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The Noctambulant – Hellrazor Award winner

The Noctambulant
Hellrazor
by Gary Hernandez at 16 April 2021, 5:59 PM

THE NOCTAMBULANT (definition: that which walks or moves around at night, e.g., night walker) out of Jacksonville, Florida, crafts Melodic Black Metal with a Southern flare. They formed in 2013 and have cranked out a steady flow of material since then, including two full-length albums and four EPs, the last of which, “Hellrazor,” was released on March 5, 2021. The EP is a scant 17 minutes with five tracks, but they are exquisite specimens of blackened metal.

I usually don’t start off a review by mentioning production values, but I’ll make an exception here. So many Black Metal albums are produced on the lo-fi side of the spectrum. Most of that, of course, is an intentional aesthetic, so you can understand my surprise when eight seconds into this album I actually heard a deeply resonate bass line.  And separation, and rich layering, and no grayscape — though plenty of atmosphere and plenty of distorted db. As I listened through the entire EP, over and over again, I realized this wasn’t your typical BM project, this was an actual Black Metal power trio. Three talented musicians laying down some kick ass tracks complemented with well-conceived lyrics and showcasing a wide range of musical influences.

The band says they specialize “in a dark, atmospheric sound that invokes the blackest of northern tenets while never ignoring titan hooks that keep listeners coming back.” That perfectly captures it. They go on to cite influences like “blues, rockabilly, goth rock, and American country.” While that may true, it’s more of an amalgamation or fusion than simulation or mimicry. What I mean is, you’re not going to be able to pick a song and say, “yep, that’s hillbilly Jesus done up with a twist of SWBM” or “that’s Duane Allman played in a down-tuned tempo with side of tremolo and a tall glass of sweat tea.” THE NOCTAMBULANT is their own unique thing.

Lyrically, the songs are one part evil, one part social commentary, and one part fun. The band is smart and insightful, but they also don’t take themselves too seriously. The album starts off with a two-minute intro simply called “Devils in the Dirt,” a homage to Aaron Oberon’s 2019 book, “Southern Cunning: Folkloric Witchcraft in the American South.” The track is a dark ambient piece with haunting keyboards, faux choral harmony, under-the-breath whisperings, and a gorgeous tremolo solo. Following is the title track and one of my favorites: “Hellrazor,” a cutting critique on the hypocrisy of religious traditions in general and the Southern Baptist church in specific. Trivia: the video for the track was recorded on E. Helvete’s family land in Florida.

“Blackened Swords of Satan” is another standout track and blends Stoner Metal sensibilities with Black Metal ferocity. It also features a guest appearance by Damage Karlsen (CHROME DIVISION). The track is simply epic, in every sense of the word. It’s DIO meets VENOM. Track four, “GHBM,” might be my favorite track on the album. E. Helvete says it’s a play on a cautionary tale he used to hear growing up in the South. It’s a bit of the end of the world and a bit fire and brimstone preaching — you know, stories you tell kids. As far as the title . . . well, that’s anyone’s guess. If leetspeak is your thing, then have a go. The album rounds out with “Troll Crusher,” which might be the heaviest track on the album. It’s another fantasy piece rendered against a backdrop of an unrelenting vicious assault of aggression and perdition.

The album was recorded during the COVID isolation year with each member recording their pieces then Daniel Thabet (Liquid Studios) handling the mixing and mastering. And as noted earlier, he does a superb job. When people think of Southern Metal they often think of sludgy Doom. THE NOCTAMBULANT may be shifting that narrative.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1.  Intro
2.  Hellrazor
3.  Blackened Swords of Satan
4.  GHBM
5.  Troll Crusher
Lineup:
Lars G. – Bass
D. Franseth – Drums
E. Helvete – Guitars, vocals
Record Label: Independent
     


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Edited 11 May 2021
 

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