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NAZXUL: "Totem" - 50%

skaven, January 16th, 2012

If Iconoclast was epic and vivid, Nazxul’s debut album Totem - dating back to 1995 and now getting a re-release treatment by Eisenwald - is quite the opposite: this stuff is truly dark, swampy and reeking of death. No beautiful riffs here, that’s for sure! Omitting the half an hour outro of the original edition, Totem is done justice by getting it released again because the album is considered a classic by some standards - and I understand that to the extent that this surely was among the first Australian black metal albums, but I wouldn’t go so crazy about the actual musical content.

Nazxul sounds both mysterious - thanks to the vocals that shift between low growls and obscure whispers - and murderous. This is heavy indeed, but it is somewhat hindered by the production where the guitar riffs are somewhere in the background and the rather soulless and plastic sounding drums are on top of everything, kind of ruining the material’s potential. This doesn’t apply to every song though as there seems to be some differences between some songs’ productions.

Tempo is usually kept at high, blast beats battering the hell out of everything and guitars delivering their lines of somewhat incoherent murky riffing (all this occasionally reminding me of certain Ross Bay area war metal groups). Throughout the little over 40 minutes, Totem doesn’t much change, but there are some highlights worth mentioning, such as ”Distance Begins” with its palm-muted death metal riffage and a synth breakdown, and the oddly dissonant and melancholic ”Amidst the Flames” where the album’s synths are put to best use. The latter song is absolutely enchanting, making Totem worth buying almost because of that track alone.

In the end, I’m having mixed feelings about Totem. Whereas occasional moments are really good and not a single moment on the album is disturbing in any annoying way, there’s not much that would lure for multiple replays. Perhaps I was once again affected by the hype surrounding this album and hence I’m leaning towards a mere mediocre rating. Definitely an interesting piece of Australian black metal’s history, but not entirely my cup of tea.

2.5 / 5
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