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Noctambulist – The Barren Form

The Barren Form
by Tommy Mulhern at 24 June 2021, 4:52 PM

One of my favourite lines from one of my favourite books, George Orwell’s “1984”, goes: “if you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever”. It just cries out misery and desolation. It is pretty much the first thing that came to mind when I first listened to “The Barren Form" and read its lyrics. And it is little wonder that those other purveyors of hopelessness ANAAL NATHRAKH use it on their cataclysmic song “Do Not Speak". Both they and NOCTAMBULIST wear pretty much the same brand of bile tinted glasses when it comes to their outlook, along with a few other similarities. Both have absolutely no time for joy, and the few minutes of ambient reprieve they use are only a bleak reminder that the onslaught is coming again very soon. It takes a special kind of misanthrope to want to recreate pure woe through music, and sadly, my friends, we have four of them here… Yes!!!

Formed in Denver, Colorado in 2016, NOCTAMBULIST sure did hit the ground running. Their very accomplished debut, “Atmospheres of Desolation", that came out in 2019, was as good as anything released that year. With the bar duly raised, this album was very eagerly anticipated within the genre, and rightly so. It doesn’t take long into the first listen to see that they knew it was, and that they did everything that they could to make it as good as it could be. The production is a massive improvement this time; every instrument is easy to make out, even the bass which normally suffers. They are also confident enough to indulge in two- and three-minute pieces of eerie and discordant soundscapes in every song, which gives them another very welcome shade. It just seems that not a second was left to chance and it shows in the record’s clarity and poise.

The album itself starts with the sinisterly abjection of “Exordium", which sets the tone perfectly. It’s subtle hints at the chaos to come ring true when “Depletion” kicks in, an eight-minute showcase of the bands nuanced style. There are strong similarities to CRYPTOPSY or GORGUTS when it’s straight death metal, and they switch to something akin to PORTAL on their more blackened parts; but the predominant inspiration here is definitely ULCERATE. It’s an inspirational mix of sounds because it keeps it devastatingly heavy and unrelenting while remaining interesting all the time. The charge continues with “Infinitesimal” and on into “Engulfed", with the latter featuring DREADNOUGHT’S Kelly Schilling as a guest vocalist. Things slow a little on “Contrivance” before finishing on a super heavy note with the closer “Dissolution”, which includes a great ending for any metal album in its last minute or so. Six songs of tough love, written large, and a new star is born in drummer Michael Nolan. The bar has been reached with loads to spare.

When it’s done right, this blackened type of death metal will always deliver on aggression and malice. The one thing that sets the best of this genre apart is their ability to make their albums a little unique, without damaging the integrity of the sound. ULCERATE did it last year, with my hands down album of 2020, “Stare Into Death And Be Still"; and I think NOCTAMBULIST have done it to some degree here too. It’s a very good effort again from a band that is definitely getting better with each release. Ironic perhaps that the future has never looked brighter for these dystopian despots.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 7
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Exordium
2. Depletion
3. Infinitesimal
4. Engulfed
5. Contrivance
6. Dissolution
Michael Nolan – Drums
Sean Mc Connell – Vocals
R.H. – Bass guitar
Andreas Tee – Guitars and Ambience
Record Label: Willowtip Records


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Edited 28 May 2023

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