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tryhard hipster bullshit - 20%

Noktorn, May 20th, 2011

Holy shit, it's hard to believe there was an era in metal where people were credulous enough to look at an album like this and say "Well, I don't know, it could be neat..." I mean, look at how fucking transparent this is: the Tibetan singing bowl in the last song, the droning two-chord riffs, the fucking Big Black cover- how much more obvious can you get that you're making a bid for pseudo-mainstream art kid credibility? I mean, Lord Imperial's always been a fat, obnoxious asshole, but at least when he was doing Krieg back in the day he was a fat, obnoxious asshole who was thematically consistent with himself. He did black metal, he didn't like you, that was it. Whether it was shitty black metal was immaterial. But watching him dive headfirst into hipster territory with music like this adds a whole new level of idiocy to his career that really can't be denied.

Throughout the course of this album, it's very clear that Imperial is trying to write something to impress you on an academic level. Writing actual riffs and stuff is definitely the kind of thing lesser black metal bands do, so he does away with riffs entirely for the most part. The guitarwork on 'N.I.L.' doesn't riff or move; it just hangs in the air, with handfuls of buzzing chords that just sort of warble and alternate with each other and never lead anywhere. The influence from the more droning parts of the black metal scene is very clear; the hallucinogenic post-'Transilvanian Hunger' style of mid-'00s ambient black metal clearly compelled Imperial to try and recreate the success of some of those bands, but the problem is you usually don't pull that off when you know exactly what you're doing. So, for the most part, the black metal tracks on this album fall totally flat. They're murdered by static drumming, riffless, directionless song structures, and fairly vicious vocals which are still completely hamstrung by the total lack of motion to the songs. The sole exception to this is 'Sinking', which legitimately sounds like a full-fledged ripoff of the first Animus album. It's so clear I would be genuinely surprised if Imperial didn't have a copy of it hiding in his closet- the riffs sound like small, condensed variations of riffs found on that album, and unsurprisingly, it results in the best song on the release.

The rest of the album is composed of, well, noodling around I guess. There's a lot of aimless acoustic guitar strumming with slowly developing melodies, which would be cool were it not for the fact that they never develop anywhere. They're moody and atmospheric, but not in the meaning of the words themselves; rather, they sound 'moody and atmospheric', that very generic breed of gloominess which is so familiar to any seasoned black metal listener. Then there's the Big Black cover, which is perhaps the album's most obvious, desperate, and pathetic attempt towards... I don't know, exactly. Acceptance from black metal fans who like to think of themselves as visionaries? It's impossible to tell, really; it's almost ahead of its time, as the true hipster black metal scene wouldn't consolidate itself for another couple years. Still, I think the people listening to Liturgy now would really appreciate it.

Anyway, this album is a totally irrelevant nothing, an artistic void which does nothing but regurgitate black metal tropes with clean, Apple-inspired font choices and a more bass-heavy production style. I have little doubt that this album was written in about a week. If it wasn't, that's pretty shameful, as there's no reason that it couldn't have been: there's no nuance or cleverness to this music, just a gaping vacuum of legitimacy that's about par for the course in this style. I'd tell you to avoid it, but you don't really need to hear that, do you?

N. Pompous Imperial - 10%

UncleMeat, August 9th, 2007

Aside from the butchering of a Big Black song, this album contains about 7 riffs in total (one riff per song). This may not be a problem if the riffs were interesting, but no… each riff really only contains about 3 or 4 chords. Some bands can pull off the one-riff-per-song thing, but not Mr. Pompous N. Imperial. I will admit, I do like the intro, but after that the album goes nowhere but down. After the intro is done, “Here I Found No Shelter” starts. At first it seems to have somewhat of a trance inducing hypnotic quality to it, but after about 2 (out of 7) minutes of the same 4 chords, boredom starts to sink in and you begin to think “so… when is something interesting going to happen?”. You will continue asking yourself this question for the rest of the album. The vocals aren’t bad, but that doesn’t matter because beneath the somewhat decent vocals lays a horrible attempt at a “droning black metal” album. I will also add that the guitar has a nice muddy sound to it, as opposed to cold and thin sounding guitars often found in black metal, but again, it does not make up for the boring riffs being played. The bass has an extremely annoying clunky sound to it and the drums basically do the same thing for the entire album, except occasionally N. Pompous Imperial switches from the open hi-hat to the ride cymbal… fascinating, I know.

So take some crappy boring riffs, an annoying clunky bass tone playing the root notes of those crappy riffs, repetitive drums and mediocre vocals and what do you have? N.I.L.

Short minimalist BM noise / drone album - 70%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, April 6th, 2007

USBM stalwart Imperial has a new project N.I.L., formed with another guy J Marcheski, and this is their first album.Though there are eight songs here, as recordings go this album works better listened to as a whole work in itself than as separate tracks. After the all-acoustic intro the band plunges into the album proper with "Here I Found No Shelter", an appropriately harsh and stern doomy BM number with Imperial's growling vocals: this is a very implacable song, relentless in its approach. N.I.L.'s style is constantly busy in a noisy minimalist way, not at all melodic apart from the one cover song which comes later.

"I Quenched My Thirst With Dust" is a very short but aggressive minimalist roar with half-spoken vocals. If you want any semblance to melody, you need to wait for the next track, the even more raging "Sinking" where, in the on-going guitar / rhythm pummel, you can just make out a mandolin tune - but only if you listen hard enough. As if to compensate - well, no, not really - the next track "Serpent Circle" is an all-acoustic guitar number done BM-style, which means it's a relatively pleasant strummy piece.

"Bad Houses" is a Bad Houses cover and the only song to have any definite melodies, a bass line and riffs. The way it is done here - minimal, as with all the other songs here - emphasises the song's catchy tunes and surprisingly buoyant nature and reminds me a little of a compilation indie-rock record I had last year or the year before and which featured the buzzy guitar rock band Bardo Pond and a few others with out-of-tune female singers. Heck, I half-expected one such warbler to blunder into "Bad Houses" and upset Imperial! But this is a good piece anyway which stands out in the noisy guitar buzz of the album but not so much that it overwhelms everything else.

The two remaining songs revert to the repetitive storm-of-noise-guitar texture format. Imperial's singing starts to include very long and agonised emotional howls and groans. The last track "Leaving The Self Behind" features again a barely audible mandolin melody and a long instrumental coda in which Imperial plays a singing bowl (very like a resonant triangle) followed by a blast of raging BM guitars and drums treated with sharp psychedelic choppy effects that give an experimental feel to this part of the track.

At under 35 minutes, the album seems to whiz by quickly and many songs are short to the extent that they seem little more than exercises in creating a particular rhythm pattern and texture over which Imperial roars a few lyrics. Marcheski's mandolin-playing on two songs makes those tracks the most interesting as the plucked strings add contrast to the layered music. Towards the end, there's a hint that the duo could push off in a different direction from the mostly repetitive and fairly basic BM here and I wonder why the album doesn't include more experimentation with the project's sound than it does.

At this point in time, this recording is perhaps more for fans of Krieg and related projects. I'd like to see N.I.L. continue for a few more recordings and develop that distinctive mandolin-tinged BM sound further. Imperial may yet have more and other tricks up his black T-shirt sleeves that will surprise us.