Artist: Nocturnal Depression
Album: Spleen Black Metal
Label: Avantgarde Music
Finally, after many reviews that skirt around it, we are getting to the meat of the music that I truly enjoy. I’m a black metal guy, and I love the more thought-provoking styles of black metal, including atmospheric black and depressive/suicidal black. So when I took on reviewing Nocturnal Depression’s latest album, I decided that just listening to Spleen Black Metal was not good enough. Nocturnal Depression has been around for a long time, and has released a lot of albums. Hailing from France, like so many other amazing black metal bands, they began making their skin-crawling, gut-wrenching music back in 2004. While this may not sound like it’s that long ago, this is their sixth full length album in 11 years. I wanted to respect Nocturnal Depression, so I went back in time and listened to a few of their older albums. Not that I am completely new to them, but I wanted to have their older sound fresh in my ears when I reviewed Spleen Black Metal.
So what can I say about Nocturnal Depression as a whole? Well, they are depressing. And it’s not that ‘woe is me, let’s write some overtly sad songs’ of many other DSBM bands out there. No, Nocturnal Depression is angry. But the music is written in a way that drains all joy from you, and by the end of any album, you are left with a hollow core at the center of you. Some claim this music is cathartic, and I agree with them, but it is definitely not for everyone.
And how does Spleen Black Metal hold up when compared to the rest of Nocturnal Depression’s output? And, equally importantly, does the loss of one of their founding members, Herr Suizid, spell disaster for this band? Happily, I would say that Spleen Black Metal is right up there with some of their best releases, like Nostalgia and The Cult of Negation. It may not be a masterpiece, but it hasn’t suffered greatly with the loss of a central member.
The interesting thing about this album is it starts so furious, you’d be surprised to hear them described as depressive. The first three songs are pretty straight-forward black metal, very second-wave inspired, with tremolo guitars and blast beats pounding away while Lord Lokhraed screams away. It’s not until the fourth song, a good 16 minutes into the album, that things start to slow down and some of the sorrowful music that Nocturnal Depression is known for really comes forward. In this way, it’s a little bit of a weird album for those coming to it with a set of expectations on how the band should sound. That initial section of more straight-forward music threw me off, and I wasn’t really drawn into the album until the string section of Méditation grisâtre kicked in. But after having listened to the album several times now, I think that the pacing was constructed deliberately. This album goes from fast and angry to mid-paced and thoughtful, and eventually winding down to a depressing end. It’s almost a downward spiral into despair, which I think is perfect for the mood they are trying to convey. The middle section of the penultimate song, Remords posthume, is perfect for depressive black metal.
However, I will say that the first few songs are not my favourite. They are just too standard for what I want from this band. Likewise, these opening three songs cannot be compared to some of Nocturnal Depression’s past material. These songs could be written by any black metal band, to be frank. However, once the spiral starts to move downward, like on the aforementioned Méditation grisâtre or the epic Remords posthume, Nocturnal Depression settles into its sound and writes some amazingly depressive music. I probably would have rated this album higher if they stuck to just the short opening song and L’isolement, but to follow it with Acédie, another standard black metal piece, rather than Méditation grisâtre, a Nocturnal Depression gem, stilted the album too much and threw off the pacing for me. Like I said though, the latter two/thirds of the album is classic Nocturnal Depression, so be sure to check it out.