Janvs - Nigredo - (8.5/10)
Published on March 22, 2014
When a band decides to re-record an old release, it immediately smacks of a quick cash-grab or creative drought. Sketchy motivations aside, such endeavors have a tendency to completely miss what made the original recordings stand out, sacrificing soul for accessibility, or ending up thoroughly redundant. In the case of Italian power-trio Janvs, none of the above seems to apply. Their inaugural demo Nigredo was released in 2004, and to put it bluntly, sounds like muddy Burzum-worship. Three years later they followed it up with the majestic Fvlgvres, and 2008’s otherworldly Vega cemented Janvs as a truly original but bizarrely under-appreciated group. And then there was silence.
Janvs’ return comes in the form of a completely re-recorded and rearranged version of their debut, featuring founding members Malphas and Vinctor, joined by m:A Fog (who also drummed on Vega). The tracklist has been shuffled around, with two lackluster interludes being removed in favor of a cover of Enslaved’s “793 – Slaget Om Lindisfarne”, which previously featured on the compilation Önd – A Tribute To Enslaved. As the cherry on top, stunning new artwork is provided by the talented Italian designer Franscesco Demelli.
Nigredo is not simply a re-recording, it is a complete re-imagining of the cold and harsh atmospheres that characterized the 2004 demo. Some vastly improved production values transforms the original rawness into a sprawling epic, perfectly suited to Janvs’ later output. While the basic structure of the songs are still heavily indebted to Filosofem, the dynamic and crisp-sounding bass adds a decidedly warmer feeling to the frigid riffing. The addition of more sophisticated keys brings the material in line with Fvlgvres, though Nigredo is decidedly more melancholic where the former efforts bore strong signs of euphoria.
As the previously grim trappings put considerable constraints on Nigredo, Janvs anno 2014 is a powerhouse of atmospheric black metal, flirting heavily with the characteristic wall of sound so prominent with many post-black groups. The repetitious riffs are hypnotic and trancelike, with completely rewritten Italian lyrics adding a sense of longing and nostalgia. Tracks like “Suicido” carry tremendous emotional weight, with every sorrowful riff recalling lost glories and opaque despondency. “Rovina” is a more sanguine beast, perfectly bridging Nigredo with the profound magnificence of Fvlgvres.
Closing the album on an ambitious note, the band is joined by Enslaved-guitarist Ivar Bjørnson for their rendition of the classic “793”. As previously mentioned, this version was originally conceived for a tribute-compilation, but is a great addition to Nigredo. Janvs retain the bombast of the original, while adding their own unique brand of cosmic yearning. A triumphant romp, the song stands in some contrast to the preceding numbers, though the band’s distinct sound preserves a sense of continuity.
It’s undeniable that I would have preferred some actual new material, but Nigredo proves to be a compelling argument for rewriting discographies. By trawling the depths Janvs have greatly improved upon their debut, which now sits comfortably amongst the greatness of Fvlgvres and Vega. Fans of Woods Of Desolation and their ilk should take note, as this criminally underrated trio is way overdue for a broader audience.