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Reworked release exposes Janvs' weaknesses - 73%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, April 25th, 2015

My interest was piqued when I heard that Janvs had re-recorded an early demo "Nigredo", and not just re-recorded it but left out half the original songs, rearranged the order of the remaining songs and then included a cover of an Enslaved song that the band had done for a compilation tribute. Of the original songs on the demo, "Abisso", "Rovina", "Imperium" and "Suicidio" survive and they are reworked as melodic post-metal / progressive rock epic pieces.

The opener "Abisso" announces the band's musical revision of "Nigredo" with pounding bass drum and a layered trilling jewel-guitar sound that owes equal debts to black metal and post-metal. The overall tone is very melancholy and the thumping bass drum might signify something ominously portentous. Bass guitar is surprisingly clear beneath the dense guitar-work (there are two layers of continuous guitar) and the drumming, but this can be explained by the generally clear production and clean sound. The only qualm a listener might have is that the vocal is very hard to hear and comes across as very strained, as if it was being crushed between two slabs of granite and the unlucky sandwich fill is crumbling away. While the main melody is quite pleasant, it's not very remarkable and the song is repetitive. "Imperium" is a slow, sorrowful song, lumbering for the most part, and the main things that redeem it are the bass guitar melody that sometimes wants to run away and the occasional guitar sparkle. As with "Abisso", repetition dominates: the idea behind this is to create a hypnotic and trance-like state in which listeners become lost and at one with the music and its message of longing. The problem though is that the songs here (with the exception of the Enslaved cover) are not long enough to allow full immersion and not all of them progress towards a resolution but tend to stay much the same throughout.

"Suicidio" is quite an emotionally moving piece with bass guitar runs up and down the scale and a rich, almost jangly guitar sound. Brass accompaniment add emotional depth to the music and for several minutes I almost believe that the song might be working towards a climax and something that relieves the tension and sense of unease and dread. The energy of the song instead passes onto "Rovina" which seems a more hopeful and optimistic piece.

It's probably not a good outlook for "Nigredo" on the whole when the best track turns out to be the Enslaved cover "793" which shows up Janvs' shortcomings in the song-writing and music composition department. This is the longest song, the most energetic and intense as well, and also the most self-contained and easily identifiable, with a definite focus and direction.

All the technical mastery and arrangements, lavish as they are, can't mask the fact that Janvs' original songs are not that great and that the band needs to take a leaf out of Enslaved's book on how to write really great songs which need no complex post-metal / art rock padding to improve them.

Janvs - Nigredo - 85%

Witchfvcker, April 24th, 2014

When a band decides to re-record an old release, it immediately smacks of a quick cash-grab or creative drought. Sketchy motivations aside, such endeavors have a tendency to completely miss what made the original recordings stand out, sacrificing soul for accessibility, or ending up thoroughly redundant. In the case of Italian power-trio Janvs, none of the above seems to apply. Their inaugural demo Nigredo was released in 2004, and to put it bluntly, sounds like muddy Burzum-worship. Three years later they followed it up with the majestic Fvlgvres, and 2008′s otherworldly Vega cemented Janvs as a truly original but bizarrely under-appreciated group. And then there was silence.

Janvs’ return comes in the form of a completely re-recorded and rearranged version of their debut, featuring founding members Malphas and Vinctor, joined by m:A Fog (who also drummed on Vega). The tracklist has been shuffled around, with two lackluster interludes being removed in favor of a cover of Enslaved’s “793 – Slaget Om Lindisfarne”, which previously featured on the compilation Önd – A Tribute To Enslaved. As the cherry on top, stunning new artwork is provided by the talented Italian graphic designer Franscesco Demelli.

Nigredo is not simply a re-recording, it is a complete re-imagining of the cold and harsh atmospheres that characterized the 2004 demo. Some vastly improved production values transforms the original rawness into a sprawling epic, perfectly suited to Janvs’ later output. While the basic structure of the songs are still heavily indebted to Filosofem, the dynamic and crisp-sounding bass adds a decidedly warmer feeling to the frigid riffing. The addition of more sophisticated keys brings the material in line with Fvlgvres, though Nigredo is decidedly more melancholic where the former efforts bore strong signs of euphoria.

As the previously grim trappings put considerable constraints on Nigredo, Janvs anno 2014 is a powerhouse of atmospheric black metal, flirting heavily with the characteristic wall of sound so prominent with many post-black groups. The repetitive riffs are hypnotic and trancelike, with completely rewritten Italian lyrics adding a sense of longing and nostalgia. Tracks like “Suicido” carry tremendous emotional weight, with every sorrowful riff recalling lost glories and opaque despondency. “Rovina” is a more sanguine beast, perfectly bridging Nigredo with the profound magnificence of Fvlgvres.

Closing the album on an ambitious note, the band is joined by Enslaved-guitarist Ivar Bjørnson for their rendition of the classic “793”. As previously mentioned, this version was originally conceived for a tribute-compilation, but is a great addition to Nigredo. Janvs retain the bombast of the original, while adding their own unique brand of cosmic yearning. A triumphant romp, the song stands in some contrast to the preceding numbers, though the band’s distinct sound preserves a sense of continuity.

It’s undeniable that I would have preferred some actual new material, but Nigredo proves to be a compelling argument for rewriting discographies. By trawling the depths Janvs have greatly improved upon their debut, which now sits comfortably amongst the greatness of Fvlgvres and Vega. Fans of Woods Of Desolation and their ilk should take note, as this criminally underrated trio is way overdue for a broader audience.

Written for The Metal Observer