Torchbearers of black-metal’s past and future share many things in common. For starters, the abandonment of political and societal systems and making music far from the earthly delights of the casual listener. Baltimore’s Nixil hit those notes on this warping second LP, also exploring gnosticism, adversarial forces, existential validation and sacred spaces for their own vibrant take on the genre’s creative form of dread.
If the album cover’s hallucinogenic ritual didn’t cover the bases, opener Collapsing The Poles serves as the textbook blurb, sending us into a case of topsy-turvy worry at the state of things. Whispery echoed vocals drip in—“The South is before us! The North is behind us! The East is left of us! The West is right of us!”—a back-to-front notion leading us to an immediate descent to hell; black metal’s ultimate final destination. Uncompromising throat-groans and blasts of tremolo rhythms and leads build on top of each other as singer C. continues on the same downward-moving journey with creepy allure, “To tear god from above, we lurk below.” I haven’t heard of a god referred to as “bumbling” before, let alone with such a grossed out rasp, and vocal gang shrieks add welcome variation, as well as nifty chord slides and riffs that wouldn’t seem out of place in mathy contexts. Just more evil here, of course.
In Thrall’s theme is similar, “In thrall, forever fall!”, where astronomical forces work outside of our control to drag us through the horror-centric track, featuring a background voice that sounds like one of Macbeth’s weird sisters. Grooves lumber and slow like the mentioned “watching, waiting, brooding, yearning”, while the bubbling of a mystical pot blows everything into a fantastical realm on the title track. We “boil ecstatic as the tail of the dragon ruptures your skin” over musical segues that match the storyline, at times a slow simmer, then a fast scorching of our body and minds through solos and blastbeats. To “sink into the ocean of She Who Consumes All” is both a wicked mythological description of the terrifying force of nature and the feeling of being enraptured by the band’s own hard-hitting drive.
It’s not all one-way tremolo worship either. The closing track begins with ritualistic tribal horns and drums. A Door Never Closed beckons us in the fashion of Black Sabbath’s tritone interval but alien synths restore the cosmic theme. Key’s drumming juggles subtly changing kick speeds. There’s moments of isolated vocals (which are remarkably discernible on the whole) holding back the eruptive drama when we yearn from death’s black musical shroud. On that subject, considering the Devil isn’t explicitly mentioned until the penultimate track (!), there’s plenty of devilish goings on: “To alight to Akeldama. To haunt the burial mounds. […] Oh master who has transcended all and shed the clay of the oppressor, come, come, let me behold thy skeletal visage.” There’s talk of being thrust “unto the black cross” too. You can’t have anything but wretchedness here.
The Way Is The Grave’s repeated refrain “Salve! Salve! I drain my blood into the soil. Salve! Salve!” capitalises on the album’s whole macabre experience of the musicians’ bloodletting, singing “hymns of rebellion” as individualistic expression. With the icy chill glistened by the crunchy production, it turns the theatre of it all onto a main stage rather than the wings black metal’s originators preferred to inhabit, but Nixil still stand as ministers of evil keeping the vanguard’s dark clouds ever looming. Ironically, that’s a very good thing indeed.
For fans of: Taake, Devil Master, Thantifaxath
‘From The Wound Spilled Forth Fire’ by Nixil is released on 25th August on Prosthetic Records.
Words by Elliot Burr