There is something surprisingly comforting, dare I say nostalgic, in Nexul’s punishing full-length début Paradigm of Chaos. Perhaps it’s the wistfulness attached to the band’s raw, hissy black/death metal approach and over-the-top Luciferian imagery. Their music today appears as an echo of a homicidal time and place which the genre occupied during its infancy. As if a splinter of the heartfelt occult hatefulness of the early Norwegian black metal scene somehow made its way to El Paso, Texas.
While they have been most often categorized as blackened death metal, Nexul’s oeuvre reveals a foursome that’s first and foremost steeped in black metal’s malevolent paradigm and directness. Even if their coarse and caustic noise hides in itself convoluted riffs, unhinged drumming, diabolical growls, and quintessential death metal emblems, it’s their general tone and overwhelming onslaught on all our senses that are crucial here. This is, simply put, evil sounding music whose style aligns with black metal idioms. As soon as the typically uninspiring atmospheric intro is out of the way, Nexul start ripping, slashing, and smashing with a Nordic frostiness. The two proper opening cuts, “Hexecration” and “Wrathful Chaos,” meander between utter madness and senseless chaos sprinkled with the occasional blink-and-you-miss-it break enveloped within a lo-fi aesthetic.
There are no prolonged hazy passages nor interruptions here as Nexul only briefly visit the eye of the storm before unleashing pandemonium, such as the brilliantly brutal “Chaosipher Tower.” But there is some diversity hidden beneath an apparently monolithic and hermetic style. The varied epic “Dark God of Paradox & Eternal,” the deranged “Leviathan Unbound,” and the Slayeresque “Serpent of Acosmic Darkness” either bring barely slower sections into the mix or alter the instrumental interplay to conjure a subtly different kind of nefarious, blackened death impression. Unfortunately, and apart from the customarily boring intro and outro, there are also a couple of dud tracks here that feel superfluous and break the flow of the album. The title track “Paradigm of Chaos,” for example, is a pointless black-metal-turned-grindcore blast with a lifespan shorter than a mayfly’s, while “Bringer of Pandimensional Disrupt” shows just how tired this genre can be when the riffs are less than inspired.
Paradigm of Chaos is also a prime example why dynamic range1 and production cleanliness should never be taken as absolute measures. Instead, the production and mastering make the record intentionally thin and bright, the instruments descending into a chaos of grating and abrasive white noise. But it’s exactly this – in conjunction with the aggressive, buzzing riffs and dangerously fast tempos – that elevates the music, making it impressively unpleasant. Simultaneously, because of how busy and uniform the record sounds, it takes a good number of listens to dissect its layers and detect slight but crafty variations in riffing, songwriting, and musicianship. What can be heard of the musicianship, through the aforementioned noisy production and mastering, is decent, yet never amounts to anything more than that. A fact that is expected and beside the point for this style. Especially unnerving are the occasional bassy thumps of untraceable origin. They sound almost as unintentional blasts and environmental noise, but actually enrich the music with a visceral, disconcerting effect.2
Featuring members of legendary bands such as Nyogthaeblisz and Hellvetron, Nexul profile themselves as one of the most interesting members of the Ordo Satanae Imperium collective. Boasting a comical and travestical Satanic symbolism, bordering on the ironic, they toy with sounds that are genuinely disturbing and craft a rather satisfying if not perfect record. Released four years after their promising demo tape, Paradigm of Chaos fulfills the potential shown on that first release.