Noctiferia – ‘Pax’ [Review]
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the metal side of the music business shuts down. Fans of heavy music across the world use the festive season to hibernate, nurse their bangovers, get drunk, and sharpen their skills on FIFA while the pop side of the music world excretes yet another warbling X Factor karaoke puppet and shoppers get smothered under a tidal wave of Now That’s What I Call Christmas! CDs. All goes quiet on the metal front until the new year hits.
If the Christmas warmup period is leaving you bored and craving some fresh metallic stimulation, Noctiferia have the answer in the form of their latest album, Pax. The Slovenian metal titans have managed to consistently evolve their sound with every release, and Pax marks their arrival at the destination hinted at by their development over their previous two albums, Per Aspera and Death Culture. Death Culture saw Noctiferia tone down Per Aspera’s impenetrable walls of death-metal shred and move firmly away from its run-down production style – and now, Pax sees the adoption of extra-deep drum grooves and more accessible songs. Per Aspera and Pax are worlds apart.
Pax may be less intense than Noctiferia’s earlier efforts in terms of cognitive overwhelm, but there’s no hint of inauthentic compromise in there. Rather, it’s clearly the result of a creatively nomadic band moving into new territory; you only have to look at Noctiferia’s back catalogue to see that these guys are never going to sit and stagnate in one place. What’s more, on Pax Noctiferia haven’t just become more accessible – they’ve also managed to combine a wide range of metal styles into a sound they can really call their own.
Take Sleeper Is Awake, for instance. There’s plenty of Meshuggah’s influence in there, just as there is in countless other underground metal tracks – but there’s also a healthy dose of Rammstein-esque bombast, as well as shades of the death-metal-flavoured intensity present throughout Death Culture and Per Aspera. Gaga People opens with a quirky synth melody that quickly gives way to one of my favourite opening lyrics of 2014 and that pure djent riff; Cellulite Of This World pulses and pounds beneath epic and versatile vocals putting the flawed modern world to rights; and The Falsifier salutes in Slipknot’s direction with basement-dwelling whirlwind guitars. At every turn, something fresh yet familiar is introduced and immediately assimilated into an overall experience that defies metal-centred subgenre boundaries.
Although there’s no doubt that Noctiferia can be easily and simply categorised as a metal band, Pax just sounds like Noctiferia. There’s no other way of accurately summing it up. Metal has been around for a long time, and it’s fucking awesome to hear music made by bands capable of more than just formulaic copycatting and desperate trend-chasing. On Pax, Noctiferia have done what every great band needs to do in order to become great in the first place – take what’s come before, smash it all together, and refine the results until something unique emerges.
TMMP RATING: 93%
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