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Nephren-Ka – From Agony To Transcendence

Nephren-Ka
From Agony To Transcendence
by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 26 June 2021, 7:32 AM

NEPHREN-KA is a brutal death metal band from France who formed in 2006.  “From Agony To Transcendence,” is their third full length album; they have also released a demo and an EP. Unlike a lot of brutal death metal, NEPHREN-KA doesn’t focus on depraved, mindless violence (not that there is anything wrong with bands that do) but instead focus on speaking about Frank Herbet’s sci-fi saga Dune.  I was a pretty big Dune fan back in the day and, of course, I love death metal so…hell yes, bring this brutal Dune saga to life!  Of course, not one word of Sylvain’s excellent vocal delivery can be understood so they really could be talking about anything. But just knowing this crushing band is growling and playing about a subject that is near and dear to me is comforting and makes all the difference.

What I found refreshing is the band sticks to their guns and roots of the genre.  So many bands try to add in elements of their subject matter such as trying to sound futuristic or alien. However,  NEPHREN-KA eschew all that, sticking to what is really important: head slamming brutal death metal that will beat you down like a sack of rocks across the spine.  That isn’t to say there are not little sparks of sci-fi atmosphere here and there but the band for the most parts stays on their bludgeoning path.  The band isn’t treading new ground but I don’t that was their goal anyway.  Not every album needs to be unique or out there….some albums just needs to be what they are.  And this is death fucking metal and all is right in the world.

The production on this album is loud and clear but I don’t find this to be a problem at all.  Depending on the type of death metal, I actually think production with a nice sheen can help a band.  Old school death metal?  I’ll take a dirty production, please.  But something like this?  Where the drums are a constant torrential of smashed to piece snare kits and double bass that sounds like four thousand motorcycles?  I need clear because otherwise it would become too muddy and that wall of sound won’t work with it.  As ironic as it may seem, the band’s brutality and uncompromising nudge towards the edge of death actually sounds even more thunderous because I can hear it better.

As far as the instrumental portion goes, the band is a well oiled machine.  Although their technical abilities are obviously through the rough, they don’t show it off like some bands nor are they content on simple minded caveman riffs. They strike a nice balance between the varying degrees of death metal and it helps the album flow very smoothly.  Brutal death metal songs do tend to blend together but the tight song writing on the album and its 41 minute length run time help keep that from happening as much.

The opening track, “L’Abomination” is beyond brutal within the very first second….primal screams, hellish growls, freight train drumming, dense bass, and speedy riffs make it a very immediate song that is all climax.  Oddly enough the vocals are catchy in places, with the way they are spat out against the back drop of this immeasurable intensity.  The song itself may give no room for pause but the solo is much more methodical and quite a bit slower……I really like the contrast between it and the song.

L’Agonie De l’epice” is held together by bass guitar that could flatten a mountain…the tone is DEEP.  Around the one minute mark, the rhythm breaks up, moving in odd ways around the rest of the song and when these elements smash back into each other about thirty second later, the sound is so thick you can cut it with a knife. Just as my head was about to cave in from the pressure, the song stops after the four minute mark for a symphonic passage that spices (hahaha, see what I did there?) the song up pleasurably. Some may want the band to use more elements like that but it is good they don’t overuse them as well.

Vision Of The Secher Nbiw” is one of my favorites on the album…it kind of has a NILE feel to it, especially with the way the drums slide down the riffs.   The vocals are insane on this one too…and that is saying something.  The slower portions of the track, such as the one around the 1:45 mark, feed in even more power.   When the band stops and takes their time, they gain more traction and it holds very well.  Another slick solo comes out from behind the hammering rhythm and what a well done piece of music it is!  I just love the solos on the album and this song has one of the best ones for sure.

Conspiracy for the Fall of the Atreides and the Reclaim of the Golden Lion's Throne” is a lot to say but it is also a song with a lot going for it.  The screams and growls trade off blows in the beginning, which only adds to the frantic disposition.  The lead guitar throws in a lot of little harmonies and counter melodies, filling the song to the brim with everything and the kitchen sink.   The last minute or so of the song sees the band slowing down the grind again and its just…a huge boulder that cannot be stopped but it kills you slowly.

The last track, “Sea of Sand,” is perhaps my favorite on the album.  I can’t really explain it but it has a certain atmosphere to it that make sit stand out from the other tracks.  Around the 46 second mark a guitar lead lets off the bomb that is the drums and the song just goes for broke and the riffs/bass get super interesting, imagery provoking and even poetic in a “rip your face off” kind of way.  The last fifty two seconds on the clock sees the song descending further into the depths of unadulterated heaviness but what way to end this album.

All in all, NEPHREN-KA’s  “From Agony To Transcendence” is an album that will fight nicely in the collection of any death metal fan, especially if you like the deep, hard underground.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. L'abomination
2. Corioli Storm
3. L'agonie de l'Épice
4. Sedition
5. Vision of the Secher Nbiw
6. Levenbrech Sardaukar
7. Conspiracy for the Fall of the Atreides and the Reclaim of the Golden Lion's Throne
8. Abu Dhur le père des routes indéfinies du temps
9. Sea of Sand
Lineup:
Sébastien Briat - Guitars, Vocals (Backing)
Thibaud Pialoux -Drums
Dimitri Boudon - Bass
Sylvain Bayle - Vocals
Record Label: Dolorem Records
     


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