Naxen – Descending Into a Deeper Darkness Review

Last we met Germany’s Naxen, we were deep in the swills of the pandemic lockdown here in the States. Released in June of 2020, debut full-length Towards the Tomb of Times was a solid black metal affair that I gleefully awarded a 3.5 but just never listened to again. Not that it was bad by any means, but it did not have the staying power I expected. The trio exists in the cross-section of black metal, adhering to hints of melodic black and death metal, but is pure unadulterated black metal. As such, aside from the act’s adoration of alliteration, we’ve got ourselves a neat lil’ blackened number.

Naxen has been around the blackened block, having released alliterative albums since 2018, including EPs To Abide in Ancient Abysses, Of Fainting Faith in Futile Flesh, and The Perilous Path of Pain as well as 2020’s debut. If you know black metal, there’s really nothing terribly unique about Descending Into a Deeper Darkness, but that’s okay. Semi-raw, semi-dense tremolo and heavy guitar grooves dance about the ears with harsh rasps, while percussion varies between funereal plods and blazing blastbeats. United by a feeling of melancholy founded in more depressive interpretations, Naxen offers us a rock-solid black metal album that ascends its alliterative antecedent by an awful amount.

Comprising four tracks with lengthier compositions dominated by diminished chord progressions, songs are smartly composed and neatly executed. Naxen attacks with a blend of scathing and riffy, balanced by sustained melodic plucking that adds a beating heart to the mid-tempo attack. The melodic layers of guitar plucking in the closing portion of “Our Souls Shall Fall Forever” or the heart-wrenching melodic template of “Triumphant Tongue of a Thousand Swords,” for instance, make their respective attacks extremely memorable in the balance of melody and shredding punishment – seriously, the latter really provided the scratch to the brain I needed. These two are most solid, while the fluid movements of “To Writhe in the Womb of Night” revel in a Trist-esque tremolo buzz while shapes of vocals and melody emerge and submerge around it, including an immense percussive presence that feels nimble and pummeling in its necessary measures. The most traditionally punishing track is “A Shadow in the Fire – Pt. III (A Life Led by Loss),” more punky upbeat drumming colliding with barbed-wire tones of drawling guitar, stinging melodies, and rabid percussion fills.

There is little to complain about in terms of the album at large or Naxen’s performance, but it likely should go without saying that four tracks with massive track lengths require a fair amount of patience. As fluid and smartly composed as “To Writhe in the Womb of Night” is, for instance, its melodic approach does not hold up as well as “Triumphant Tongue of a Thousand Swords,” and it grows old quicker over nine minutes than the latter’s fourteen, while the melodies in “A Shadow in the Fire…” can feel directionless in comparison to its more crushing moments as well as its successor in the closing opus. As with its debut, Naxen exists in the shadow of the early 2010s black metal releases of the likes of Altar of Plagues, Svartidauði, or Wolves in the Throne Room, whose more protracted lengths added up to greater breathing room and dynamic growth for both contemplative and punishment, but it still requires a fair amount of patience to sit through.

Naxen will not change your mind about black metal, but they also don’t make any pretense about doing so. It’s black metal with a melodic sensibility and an ear for dynamic songwriting, nothing more and nothing less. The bookends are the undisputed highlights in expert balance of melody, crunch, and shred, although the relatively weaker middle portions feature neat punishment and fluid songwriting themselves. In the end, Descending Into a Deeper Darkness is far from mediocre, but its alliterative bad self doesn’t do its duty in decreasing black metal dread. If you are a black metal fan, dive deep into Descending Into a Deeper Darkness, never neglecting Naxen.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Vendetta Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: May 3rd, 2024

« »