing. The drumming from - is highly energetic and varied as usual, often aligning with the rhythmic patterns of the riffs for greater emphasis. Bass guitar (also handled by -) does what it needs to do, providing the framework for the guitars to do their thing, while occasionally diverging to add a bit of variety. The production value of the album is also excellent, allowing every instrument to be heard crystal clear.

Finally, the album doesn't contain any overly long ambient sections often present in their previous releases, which is a huge plus. For instance, “Nji. Njiijn. Njiiijn.” contained a few of these filler sections, but at least it was part of the whole atmospheric fuzz they had going on back then, so I could somewhat let that pass. On the other hand, “The Path of Liberation from Birth and Death” featured a seemingly never-ending ambient section smack-dab in the middle of “Universal Form Replaced with Despondent Chaos”, which prevented an otherwise amazing album from reaching perfection. As a result, “Serpents in the Sky” is a 70-minute monster of an album that simply doesn't let up. It’s a very strong contender for album of the year in my book.

In light of Njiqahdda’s continuously evolving sound, who knows what the future holds for them? I’m confident that after the relatively barren 2012, Njiqahdda will be on a roll this year.