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Negative or Nothing - Drowned - 91%

Edmund Sackbauer, February 23rd, 2021
Written based on this version: 2020, CD, Careless Records (Digipak)

Chile has produced quite a bunch of interesting albums over the past years and one of my latest finds are Negative of Nothing. Meanwhile this band is consisting of only two guys, one playing the drums and the other one contributing everything else. Both of them have also been active in some other Chilean projects so it should not come as surprise that their second full length “Drowned” is a very mature and competently performed piece of music. In fact this album is absolutely fascinating, as the deeper feelings of more fragile depressive black metal are combined with dark and occult moments.

This is a strong album, manifesting dark emotions of failure, reject and self-hatred consistently throughout the 34:47 minutes running time. Much of these empty feelings are portrayed by the astonishing guitar work. The employing of tremolo pickings among other simple but effective techniques has is toned down, and the guys really set the tone of the music with their impeccable songwriting and masterful balance of melody and subtle aggression. The tempo is slowed down for larger parts, but can surge up at a whim in a few moments, with stellar harmonies and torturous screams providing assistance. There are a lot of acoustic and ambient passages sprinkled over the whole album, highlighting the strongly melancholic nature of it.

Like a lot of the releases of this particular sub-genre this album can become an uncomfortable listening experience at times, dragging the consumer through the void and back again. The guitar riffs found here aren't too complex or fast paced, but they still manage to keep a fascinating and hypnotic tone and add to the captivating melodies, accompanied by the steady percussions and the desperate vocals. Some of the harmonies might take a while until they are going to grab the listener, but once this is the case you cannot escape the hypnotic fascination.

Deeply atmospheric, the songs use a black metal base to craft highly emotive music, weaving esoteric moods and blackened tapestries with ease. This is music that’s richly textured with nuance and subtlety, even when it gets a bit more aggressive at times. On top of that you are going to find the desperate vocals howling through space and time, carrying the mournful lyrics. The production is spot on, underlining the somehow avantgarde-like nature of the music. “Drowned” is an album that might need a bit of time to get into and you full attention when consuming it, but it is absolutely worth it. Fantastic music!

DSBM - It's easy when you know how - 70%

we hope you die, December 22nd, 2020

The problems of a genre like depressive black metal – famed for its tedium, self-indulgence, creative limitations – are entirely self-made. Sometimes an album comes along that overcomes these limitations so elegantly yet so simply that one wonders why more people aren’t following the same path. Negative or Nothing’s latest LP ‘Drowned’ won’t blow your mind, but it will make you reconsider this maligned offshoot of black metal.

All the highly specific and specialised trappings of the genre are here. The fog of static that is the rhythm guitars. The partial clean tone that carries most of the melody and progression of each track. The supressed, incomprehensible vocals that remain ensconced in the safety of the murk. Chord progressions defined by only the slightest shift in pitch, accenting the overall glumness of the music as minor key scale runs with tiny, incremental developments unfold at an achingly slow pace before our ears. But Negative or Nothing colour these trappings with such ground-breaking techniques as key changes, shifts in tempo, and a logical melodic thread one can trace through each track.

The drums stick to fairly rudimentary rock rhythms, offering very few blast-beats along the way. But this loose foundation is fitting for the inertia of the layered guitars, which make up such a presence that a large chunk of the tone simply encases the whole in a misty atmosphere, with no discernible musical progression. But on top of this is a near constant lead guitar that guides the rest of the music through each track and – in the absence of traditional vocal lines to follow – acts as a surrogate vocalist for much of the album.

There are moments of intense repetition, where the guitar sticks with one simple refrain and repeats it with conviction, allowing the rest of the music to catch up with itself and offer a trancelike backing to this sonic rumination. From there, only the simplest of adjustments is required to pull us out of this torpor and advance the music forward; a shift in pitch, a collapse into a breakdown, a progression into a major key for an all too brief handful of bars. There are also some well-placed minimalist ambient interludes to break up the metal tracks. These provide much needed space to breathe given the imposing and relentless nature of the guitar tones deployed throughout ‘Drowned’. Not much else is required beyond some gradually rising and declining keyboard tones to space the music out, using the inherent virtues of emptiness to transition from one segment to the next, allowing the guitars are free to return with renewed conviction.

Again, none of this is rocket science, and Negative or Nothing aren’t exactly revolutionising metal with this release. But they are reimagining a very stigmatised genre in a way that could go some way to redeeming it in the eyes of many.

Originally published at Hate Meditations