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As you get older your tastebuds die off (so I hear, wiki may disagree) and flavours which were initially far too strong- a nice drop of scotch, weird cheese, strong stouts, sundried tomatoes, red wine- start to reveal themselves, and suddenly that femented grape juice isn't super disgusting or what have you. It may still challenge- I don't know anyone who'd be all that comfortable drinking an imperial stout like they would smash back a watery lager- but man it tastes good. There's that subtle complexity in it that you're sure wasn't there before.
Path of Liberation... is a strong red wine. It's not an easy album by any means, as is shown when the wine assaults the pallette, or in this case when the intro ends and Transcendental Knowledge starts wrapping around you. The riffs here are remarkably unusual, never seeming to repeat, constant stop start type moments that don't really use any of the usual tropes you expect to encounter with weird technical type stuff. It's rather excellent; and there's all these real cool parts where the band lets fly with long, soaring tremelo riffs. It's cool watching all the knotted up tension release into a buzzing, fierce and remarkably beautiful sound.
There's so much here, and pulled off so well. I could've done without the come down that's much of the middle track as the incredible intensity of the previous tracks was fine and rather awesome, but everything here is pulled off with absolute aplomb, and when the sky falls in at the 20 minute mark of Universal Form it's really something to behold. The tightness of the band, the always weird but always fantastic vocals, and the drums.. man. Not doing anything showy but just so appropriate to the twisting, ever spiralling weirdness of the guitar, and so tight! The musicianship on offer is if not the best I've heard, pretty high up there for sure.
I love the way the songs progress. Of all albums, I'm reminded of Dillinger's excellent Calculating Infinity in the exemplary way that the songs continually build despite often being in a fortissimo dynamic the whole way through. Tension and structure is built around riff patterns as opposed to a quiet/loud type of thing. Those huge, hammering stop start riffs around the 3 minute mark of "The Confidential Supreme Absolute" crush everything in their way, but yet the song continues to up it's ante throughout. Awesome moment is followed by an awesome-er moment, and so on throughout- a good formula if you can nail it!
It's demanding but the reward justifies the effort. It's a huge reward, some of the most satisfying music I've heard in a huge time. Long, serpentine structures that are as satisfying as a continent sized steak, and just so much to sink your teeth into! Every listen brings new understanding of the fantastic guitar work, the enigmatic but fantastic lyrics put forth (some of the finest lyrics you'll see from anyone, probably ever).. Everything about this is fantastic. Perhaps enjoy it with some particularly strong tasting food or drink that you fancy.
Stop reading and download/buy this album!
It takes a lot for me to consider a Njiqahdda album the duo's best work. Just one look at their discography and you can certainly gather that this band has put out an amount of material that most bands would't touch in 20 lifetimes. The catch with Njiqahdda however is that the overwhelming majority of the discography is innovative, creative, completely unique and wholly inspired. So in order to be Njiqahdda's best album, the competition is fierce. After repeated listens though, I think this may very well be their crowning achievement.
The album starts off with a short intro and then sends you full blast into a storm of technical black metal that comprises the majority of the "The Path..." Technical is hardly a term frequently used for black metal, and if anything conjures up thoughts of Blut Aus Nord or Deathspell Omega. Though these influences may subtly show themselves, one would be more reminded of technical death metal such as Gorguts. However that does not detract from the engrossing atmosphere or melodic riffs that a black metal album (or any Njiqahdda album) brings to the listener. Repeated listens reveal the long songs to show a well crafted structure, often building to an epic climax. I suppose this is where tags of 'post-rock' if any have been applied to the album. This is not 'post-rock black metal' like the crowded scene of bands that exist, or even like the honest influences that have shown on past Njiqahdda LPs and EPs. Instead one will find very progressive, fast and unrelenting metal.
Listening to Njiqahdda, I have learned to expect the unexpected from them. However what you can expect are the heavily distorted screams buried deep in the production, as well as extremely proficient drumming. The drums are a particular high-point. The talent of "_" has never been in question, but on this record they have finally been recorded on an acoustic set. Mixed perfectly along with the bass and guitars the overall musicianship of this album is worth its purchase alone. The guitars start and stop on par with technical death metal bands, while the tremolo riffs are composed with emotion, intensity and performed smoothly. Even guest vocals by Syntax A from Satan's Almighty Penis on track 3 excel as he goes all out ranging from deep guttural growls to intense snarls.
