Firsts. Life’s full of ’em. Some are wonderful, such as the proverbial first kiss, or the first time you heard (or wrote about!) heavy metal. Some are horrible, such as the Drew Music-al first kiss, or the first time you heard Good Charlotte. A band’s first album can fall anywhere within this spectrum, and with their future depending on that first impression, the importance of debut albums cannot be overstated. This being said, let me prepare your future selves to remember the first time you ever heard Nostoc.

Billed as extreme prog, I had one immediate question regarding the Costa Ricans’s debut, Ævum: Does it djent? Thankfully, no. Well, once for about 10 seconds during “The Anamnesic Voyage,” but the fairest description of the album would be death-groove with progressive elements -a concoction that many will find addictive. Guitarists David Miranda and Freddy López (who also handles vocals) dole out solid death rhythms and chuggatry, summoning the spirits of Chimaira and Mastodon over the course of 7 tracks, carefully adding various ingredients to each song to give it its own life. A touch of Eastern melody in “Saturnian Mindscope,” a dash of Haken-worthy lounge prog added to “The Artisan,” sprinkles of groove all throughout, and voilà! The spice of life, yo. New flavors are introduced without being overdone, the end result often being a bit shy of amazing yet still quite tasty indeed. We might not be talking about the next Mastodon, here, but it’s likely we’ll be talking about Nostoc more down the road if they can keep this up.

Perhaps most impressive about Ævum is its overall flow. Despite the prog tag and song lengths that average over 7 minutes, Ævum never feels bogged down or shamelessly wankful. Groove and rhythm just keep rolling along as López yells, growls and roars, and nothing is ever beaten to death or allowed to stagnate. These guys knock on your door with one riff, kick it in and burn your house down with a slick groove, then provide soothing Weather Channel passages for you to ponder your predicament to, just before descending into slam territory and leaving you unsure as to what the hell could possibly be coming next – and it all works. By the end of it, I was all kinds of surprised to realize that my first dance with Nostoc had taken about an hour. I was having fun, and time flew.

Admittedly, working with everything on the spice rack can be risky. Pig vocals make their way into López’s Phil Anselmo-with-balls register from time to time, and the rap-esque introduction of “Delirium” coupled with the semi-frequent time signature changes throughout all of Ævum may raise an eyebrow or two. However, there is no such thing as a significantly weak moment on this album, any misstep is swiftly followed by a satisfyingly heavy moment. Proggish leads and tech-death drums keep everything feeling brutal and alive, and the Beyond Creation-esque bass work is even allowed to shine in the mix. Really, it’s pretty easy to forget that this is a self-released debut when considering how polished and proficient the band sounds.

As with most debuts, there is room to grow here. Solos are modest, the skills are there but hopefully to be expounded upon in coming albums. It would also be nice to hear Emanuel Calderon get more inventive on the skins for future works, as his playing is on point but pretty predictable. Given the obvious skill and creativity demonstrated by Ævum, touring and an album or two should hopefully see him where improve. Ultimately, his playing never detracts from the material, it would just be nice to hear him explore as boldly as his bandmates.

Only time can tell what the future holds for Nostoc. Label-less and new in a crowded metal sea, the odds are as against them as any band. There’s every chance that they could fade into obscurity, but my first impression tells me that these guys are different, I fully expect to look back on this one fondly from the other side of an excellent, accomplished discography. I’ll see y’all in the future, with a big ole can of Toljaso.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Self Release

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  • El_Cuervo

    Quality alias.

    • Master of Muppets

      It was between that, Shuggah Pie or Parsley’s Baby. Drew Music lives on in Bandcamp spirit, anyway.
      Seeing this is still blowing my mind, I really hope I can live up to the AMG standard and prove to be a good addition to the already fierce band of wordslingers here.

      • John Mosley

        Pastor of Muppets.

      • Westpaceagle

        I don’t know if they mentioned this at orientation but goat and goat related music typically gets scored 4.0 or higher here. But i am sure you guys covered all that.

        • Master of Muppets

          Orientation is blacked out from my memory. I remember showing up to the given address and thinking “The office is a dark alley?” and then very little else. I feel like I remember hearing something about us all floating down here, and I’m pretty sure I saw a werecat. I know I heard Jørn and could smell beer, but the rest is gone.

