'The Nocturnal Chaos'
Hailing from the Massif Central region of France, where relatively little seems to happen, The Nocturnal Chaos exude the reflective attitude which one grows accustomed to in the stunning landscapes of the Massif. The addictive grooves, striking guitar tone and ever-present ambience question the brain without ever taking too strong a precedence, and the emotions brought forth in the work deserve a better setting than the confines of your bedroom: a deserted, frost-bitten hillside or leafy woodland are drawn to my mind, echoing the feeling I often get when listening to Gojira and Uneven Structure, although to a slightly toned down scale. This is understandable; it is a debut release, and all bands develop their sound extensively over time.
The relation to Gojira and Uneven demonstrates that there is a definite correlation between French metal acts in terms of subject material and overall feel and approach. For example, the polyphonic guitar and broken-chord picking effect used to play chords and convey harmony are present in the work of all the bands so far mentioned, and the comparison can also be traced back as far as the early 80’s, when bands like The Cure (who were very popular in France) were experimenting with the drenching ambience and trippy clean guitar which we find in much underground French music today. The trippy ambient sound was taken a step further by bands such as God Is An Astronaut, Russian Cirles and Sigur Rós, who epitomise the post-rock scene which began in the early 2000's, and their more extreme and modern approach (making use of more complex guitar sounds and bigger ambiences) bears some relation to what we hear in this EP. The work of Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) can also be felt occasionally in 'The Nocturnal Chaos', though not as prominently as in Uneven or worC. Guitarist Benoit Agard has also often expressed admiration for Ganesh Rao (who mixed and mastered the EP and guest-featured on the final track of the EP 'A Brighter Future') and his work, which, along with that of Cloudkicker, is definitely a huge influence on the ever-present riffs and groove refracted throughout the EP from every angle (Ben Sharp's songwriting in general has clearly inspired much of this bands inner workings).
In terms of songs, there are a number of stand-out moments that really show the potential this act has: ‘Rise Of The Cold Dawn’ is one of my favourite instrumental tracks of the year and really captures the core elements that make The Nocturnal Chaos who they are. The simplicity of the song structure keeps it very well grounded, and the riff from 2:00 minutes is perfect – the ambience is never just put on over the top, but folds around the track excellently, giving harmonic juxtaposition and creating a lot of suspension which mirror the harmonic implications found often in Gojira; they show that a harmonic semitone is all it takes to violently change the feel of a song. ‘Ex Nihilo’ is another standout; the exquisite riffs just exude confidence, and again the ambience gives the music a whole extra dimension. The awesome tone that the guitarists have developed really gives a lot of weight to the riffs, and the band are well aware of the need for dynamic variety, shown by their effective use of ambient guitar sections towards the end and variant phrases of palm-muting. ‘Apex of Humanity’ is toned down a little in terms of volume and adds variety, demonstrating that they can push themselves away from the djent box, which often gets dry pretty quickly. However, for me the final track, ‘A Brighter Future’, moves this band into a whole new dimension in terms of dynamic and rhythmic complexity, and the work of Ganesh in this song comes through very clearly. Some of the moods and emotions conjured up here evoke strong thoughts of “Thall” (principally Vildhjarta and Uneven Structure), something I hope this band will continue to experiment with in future works.
If there was one weakness in this album, it would be the drums: as I have said before, programmed drums have to be done extremely well to generate the complexity and sonic quality that live musicians do (the only recordings to my mind that have been successful in this are ‘Måsstaden’ and ‘Catch Thirtythree’). Such qualities require a lot of skill and money to generate, which is why I implore this band to find themselves a drummer!
Overall, this is a solid debut work which offers some very concrete riffs, excellent guitar tone and, above all, strong scope for development, which is important in every release – there is no such thing as perfection in music, which is why development of a theme or sonic entity is so important if you want to continue making good music. France is currently experiencing a resurgence in great underground music, and this band are definitely a part of that movement, and should continue to be so for some time to come.
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- Armand Jourdain