Eye of Nix – Ligeia Review

Dynamism in metal is a polarizing discussion. Part of that is due to a wide spectrum of interpretations on the word “dynamic” as it applies to music. At times, artists interpret this to mean they produce their records to allow every instrument to breathe with ease, thereby creating a lively and lush sound that can be increased in volume without apparent limit. Others take the term and apply it to songwriting methodology, eschewing traditional structures or embedding oodles of interesting twists into already established formulas. Of course, the pinnacle of dynamic songwriting in my mind—an opinion which still isn’t fully developed, mind you—takes advantage of both overarching philosophies, but albums that make that work come few and far between. Eye of Nix, a Seattle-based avant-garde doom quintet, aims to enter that realm of exceptional dynamism with their latest opus Ligeia.

Pinpointing the core sound Eye of Nix conjures proved difficult this last week and change. On one hand, I recognize the elements that compose the content within Ligeia—black metal, doom metal, opera, post-metal, a twist of psychedelia—but I struggle to come to a concrete solution as to what this record is. In no small measure, the band’s ability to write compelling songs that fit well together without forfeiting mystique or oddity is their most powerful tool. Used properly, this tool undermines every attempt to pidgeonhole Ligeia into a comfortable pocket, and by embracing the potential weirdness offered by their combination of blackened doom and operatic post-metal, they command a potent spell.

In many ways, Eye of Nix exceeds my expectations, delivering engrossing material on a consistent basis. “Pursued” rips through the ether in fine form, offering subtle dissonance and a welcome combination of deep growls and banshee wails (I think guitarist and sole credited vocalist Joy Von Spain performs both), backed by a solid riff penned also by Joy (or perhaps by second guitarist Nicholas Martinez). At first appearing to be a straightforward slab of blackened doom, this song transforms into a post-metal opera by way of a satisfying bass lead (Zach Wise). The effect is similar to that contrast struck by Obscure Sphinx,1 where beauty meets the grotesque and finds harmony. In a similar vein, “Stranded,” “Adrift” and the title track both mine beauty from crags of doom-laden post-black, the former capitalizing on crescendos and smart layering of keys (Masaaki Masao), the latter two imprinting a sense of loneliness with stellar interactions between the vocals and the instrumentation—much the same way Latitudes accomplish. But the star of the show is closer “Stone and Fury,” an epic wave of doom that erodes its nine minute runtime with unstoppable flow (big ups to drummer Luke LaPlante for kicking butt here, especially in regards to his cymbal work).

Unfortunately, not every song hits that dynamic sweet spot. “Tempest” is much like a blastier Dreadnought track without the jazzy spice, and the operatic vocals overpower the instruments without mercy. I deduct additional points from Ligeia for an unfortunate vocal approach in the closing track as well. As compelling as that song is, the half-screech employed by Joy in the midsection undermines my ability to immerse myself in it. Flipping the coin towards instrumentation, opener “Concealing Waters” deserves praise for its entrancing psychedelia, which evokes fond memories of Vanishing Kidslast record, but those softer passage feels long winded after multiple listens. Similarly, “Keres,” an instrumental interlude, does little with its two-and-a-half minutes and serves the record better when nixed. The production does Eye of Nix no favors, burying the bass inconsistently, but always unnecessarily, and ramping up the vocals right into your eardrum. While I dig the atmosphere and tones used in general, the record lacks sonic balance and thereby loses a significant portion of its appeal.

To answer my original question, Eye of Nix fell short of the target with Ligeia. Beauty and beast coexist happily within the odd, murky bubble of dread that the band creates. However, their dynamic approach to weird blackened doom requires fine-tuning yet. Massage the mix to give more consistent room for the instruments behind Joy, and flex those self-editing muscles. Do that, and I’ll have no choice but to keep a close Eye on Nix.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Prophecy Productions
Websites: facebook.com/eyeofnix | eyeofnix.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: June 19th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. h/t Sentynel for reminding me of this!
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