I’m pretty pleased that the first review I put out in the new year is for an album I’ve been patiently hoping for for quite some time. Nothingness‘ The Hollow Gaze of Death was an album that absolutely blew me away upon first listen, albeit well after the album was originally released, but now I get to be in on the ground floor and say that Supraliminal, the band’s sophomore release and first new album in close to four years, ups the ante by a considerable bit. If you’re even remotely a fan of death metal, you’re going to want to get in on that ground floor with me.
The first words I uttered upon finishing my first listening of The Hollow Gaze of Death were, if I recall correctly, “Holy fuck, how has no one signed this band yet?” As far as (digitally) self-released debut albums go, it’s among the most memorable I’ve heard. The guitars are tuned lower than the ocean floor, Barclay Olson’s vocals range from throat-searing highs to lows that rival Ethan Lee McCarthy of Primitive Man in guttural depth, and the riffs borderline on absurdly punishing, but the smart songwriting choices belied a band that understood their medium well beyond simply being heavy for the sake of heavy. The interplay between guitar and rhythm section was a particular highlight of Nothingness’ style; the way a guitar riff will change as it is played over different drum patterns is something I always like hearing in music, and Nothingness mastered the switch between syncopated kick drum hits that punctuate a chunky riff to letting it flow over blast beats or double-kick patterns. Nothingness have a way of taking the trends of modern death metal and stretching them until just before their breaking point without lapsing into the comical, and on that front it is immediately apparent that Supraliminal keeps that trend going very nicely.
The album’s first three tracks kick things off like a steel-toed cap to the teeth. Gurgling, destructive seven-stringed guitar riffs swing for the fences immediately upon the arrival of opener “Curse of Creation,” and the two tracks that follow take that lead and run all the way downhill with it. The best parts of death, black, and doom metal are distilled down and fermented into something nauseating, lurching, and with an undeniable panache, culminating in one of my favorite song titles in recent memory, “Catapulted Into Hyperspace.” But the best part about Supraliminal is that it is here where things start to get truly weird. “Temple of Broken Swords” is by majority a black metal song, and one that could almost be described as ‘atmospheric’ at that, “Festering Abstraction” goes a completely different direction and shows the band’s knack for straight ahead sludgy doom metal, “Inviolate Viscera” features an almost jazzy break in the middle and makes use of an instrument called a ‘vibraslap’ that I am dying to know more about, and “Beacon of Loss” is steeped in somber, poignant melody that one doesn’t often find in modern death metal (at least ones that don’t describe themselves as melodic death metal).
Clearly, not only have Nothingness been fine tuning what was successful on their debut, but they have also decided to expand their horizons and incorporate fresh elements to their sound, and the result is pretty jaw dropping. Not only is Supraliminal a picture perfect example of modern death metal done right, it manages to take you to compelling and exciting new places along the way. Don’t do like I did with The Hollow Gaze of Death and wait until a year after its release to check this album out. You will be sorry when everyone else is raving about Supraliminal and you’re stuck in the dark.