Progressive metal in 2017 is probably in the best form of the style’s history. With countless bands pushing the boundaries of both the genre and indeed, the sound itself, to new and exciting places, for bands that are bubbling under the surface ready to break through, the time has never been better. Hoping for their place in the sun, Costa Rican outfit NOSTOC hope to break down the door into the progressive metal scene through their debut effort, Ævum, but does this debut slab of progressive metal do enough to hold its own against the stiff competition?
Opening with A Path To Ascend, NOSTOC waste no time in showboating their musical proficiency. Clocking in at over nine minutes, the first track weaves an expansive soundscape where dazzling and intricate riffing from guitarists David Miranda and Freddy Lopez swirl like a tornado whilst Emmanuel Calderón executes consistent double bass blasts from the drums with absolute ease. With consistent and irregular dives in pace keeping you on your toes and venomous guttural snarls from Freddy Lopez hitting hard, instantly the versatility of NOSTOC is made apparent from the off. It’s a strong opening to the record.
Largely, across Ævum‘s seven tracks NOSTOC opt for a shock and awe approach through a blistering execution of intertwining riffing, bombastic vocal snarls and machine gun fire drumming. Saturnian Mindscope Introspection boasts regular time signature changes that swing like a metronome before cascading into a dual blast of double bass drumming and a guitar tones that screams influence from GOJIRA whilst Imbued in Æther boasts one of the strongest riffs on the record that carries the track before divulging into a breathtaking solo that really helps the track stand on its own two feet.
Whilst the band have opted to focus on the death metal side of the progressive metal coin, there are moments that showcase NOSTOC‘s melodic edge. Towards the latter end of The Artisan, once the explosive blasts from the band subside their technical edge is brought to the forefront through solitary lead guitar play and a steady bassline from Jorge Camacho that creates a dream-like state before giving way to an explosive conclusion. Similarly, at the mid way point of closing track Delirium an inclusion of an instrumental melody and slick solo guitar playing adds a massive breathe of fresh air to NOSTOC‘s sound, showcasing that they are more than just another technical death metal band.
However, it’s disappointing that these melodic moments of class are few and far between. There’s nothing wrong for opting to push the extreme nature of the style to the forefront and NOSTOC execute that well, but with the melodic edge taking a back seat for the majority of Ævum‘s duration, the record does begin to drag. It is these niggling issues where Ævum fails to hit the mark. Whilst having long and expansive songs certainly allows NOSTOC to full explore their wide soundscape, there are times where it feels forced. For example, whilst The Anamnesic Voyage displays another dosage of blistering riffs, the sheer length of the track impacts the music negatively, making it feel dragged out and as a result, the end result falls short compared to the record’s best moments.
Ævum is a record that is ambitious in its musical presentation. This is a record that pushes NOSTOC‘s extremity to the forefront and there are moments that are so thunderously emphatic, it makes it hard to believe this is the band’s debut effort. Whilst there are several niggling issues that need addressing for the band to truly shine, the overall experience of Ævum is strong. Given more time to develop and hone their craft, then NOSTOC could indeed rise through the ranks in the progressive metal scene.
Ævum is set for release on August 7 via self-release.
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