Album Review: Naraka - In Tenebris
Reviewed by Sam Jones
So here we have the upcoming debut album from French Death metal act Naraka that I checked out quite recently. It may be a debut album by the band but we mustn’t think these guys are totally green. With seasoned veterans of the French metal scene, Naraka seem poised to give us something powerful and yet surprisingly adept in its delivery. Hailing out of Paris, France the band are a fairly recent genesis of meme era coming together to create something the French scene can be proud of exuding and judging by their various social media biographies they’re more than excited to support Fleshed Apocalypse and Carach Angren in their upcoming European tour.
What we get initially out of the album as the first seconds play out is an orchestral introduction but of a darker and far more malevolent variant in the vein of SepticFlesh where the symphonic aspect is being utilised but not in the typically grand guise as Fleshgod Apocalypse would adopt. I hope that this isn’t the only time we hear this symphonic edge to their record because it was dripping with atmosphere. What continuously impressed me was the band’s commitment to giving us more than we may have initially expected. Those orchestral elements are peppered all throughout the album’s duration and yet I’m glad it’s not so absolutely peppered that it would start to detract your attention away from the primary band’s instrumentation because that’s clearly where their intentions are solidified most of all. It’s just great to acknowledge how the band are committed to giving us more than a straight up death metal sound, blowing up previously conceived horizons on this record and giving us something far grander and dramatic. In addition the implementation of female vocals, particularly during their first on record usage with the one and only Veronica Bordachinni of Fleshgod Apocalypse reputation throughout Of Blood And Tears only helps the band continue to broaden what the audience may now come to expect from them. Veronica’s inclusion here is great as not only will prior Fleshgod fans hear a slightly reserved performance from her but it helps to instil that belief in Naraka for where they may be destined to end up. Even greater is how they don’t just feel like some throwaway trope or fad simply because it’s a popular method to implement these days, it comes across as a genuinely warranted and effective piece of the band’s songwriting arsenal. From here on out, even this early on in the record’s timeframe, the audience will come to now expect anything Naraka have up their sleeves. Especial mention is deserving to Lindsay Schoolcraft (Ex-Cradle Of Filth) for her performance here on Mother Of Shadows, it may only be a slight cameo if you will but she brings great energy and an equally great performance here.
The drums here hit like a train not merely because of the intensity at which they’re being struck at, but the explosion of bass that comes with them too. Now the album itself sounds great as the vocals are prominent and at the forefront of the band’s performance and the main guitar riff equally as audible however that additional implementation of bass from the drums really aids the band’s presence as you receive a full onslaught of power directly to your senses. What’s more this might be one of the most direct and well mixed in Tom-Tom drum sound I’ve heard in a while; the strike that’s made in regards to this drum is so satisfying that you can practically visualise the skin of the drum reverberating and relaxing before and following the strike is made. It helps the band to establish a rather vivid portrayal of the drums in your mind and you can’t help but feel like they’re an especially standout section of the album’s instrumentation. Cursed is the first main track on this record and serves as a prime example as to the effectiveness of the drumming’s capacity herein.
The guitar work is rather modern in the vein of a rather modern tone, the band clearly went to good lengths to ensure they had a strong production quality to boot which is never a bad thing even when diehard metalheads can also completely champion raw and dirtier productions and mixing efforts. . There is an increasing array of riff and guitar techniques as you continue to love your way through the record, (severely pinched harmonics being one of them amongst others, fans of Gojira will certainly find themselves at home here) the general tone of the album is one that couples sledgehammer-esque riffs with songwriting that manages to create soundscapes both formidable in their crushing weight and murky, near ethereal miasma where the band are capable of really bringing the tempo of their performance down and instil a far more undefined, unrefined scenario for you to feel lost within. This is what I really came to enjoy about the record, it is very much a modern death metal sound that much is a given from the first tracks onward but within the same timeframe as well the band also get to work at immediately offering up more perspectives and ideas than just the simple crashing and crushing death metal aesthetic. There are periods where the songwriting will take on that more superfluous style and it’s like becoming lost within your own consciousness. These methods help to elevate Naraka from your run of the mill modern metal band to a group that’s increasingly becoming worth your attention.
I appreciate how the band have also paid attention to how they structure their record too, I wasn’t anticipating it. Granted we get that initial introductory piece but we also get a mid-way orchestral piece in the name of Antra Daemonium, it’s only a short piece but then again that’s all it would need to be. It just helps to break up the album into two discernible sections easing up the audience’s experience of the record so that it’s not just one constant slog through eleven tracks but also to just rein in the intensity a touch from what proves to be an already hard hitting and effective death metal album. It’s the little things. Such as the versatility in the vocal range too, and it’s not simply the female vocals being used either. The primary vocals are this tonally resolute and emboldened affair which hit just as hard as any drum or riff iteration however one example that springs to mind of how they can be completely altered and still be just as effective comes from Sleeping In Silence. Here they take on a more abstract and lofty presence which suits the track in question seeing as it’s the most removed and most almost Tool-reminiscent track Naraka have to offer. Not only does it widen our views on what form the vocals may take but it’s also another grand leap into the dark for audiences in experiencing what this album only continues to demonstrate to you.
My favourite tracks off this album are The Black, Darkbringer and The Great Darkness. In conclusion, closing out the album with Compendium Maleficarum which feels like an apt bookmarked ending against their mid-way orchestral piece, Naraka demonstrate they deserve to have some eyes kept trained on them as they only continue to churn out more material. In Tenebris gives you material to enjoy without feeling like your senses are under duress and dire assault all the while the riffs and songwriting are evidently going hard and not holding back from what they’re here to do. This is a record that is only going to keep giving you more and new things to discover and enjoy and replaying as you go from one track to the next, this is a very organic record in this respect whereby each track is going to give you something a little different. Upon news that the band will be supporting Fleshgod Apocalypse in Europe in their upcoming tour comes as no surprise to me, Naraka are this very subtle fusion of Septicflesh and Gojira that fans of both bands are assured to thoroughly enjoy. I certainly recommend this record for when it releases generally come October 8th, it’s certainly worth your time.