This is a pretty cool release.
UMBRA NIHIL play a spacey variety of hard-rocking Doom that draws from a wide spectrum of influences, and if the term “hard-rocking Doom” sounds like an oxymoron, please accept on faith that in this case, it is accurate.
The album opens with the 11+ minute opus “Welcome To The Borderland,” a track with multiple movements that draw upon musical conventions from over 30 years of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal evolution. The guitar has that low-fi, single-coil tinny quality of 1960's guitar-god Hard Rock, while the vocals get the spaced-out modulation of early BLACK SABBATH tunes such as “Electric Funeral.” This all gives way to palm-muted mid-tempo riffing that is reminiscent of 1980's Thrash to close out the song. The following track, “Open The Gate,” continues in similar fashion, progressing through slower, palm-muted riffs layered over spacey sound effects.
The band have engineered some fantastic sounds on the guitars and bass. They seem to have cranked up the volume on the amplifiers, while keeping the overall recording volume low. Doing so, they have captured a really dirty distortion on both instruments, while keeping the overall sound clean. The listener can really hear the vibration of the amplifier cases, without getting a corresponding muffled sound in the recording.
UMBRA NIHIL have dedicated serious attention to the arrangements, offering subtleties throughout the album to reward the attentive listener. “Sea Of Sleep” offers several layers of mellow guitar, that is simple, yet evocative The sense of tranquility that this creates is shattered by the interruption of distorted, slightly faster riffing, that after a few minutes retreats as quickly as it arrived.
Vocal style is adjusted throughout to suit the particular needs of not only the individual songs, but of specific sections within the songs. The bulk of the singing is done in a grittier Doom style typical of some of the genre's forefathers (think SAINT VITUS and PENTAGRAM, along with the obvious BLACK SABBATH). Yet this style is not used to exclusion, as “Open The Gate” contains some Black Metal-style rasping, and “Leaving The Body” is mostly comprised of a low growl more typical of Funeral Doom. This intermingling of vocal approaches compels the atmosphere of the music to keep pace as the lyrical mood shifts between and among individual tracks.
This is Doom of a more metaphysical, as opposed to depressive or epic nature. Otherworldly lyrics and spacey effects permeate the disc, creating an atmosphere that is rather hallucinogenic. UMBRA NIHIL make skilled use of tried and true convention, while at the same time adding their own twist, and have created something memorable.
(Online March 1, 2009)