Wednesday 22 November 2023

Nashgul - Oprobrio (2023)

Country: Spain
Style: Death Metal/Grindcore
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 29 Sep 2023
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For a band who mix death metal with grindcore—and shift from one to the other and back in most of these songs—I have to say that Nashgul chug gloriously. That's why some of these tracks actually became earworms for me; when was the last time that happened with a grindcore band? There's a repeated slowdown in Protocolo Deus that has stayed with me, the simple but highly effective riff in Sewers Across gets me every time and there's a real bounce to songs like Rexa Vesania that tell me that they're really punk standards that we haven't heard before that have been given energy and pace beyond our expectations.

Initially, this was all about that mix for me. I've heard a lot of bands who claim to mix death metal with grindcore but few actually do. For the most part, they're either death metal bands who speed up enough to be called grindcore or grindcore bands who slow down every once in a while to churn. Nashgul are that rare example of a band who honestly merge the two because precious few of the sixteen tracks here are just one or the other. They listened to both sides of Scum and weren't quite sure which they preferred more.

Most of them feature frantic sections of grindcore, with vocals so distorted that we can't identify what language is being used—Nashgul are Spanish, hailing from A Coruña in the far northwest of Galicia, but most of these song titles are in English, with what looks like a couple in Spanish, a pair in Galician and two more in Latin—but most of them also feature solid death metal riffing with a voice that's closer to a death growl. Crucially, they shift back and forth constantly between these two sides of their sound with the two vocal styles not necessarily divvied up how we might expect. And then there's that edge of much more traditional punk that occasionally takes over.

Opener Quien puede matar a un niño, for instance, is primarily grindcore, with that deep vocal as unintelligible as words as the faster early Napalm Death tracks, sounding more like gargling with bleach than an attempt to deliver lyrics. The Fake, which is almost entirely spent at frantic speed, reminds of The Kill, with the accompanying pitch shift in the vocals. However, there are drops into growly death metal and into a bouncy old school punk with regular shouted vocals, albeit without any associated drop in energy. Even when they play slow, which they do surprisingly often for what many would hear as grindcore, Nashgul are full of energy, always ready to shift up a gear or three.

Flay Off works the other way round, starting out as an overtly death metal song that occasionally speeds up and adopts those grindcore touches. There's also what I presume is a sample to kick off and it gives the song a different flavour, as if this was political punk. Surely the most unusual intro is on Los que deben seguir muertos, which starts out with prowling electronica, hardly something I expect from either death metal or grindcore. It's almost John Carpenter-esque and it doesn't last long, but it flavours that song just as that sample flavours Flay Off.

And, just to continue flouting our expectations, there are songs that rely so much on the chug that they trawl in genres we simply don't expect. Sewers Across may play mostly in death metal but it's almost doom at points. Buried, But Still Alive, plays in doom too, but with punk feedback overlaid for a while and drumming from Iván that's often much faster than any other aspect of the song. It counts as the joint-longest song here at 3:14 and that's because it's all instrumental churn, Alex a notable absence on this one. While Nashgul do ramp up to grindcore speed often across the album, he's always its most extreme aspect; when he isn't there, the result feels far less extreme.

Oprobrio was a submission for review, so thanks to the band for sending this one over. It's been an odd couple of weeks here at Apocalypse Later, mostly because I've been concentrating on getting a bunch of books ready for publication, so I've had this playing on and off for far longer than tends to be the case. What's telling is that it hasn't got old at all and grindcore has a habit of doing that quickly. I adore the infusion of energy that the genre brings, but it's rarely memorable because it tends to rely so much on that effect. This works as an energy shot of grindcore, but it also works as slab of music to sit down and enjoy.

Nashgul are hardly a prolific band. They've been around since 2001 and they've been featured on a lot of split singles over the years, but this is only their third album, after El día después al fin de la humanidad in 2009 and Cárcava in 2016. A seven year album release schedule isn't ambitious but it works when the quality and versatility are this high. I may not want to wait another seven years to hear their next album, but I'll do it. This is good stuff.

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