Naberus – Cornerstones and Monoliths
Review By Michael Aronovitz
Naberus will release their sophomore record titled Hollow, worldwide, June 29, 2018, and I look forward to the reaction in the marketplace. Frankly, the music of this project hits you square in the face, and it seems that what has developed as a cornerstone of the Eclipse label is represented here with passion and fury. To be clear, it seems Eclipse has otherwise widened their focus of late, welcoming bands that provide more theater (Coffin Carousel), more progressive brilliance and star-appeal (Sifting), and more aesthetic abstraction (Lillye), yet Naberus waves a thrash / deathcore banner, with fringes of melody and groove, that represents not only the signature sound of Eclipse Records, but modern metal altogether.
Naberus is James Ash on vocals, Dan Ralph on guitar, Jordan Mitchell on bass, Chris Sheppard on drums, and Dante Thompson on guitar. They are from Melbourne, Australia, and the thing one notices with the first notes of Track #1 – “Slaves,” is that Naberus is the whole package, starting with the rhythm section. As far as the drums, rhythm guitars, and bass work, the patterning is complex and absolutely immaculate, tailored to send us somewhere. For me, it felt like flying. Being launched. At the fucking speed of sound.
Chris Sheppard is a beast in terms of percussion, so fast at times that it almost sounds like another instrument. He also plays with an incredible groove, so the overall effect comes off very much like the historical work of Ian Paice, more specifically, the title track on Burn, 1973. Only better. Music has progressed and so have the players. It also seems that the genre itself has evolved, and this is made clear for us in terms of this record when we notice the production values (and the given performances) of the vocals.
James Ash can growl. Quite well, so you can check off that box. The thing is, he can also sing melodic choral hooks, nothing new in itself, but to the point, it is another checkmark, almost like another compulsory or required experience you have to have to even fill out the application. The thing that sets him apart, however, is the idea that while the songs are themed a certain way, with a certain consistency, the vocal lines are delivered through a number of conduits, causing the dynamics to be imbedded rather than overtly “sold,” as in, having “pop” tracks or ballads that can become epitaphs.
Ash growls in about three different registers. He also sings hooks melodically, by a combination of roughness and range that plays as spectacular. In other words, I have heard a lot of guys sing melody with an edge of hot desert sand and I have heard guys sing honey-high like tenors in a choir, but not so often do we hear such a powerful combination of both (best example would be Track #8, titled “The End”). There are also some interesting choices made in the arrangements, turbo-charging some of the musical phrasing with heavy double tracking and some “question-answer’ techniques that are hook-oriented and song-specific. I also like the fact that we sometimes get raucous lead guitar work, as so many heavy projects stick so religiously with solely the verse riffs (played really fast).
In terms of specific songs, it is hard to find the hit on this record, only because the compositions (as prior mentioned) are all so closely themed if looked at holistically. My vote would be for cut #4, “Shadows,” as all of the components here are superb if we go piecemeal, with an introduction that wows us, a solid verse, a surprising yet ultimately satisfying hook, and a threading of that hook through the various arteries, like the vocals and lead sections.
Of course, the band would obviously disagree with me, since the title track, “Hollow,” is the one they went with for the first video. Hey, I can understand this. The tune is driving, and the message – strong, aiming hard at religion and its hypocrisy. My only issue is that the video, while awesome in itself, doesn’t quite follow the lyrics. The story line we get is what appears to be the band members, first trying to hand out religious pamphlets, then in two cars, playing something like rock-paper-scissors in the front vehicle only to strike a pedestrian. They decide to bury the body, and in digging up the dirt, use stuff from the trunk, like a spoon and what looks like part of the body of a Flying V. Of course, the campy burial works well since the dude comes back after them at the end like a zombie, but besides this victim having what looked like rose petals on his chest rather than blood, in an awesome allusion to The Crown of Thorns, I didn’t see the direct connection to the religious contradictions the lyrics spoke of, nor the same potency. And if the band is represented as the offenders, it seems the metaphor gets a bit mixed as they say.
That being said, the video is good in itself, and fits the groove of the music. It is a nice kick-off to an album that is sure to do well in the marketplace – well established and hungry for records of this quality. I only wish I could see these songs played live. Now. Today. To me, this band seems the type that bring you into the fold with their records, professionally and artistically, but on stage, they get straight into your lifeblood.
Hollow by Naberus will quickly become a cornerstone, a staple, in record collections globally. I listened to it just now, and I’m still feeling it.
High quality here.
High heat. Highly recommended.
Michael Aronovitz is a horror author with three novels and two collections. His horror story series “Music Hell” is currently running on Pure Grain Audio.
MHF Magazine/Michael Aronovitz