Estuarine – Nyarlathotep Review

I’m not sure why we have a general rule against EP’s, but I imagine that it has something to do with the brevity of the content. We don’t get a good representation of the artist if we’re only given a few songs to work with, while full-lengths are intended as cohesive works and can showcase the effectiveness of an artist to create them. Grind, however, throws a big ol’ middle finger at this in favor of beatdown explosions that sneer in the face of subtlety with the dumbest grin possible. A grind full-length can be anywhere between fifteen and thirty minutes, and even then, Estuarine’s ten minutes is challenging brevity.

The one-man project has been around. Since the 1990 inception of Tampa’s Estuarine,1 sole member Hydrus, also member of Ickis and Led by Serpents, has released three full-lengths and an EP under this moniker. Professing an “experimental technical blackened deathgrind” style, Gorguts-esque dissonant technicality and the strange aural landscapes of Lykathea Aflame sprawl across 2021’s EP Nyarlathotep. Blasting heaviness, warped melodies, deathy riffs, and manic vocals greet the ears with Lovecraftian menace; the result, while quite brief and inconsistent, is an interesting slab of weird grind that is largely forgettable.

Nyarlathotep’s eight tracks, with the exception of closer “Planes of Rotting Creation,” reside in the ballpark of thirty seconds to one-and-a-half minutes. This makes the fleshing out of Estuarine’s ideas nearly impossible, as it hits you hard and fast with little room to breathe. Tracks like “Crawling Chaos” and “Prophecy Denial” are hyper-technical wonky !T.O.O.H.! or Fawn Limbs fare while “Carriers of Shadow” and “Bloody-Nubbed Exile” showcase grindy death riffs a la Mammoth Grinder or Black Breath. However, closer “Planes of Rotting Creation” shows the true depth of Estuarine’s sound, utilizing plucking and otherworldly melodies over an infectiously subtle riff in a lull of appropriately eerie proportions and hypnotic use of repetition. Bass plays a huge part in Nyarlathotep, providing a nice primal Thecodontion rumble to the palette, and Hydrus’ gutturals scattered throughout add a nice dimension of burliness to the scathing grind.

Estuarine’s biggest drawback in Nyarlathotep is its brevity. Tracks fly at you at lightning speed, and it isn’t until the comparatively lengthy (three whole minutes) closer that it feels like the album finally finds its groove. As such, each of the brief tracks settles into one riff that fills its entire length, and it can be difficult to immerse. This is worsened when tracks of varying palettes are placed consecutively, such as the blasting and relatively uneventful “Broken Subordinates” is followed up by the tame “The Audient Void.” If Estuarine did settle on eight tracks with the focus of “Planes of Rotting Creation,” Hydrus would have a huge winner, but its placement at the end of Nyarlathotep feels a bit like a touchdown in garbage time. Listeners are bombarded by ADHD-on-shrooms grind for seven tracks, and when it finally hits its stride, the album is over. Worse still, although comparisons to aforementioned acts are fair, Estuarine never really gets to a point where its offering can compare.

To be fair, similar groups like Noise Trail Immersion and Anaal Nathrakh don’t quite feel as psychedelic or trippy as Estuarine’s breed of blackened deathgrind. It conveys the Lovecraftian atmosphere in ten minutes better than some can do in an hour, but it comes at a cost, namely the EP’s integrity. In spite of and because of its brevity, it’s difficult to pin down where Hydrus’ strengths are, as they hit you hard and fast without room to breathe. Save for a few memorable riffs and chthonic mood, Nyarlathotep’s closing track is really the only thing that saves it from the pits of oblivion. Given that it’s about a third of the runtime and basically this implies that I want more from them, Estuarine gets a pass by the skin of its teeth.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: March 19th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. Although he did not release anything until 2013.
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