The technical sound does take a break in the middle of the album however, for the massive 25 minute centerpiece "Universal Form Replaced with Despondent Chaos." This song finds a structure reminiscent of older Njiqahdda. It is comprised of prodding guitars playing only a few heartfelt riffs, with acoustic strumming and distorted screams low in the mix. It breaks to an ambient interlude about halfway through and ends on a sorrowful, almost haunting melody played on the curious Theremin. (If you are unfamiliar with the instrument it is an odd device that creates noise by the player positioning their hands in the air without making any contact with the instrument. It projects a very eerie almost human-like hum.) On the albums closer "Sky and Earth Remembered Only as Blood", the song melts away from metallic heaviness into a neo-folk closing with chant-like vocals for the last 7 minutes. The album leaves as it comes in, with the sounds of a storm looming far away over the horizon. "From nothingness, back to nothingness....."
One last highlight are the lyrics. Made available and written in English (a rarity for Njiqahdda) they examine the ills of humanity, and personal philosophy written in an elegance not usually found in metal. At the very least these are worth a read, and I believe are as important to the entire package and experience that is "The Path..." I doubt much from this year will beat what I have heard on this record. The album is flawless and unlike anything you will hear. It's a breath of fresh air to listen and be taken to another world by the trip that Njiqahdda has offered. All around, this album's quality ranks among the best of the last 10 years.
Where to begin? "The Path of Liberation from Birth to Death" is a very complex album of mostly long songs combining buzzy noisy black metal with elements of prog-rock, post-rock, ambient, acoustic folk and even technical death metal, or so it seems. Njiqahdda has crafted an epic that might suit a post-modern Western full-length feature film with music featuring stop-start rhythm dynamics, complicated melodies and riffs that take listeners into long journeys and leave them stranded in strange territories carved out by the songs. Familiar Njiqahdda elements such as the droning buzzy noise guitars and the dry corpse-voice screams turn up in most tracks but these take second place to dense melodies and riffs and rapid-fire yet precise drumming.
After a brief all-acoustic intro, the album gets right down to business on "Transcendental Knowledge upon the Battlefield" with the twisting and turning melodic guitar lines and frantic percussion over which the familiar dry and eerie Njiqahdda vocals babble. There is a brief and bleak ambient section through which dry winds pass. "Attaining the Confidential Supreme Absolute", not much different in style and melodic approach and just as speedy and urgent, combines black metal and more traditional, melodic metal elements with clear and human-sounding though still processed vocals. The music is very stop-start jerky in its rhythms yet its delivery is precise and co-ordinated and there's a smooth feel about it: it's not at all jagged at the edges. Some guitar riffs that rev up and down seriously threaten to mess with your head and sometimes the music can come close to self-indulgent but overall this is a very controlled piece.
At 25 minutes, the fourth track "Universal Form Replaced With Despondant Chaos" (sic) is the album's centrepiece. So many different music styles feature on the track but they all meld into one organic whole. Bleak cloudy ambience and an acoustic guitar piece introduce the song which on the whole is a repetitive doom-drone guitar piece that builds up in density and tension. A heavily reverbed lead guitar melody appears in the background to enliven the repetitive riffing. Just over the halfway point, the song goes into a strange instrumental passage of fillips of theremin, synthetic percussion, fuzzy vocals and abstract electronic effects.The rest of the album is a footnote with the last two tracks lapsing back into a mix of black and non-black metal and post-rock.
Plenty of sonic adventuring is to be found on the album though the emphasis is on creating epic songs with dense musical arrangements beefed up with stormy-weather ambience, keyboard work here and there and delicate acoustic folk melodies. The songs sometimes give the impression of battling through thickets of awkward melodies and riffs and sections of ambient or other quiet music don't always stitch up well with more aggressive passages. The lyrics can barely be heard; they are of a nihilistic bent and deplore humanity's short-sightedness in trashing and destroying the Earth's resources and bounty.
Altogether "The Path of Liberation ..." is a very substantial work from an act previously noted more for the quantity of output than the quality which could be good but often quickly became repetitive. Though the music is very complex and listeners may need to play the album several times to become familiar with it, the album is more melodic and accessible than other Njiqahdda work I have heard in the past and I would recommend "The Path of Liberation ..." to first-time Njiqahdda listeners.