          • Westpaceagle

            That’s probably for the best.

        • Ferrous Beuller

          It gets my fucking goat, man…

      • Mollusc

        Have you been suitably hazed and then partaken deeply of the hobo wine dispenser?

        • Master of Muppets

          I don’t remember.

        • Hobo wine is for closers.

          • Mollusc

            What about boho wine? Or is it goat’s blood only?

      • Dr. Wvrm

        I got Negative Voice off your feed last night, that stuff’s pretty good.

        • Master of Muppets

          Right?! How I missed them until now is beyond me, but them and Obsidian Arc by Pillorian have been impossible for me to pull myself away from since I discovered both of them.

  • Eldritch Elitist

    Master! Master! Wheres the prog-death-groove that I’ve been after?

    Oh, there it is. And a very good first review, too!

  • VikingSchism

    The embedded track’s vocals remind me of Gojira quite a lot, but it sounds really good overall. I definitely need to give this a listen

  • Dr. Wvrm

    That album art makes for a really cool lyric video.

    Welcome to the party, Musical Drew!

  • Name’s Dalton

    Well, it’s no Hinder, but it’ll do.

    • Master of Muppets

      Well that band’s in the last review, sometimes I wish they’d die, too.
      I guess we’ll never really move on.

      • Name’s Dalton

        How lyrical of you.

  • Westpaceagle

    Muppets do need Mastering. Especially animal that thing is out of control

    Great review! I picked up the single from these guys on BC and it is impressive! I will check out this one. Don’t tell the goats!

    • WhamBamSam

      Said mastering likely won’t be accomplished by pulling strings though.

      • Master of Muppets

        Enya and Xanax make most Muppets much more manageable.

  • Master of Muppets

    Thank you, Madam X, for turning this into something readable. My post-submission personal critique left me cringing a few times, particularly the line about future drum exploration. I’m humbled and honored here, absolutely can’t wait to see where this all goes!

    • Next stop: metalcore

      • Master of Muppets

        I ain’t scurred, please just don’t make me listen to Hinder.

      • [not a Dr]

        Why not djentcore?

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    All it took to pique my interest in reading this review was the sight of the letter “Æ”

    • VikingSchism

      As soon as seeing that I instantly thought of Æther Realm, and that got my attention quickly.

    • Wes Allen

      Nothing rouses interest quite like a diphthong.

    • sir_c

      What about Leæther Strip then?

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Never heard about them, checked them out because of the “æ” but it’s not my cup of teæ .

        • sir_c

          Hehe so that æ does have its limits. Industrial/EBM is maybe stretching things a bit too much, and then the leæther starts cutting… :-)

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    +50 Metal Cred points to you Madam X for name dropping Beyond Creation.

    • She didn’t write this. She merely posted it as it’s by our new probationary writer.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Well, he gets +50 Metal Cred points! As soon as he explains what a can of Toljaso is.

        • Master of Muppets

          I have a strange sense of humor that tends to make immediate sense to me but often no one else… Try sounding it out and see if it makes more sense.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Told ya so?

          • Master of Muppets

            There we go!

          • GardensTale

            And here I was going with the Mexican pronunciation. “Tol-ha-so? That still doesn’t make sense.”

  • Ferrous Beuller

    Fine reviewery.

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    Grover would be proud Drew…..

  • Planex

    Nice review, most of the embedded track was compelling, but man those cleans really make me question if I should delve further.

    • Master of Muppets

      They are definitely not the high point of the album, but there’s also not a ton of clean singing all throughout. If that’s your only hangup, I think you’ll be fairly pleased with the rest of Ævum.

  • Nukenado

    Nice job Drew!
    Was wondering why you changed your username.
    Interesting review, music doesn’t really catch me.

    Deduction of points for name dropping Good Charlotte right after the Hinder review though. That’s cheap shock factor (although it nearly clogged my arteries, so there you go)

    • Master of Muppets

      If it makes you feel any better, I had this written days before the Hinder invasion. I was just as shocked as you.

  • TheCurlyMetalhead

    Oh yes, this is good, gimme gimme.