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Noltem – Illusions In The Wake

Noltem
Illusions In The Wake
by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 23 August 2021, 6:26 AM

NOLTEM is an atmospheric black metal band from Connecticut, United States.  I can’t be certain but they appeared to have formed in 2003 and released a demo in 2005.  After an EP, in 2015 they released their full length debut album, “Illusions In The Wake.”

With “Illusions In The Wake,” NOLTEM have released quite the colorful and immersive album.  This may be their first full length but they obviously have years of experience…and they seem to have channeled all that into this six track, forty minute long album. Their over all sound is rooted in black metal but this isn’t cult darkness but rather beautiful songs that are melodic yet heavy.  The two genres often blend together but I heard a lot of post too, especially how their songs are built by layers and waves of instrumentation.  Their canvas is a wide open space, an endless landscape they paint over with their music.

The vocals are blackened growls and screams that never sound out of place in the songs and actually go a long way into pouring so much emotion into them. John’s often time tortured vocals work hand in hand with the guitar melodies and musical passages.    He is the drummer as well and grasps how to make drums a more atmospheric instrument.  Although obviously used for rhythm and foundation purposes, drums can also be used to spread energy around and push out feelings in between the other instruments—-John hits home with this.

The compositions are free flowing, with a natural and organic way to them.  “Breezy” is another word I used to describe the songs as well. I don’t mean to say they are light weight or easy listening but  all these interconnected pieces seem to float into the next one with ease.  This makes the album seemingly go by quicker than its forty minutes but it also means that multiple listens are a must and each one will be enjoyable as the last.  The album could be more aggressive in places as I think that would better balance out their sound.

Figment,” begins with sound of waves upon the shore that mixes into the guitar as the song begins.  The riffs are distorted but infused with these wonderful melodies that carry me far out, not unlike the ocean once it grabs you.  Thudding bass lines are fused into the very fabric of the song, laying down a low end is also world building in its own right. The acoustic guitars give the song, and band/album in general, a folk feel as well but they help breathe constant life into the songs and I am thankful for their inclusion as they are nice little pieces of the musical puzzle and help hold it all together.

The title track is both melancholic and somewhat bluesy in the beginning stages.  I liked how the guitar riffs sound like they are moving upwards, an animal clawing out for escape.  This song is very fulfilling at the 2:09 mark where the clean vocals fill the back ground up while the foreground is made up of black metal screams and moving bass.  The guitar comes out of the background and all these elements, these pieces, just swirl together for an incredible mix. About halfway thru, the band lets their black metal side shine thru for a short but sweet take the song’s overall sound.  The drums are especially gripping but I had a hard time letting go of the melodic bass that stands out on its own but keeps supplying that important undercurrent.

Beneath The Dreaming Blue,” fades in with the drums building up the tension while the guitar does the same with clean notes.  Just as a sickening blackened growl cuts in, the whole band lays down the hammer. This song is a fine example of how to be extreme with heaviness without being overbearing or pulling too far way from what came before. Some of the best riffs are in this song and the way they come and go out of this atmospheric muck is impressive, as are the guitar solos with shine through it all with soaring melodies. The last few minutes of the song are focused on pummeling black metal and it is a nice change of pace to have this song which bridges the gap between the varying styles and elements presented within.

Submerged,” is a short but sweet instrumental interlude that connects the album’s halves together and blends coherently into the tracks it is sandwich between.  More often than, interludes are pointless filler but this one is done right. “Ruse,” is the longest song on the album and is the centerpiece somewhat.  The rolling riffs and bass glide over the drums.  As the drums change their tempo and tactics, so do the guitars which come off their high and build into more riff based structures.  The vocals cut in and the whole band turns their musical into a cinematic tapestry.  This is a song where the instruments, on an individual basis, don’t stand out per say but instead create a bigger picture.  In that sense, it is a progressive track and one that has many elements weaving in and out.  “Ruse,” is a great example of the sound the band was trying to for with this album and represents their song writing approach well.

On Shores Of Glass,” is an instrumental song that goes a step further than pulling on the heart strings by just ripping them out.  The vocals may be gone but there are words within the songs—your own emotions, thoughts, and endless desires come pouring out and throw themselves upon the mercy of the many amazing passages of the song.  The lead guitar alone could make even the most hardened person take a step back and just….let themselves be taken away.

Illusions In The Wake,” is an album that shows how important black metal is—and how thought provoking and adventurous it cane be. Both gorgeous and unrelenting in its own ways, NOLTEM have crafted one hell of an album.

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

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Figment
2. Illusions in the Wake
3. Beneath the Dreaming Blue
4. Submerged
5. Ruse
6. On Shores of Glass
Lineup:
Max Johnson – Guitars, Bass, Keys
John Kerr – Drums, Vocals
Shalin Shah - Bass
Record Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
     


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