Ladies and gentleman, today is a milestone. Since joining AMG, I have reviewed everything from stoner to Gothic, thrash to black and back. I’ve dabbled in death metal, slithered through sludge and appraised the avant-garde. But the one genre I never picked up was post-black. My experience with the style starts at A and ends at lcest, and even with them I haven’t paid much attention since Eçailles des Lunes. The genre simply had little allure to me, even though I do enjoy some post-other type of bands, and I figured other writers would be better suited to place those records in the proper context. But as I still enjoy spinning the promo roulette, the little silver ball had to bounce to post-black one day, and with French outfit Nature Morte’s debut album NM1 firmly tucked under my arm, I can finally rise from the elderly home’s repurposed school seat and yell: “BINGO!”
From what little of the genre I know, NM1 is a fairly typical post-black or blackgaze (is there even a difference?) release. You got your shimmering guitars and emotionally laden melodies, switching to pummeling blastbeats every so often. The bass thrums in the distance, underdeveloped as usual, but not entirely absent. The drumming is minimal but effective, not overworking their small kit, and an ethereal shriek floats in through the fog on an imperceptible breeze. Can’t blame debutantes Nature Morte from adhering to the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) on their first record, however, and the guitars in particular know how to make the most of the minimalist style. The trilling melodic lines are particularly effective, at times reminding me of Explosions in the Sky, until they burst into scorching avalanches again. Moments like the ominous main riff on the opener and slow, vibrating buildups put the six-strings ahead of the pack.
The vocals I’m more ambivalent about. The ethereal shrieking adds a welcome note of darkness to the album, but not only is it hardly possible to discern a single syllable, the style is absolutely devoid of variation. Considering the strength of the guitars in particular, I would have rather welcomed less vocals in general, even though they are not packed wall-to-wall. It can be rather difficult to tell where the walls are, however; none of these 4 tracks particularly set themselves apart from their peers, and I often have to check which track I’m on. The wandering structures and recurring types of transitions make the album sound like a single long track, which is exacerbated by the airy melodies all sounding quite similar due to their lack of sharp definition.
This is one of the causes of a larger scale issue with NM1, one that is less tangible as well. The individual songs, as well as the album as a whole, lacks a sense of build and release. It doesn’t carefully construct tension or erupt into climax; the album constantly hovers around the same sort of mid-level intensity. Singular passages try to evoke a semblance of such, but in the context of the lengthy tracks they fall short. This, coupled with the similarity between melodies and the one track minded vocals, makes the album sound very same-like1 across its running time.
NM1 has me teetering between different conclusions. On the one hand, the strong melodic lines have me feeling the feels I feel I should be feeling. There’s an alluring melancholy to the scintillating guitars that’s executed successfully. On the other hand, the vocals are as one-note as can be, and the album doesn’t feel like it evolves over time, each song sounding too similar to the last to evoke a sense of progression. Nature Morte have skill, but their debut is too flawed to make it a memorable experience. You don’t need to be an expert in a particular subgenre to glean such shortcomings from a careful analysis.