Oh, December. That special time of year, when the masses try to buy their way out of SAD, supermarkets become more unbearable than usual thanks to seasonal saccharine soundtracks, and even the AMG promo bin transforms into a smoldering heap of nope. Some blind themselves to the solstice’s sadness with festive lights, others drown it in nog, but let me assure you: there will be no happiness. Austrian black metallers The Negative Bias feel me, and with a culture-transcending “bah, hvmbvg” these angry metal guys have dropped their debut just in time to fuck up your holiday. Or your not-holiday, who cares. I don’t have anything nice to say, so let’s channel that negative bias into talking about… The Negative Bias.
First of all, neither the band name nor album art is particularly standout, and the title Lamentations of the Chaos Omega all but screams “every black metal album ever”. I went for Lamentations because I saw vanilla and smelled blood: someone has to shame 2017’s incessant flow of so-so black metal into a disco-esque retreat, and I would be remiss to turn down such an opportunity whilst everyone is busy reveling in holiday spirit(s) and trying to convince themselves that the world doesn’t suck. Well, newsflash, poseurs: everything does suck, and The Negative Bias suck more than anyone, for not only proving my initial instincts wrong but for fucking up my year-end list at the last possible second as well. Dicks.
The offense begins with “The Golden Key to a Pandemonium Kingdom,” perhaps the most appropriately titled album opener of all time. In the course of 9 minutes, we are introduced to a world hosting such diverse tropes as Winterfylleth-esque Viking chants, lead bass melodies, modern Paradise Lost doom riffage set to furious black metal drumming and an atmosphere of discord that Ulcerate would be proud of. This, of course, pisses me off. How am I supposed to convey how these heathens sound to you heathens when one moment they’re Borknagar, Hypocrisy the next, and then suddenly they’re Dodecahedron? Seriously, I’m worried that my favorite bands are locked in an Austrian dungeon, freshly sapped of their powers and left to rot as The Negative Bias usurps their respective kingdoms. These guys aren’t black metal, they’re all the black metal. Look no further than “Journey Into the Defleshed Paradise” to hear such influences fused together more perfectly than any one song should ever be able to accomplish. Moreover, they manage to make their unholy amalgamation of all things negative work together with a cohesive flow that utterly belies the fact that this monstrous entity of darkness is a debut album…
…By three fucking people?! Now I’m absolutely furious. What business, what right does Austria have producing superhumans capable of such magick? The trio either made one hell of a deal with Satan or else has ridiculous studio skills, I absolutely refuse to believe that your run-of-the-mill mortal is capable of conceiving and crafting these chaotic compositions. S.T’s guitar and bass work renders each track unpredictable and unique, and I.F.S’s Peter Tagtgren vocal style effectively immobilizes me if I’m wearing sweatpants. Florian Musil is credited for studio drums and is apparently mortal enough to use a real name, but his presence is no less demonic or powerful as it pummels the album and listener into blast-beaten realms of insanity and despair. Even the ambient “Cryptic Echoes From Beyond Dimensions” works more than it should, its droning celestial atmosphere punctuated by eerie spoken-word narratives producing a serenely uncomfortable interlude, similar to gazing at the star-strewn sky from the beach in Wristcutters: A Love Story. Given I.F.S and S.T’s respective histories with Alastor and Golden Dawn, I knew that these lads had experience, but how dare they keep greatness of this caliber a secret ‘til now?
Lamentations is, simply put, nothing to lament about. Sarcasm, envy and awe aside, I have nothing but praise for this album. I fully expected to hear the same black metal mimicry that every other kid with a computer floods Bandcamp with these days, and instead, I found one of the most innovative blackened releases of the year, 44 minutes of hellacious bliss. My 2017 shortlist is in ruins, and I couldn’t be happier. It’ll still be a long December, but with the advent of The Negative Bias, there’s reason to believe that maybe this coming year will be better than the last.