As our global society is brought closer and closer as a result of the Internet and other lightning fast communicative technologies, the influx and exposure of foreign bands and musicians continues to increase in frequency at an unprecedented rate; one label that has fully embraced this global mixing is Crucial Blast who bring the United States the domestic release of French outfit Year of No Light's Nord. The band is a four-piece ensemble that wholeheartedly dives into the burgeoning territory that groups like Cult of Luna, Envy, Isis, and Jesu consistently traverse, but Year of No Light brings different sounds to the table and a much different vocal style (strangely reminiscent of the second Deadguy vocalist). My friends and I have an ongoing discussion as the proliferation of this particular take on music gets more popular, and normally I side with the notion that imitators are really starting to pop up and offer nothing more than rehashed versions of the real purveyors of the sound. Thankfully, Year of No Light has their own voice to offer and is not a straight imitation.
Nord is quite a journey that begins with "Sélénite," an instrumental number that is striking in its tunefulness and overall uneasy calm that it exudes. Year of No Light are smart with the use of this opener as it is difficult to pin them down with just this as the introduction and sets a strange mood (kind of has a summer rainstorm feel). Similarly, "Traversée" has a palpable emotional tug as it kind of absentmindedly plows through on its course (however, what they lack in finesse is made up in the quality of their tone). It reminds me a great deal of Old Man Gloom's "Zozobra" (off their Seminar III record) in the guitar tones and rhythms.
Year of No Light makes good use of ambient interludes between a couple of tracks (see "Librium" and "Prosodia") that expand the soundscape that they present on the album. There is a transition in "Les Mains De L'Emperor" that is very clumsy sounding and annoys me that its there because I enjoy the two parts of the song - the second part especially. Actually, this sounds like two completely different songs that are connected haphazardly by this poor transition. Over and over during the course of Nord I am shocked by the amount of subtle beauty that the band imbues in the record; even still, it is tempered by a great deal of distorted noise and harsh vocals to balance it a bit. My favorite track on the album is "Par Economie Pendant La Crise On Etient La Lumiére Au Bout Du Tunnel." It is powerful with an ominously triumphant sound at times, the kind of music that you would expect when the forces of evil are winning a battle in a movie.
Nord is an excellent first album that shows great promise for Year of No Light. If they can make their next record sound a bit more organic and have a bit more steady flow to it than it will be a formidable album that could put them on a trajectory similar to other groups that play this style of music. The expansive sound is there as well, but they also have something that I just simply have a hard time pinning down that makes me enjoy listening to it which bodes well and is a credit to their musical ability. There is enough in Nord to warrant one's attention and they do reward such consideration.
7.2 / 10
Year Of No Light’s emotive instrumental approach is one that embraces the deeper, heavier side of post/sludge/atmospheric music and the cavernous melodies that they dredge up from the darkest pits ...
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