Naxen – Towards the Tomb of Times Review

Here we go, here we go, here we go again. Another blackened album, and you wanna fit in. You’ve got the kvlt look, and you got the kvlt style, and on your face, we want a big kvlt smile.1 Welcome back to my spiral of insanity, where I introduce black metal reviews with obscure Christian ska lyrics from the late 1990’s.2 It’s an odd world we live in, with a pandemic chasing off social acceptableness like unruly children, my neighbors avoiding eye contact and leaving Amazon boxes sitting on their porch like orphaned children,3 and the endless drone of four-year-olds on tricycles outside as if social distancing is not a thing. What if we could live somewhere else? What if we could, I dunno, abide? And what if we could choose To Abide in Ancient Abysses?

Cuz that’s how Naxen do. This German black metal trio is relatively new to the scene, having released a single EP, 2018’s To Abide in Ancient Abysses, which, while not particularly unique, was a solid two-track, eighteen-minute foray into cranky darkness. Now we’re greeted with their first full-length, Towards the Tomb of Times, which, while also offering an awesome and epic oomph of alliterative accomplishment,4 equals more of the same darkness and black metal shenanigans that we came to expect with its predecessor. But this time, it’s twice the tracks and thrice the runtime.5 Ultimately, while it’s far from unique, it’s an immersive experience that offers a little sumpin sumpin for black metal fans everywhere.

Honestly, there is little to fault Naxen on when Towards the Tomb of Times gets rolling. Ominous atmosphere is first and foremost, balancing its second-wave Darkthrone worship with influences of The Ruins of Beverast-styled doom, wrapped up with a rock-solid songwriting. Tremolo-centered passages are nearly perfect, balancing overwhelming semi-raw textures with melody and a backbone of sturdy percussion, stitched seamlessly with remarkably organic transitions. Ominous wave-like dynamics characterize opener “To Welcome the Withering,” its tremolo and blast beats emphasizing ominous and ritualistic passages. “The Odious Ordeal” specializes in overlapping textures that enhance melody and hints of rawness in a twelve-minute dynamic that reaches its pinnacle in muscular riffs and Varg Vikernes Burzum-esque howling vocals. The two-part “A Shadow in the Fire” dabbles in dichotomy: the first part “Scars of Solitude” deals in ominous doom influence, while the second part “Where Fire Awaits” foregoes doom entirely for a fiery black metal climax with surprising clarity in brazen shouts and haunting melody, concluding with soothing acoustic plucking. Towards the Tomb of Times establishes an incredibly effective palette that connects each movement in a way that emphasizes evocative atmosphere while avoiding monotony and creating a distinct identity for each track.

While much of the content pales slightly compared to “The Odious Ordeal,” and “Shadows in the Fire, Part I (Scars of Solitude)” is a bit of an identity crisis, the real downside of Towards the Tomb of Times is its unwavering second-wave adherence. It’s one hell of a “black metal done right” situation to be sure, but offers little else. Its tremolos, blastbeats, and doom influence have all been done, like the textures of Walknut, the menace of Akhlys, and the dense atmosphere of Trist, as well as its pioneering influences in Darkthrone, Burzum, and the doomier side of The Ruins of Beverast. This does not invalidate these Germans’ debut, but enhances the need to set a palette for themselves moving forward. As the trajectory stands, as it is a massive step up from its predecessor, their next offering will be the earthmover that they are clearly capable of.

Naxen’s debut is a fantastic example of black metal done right. While, no, it does very little to add to the style, and likely won’t change your mind about the corpse-painted panda men that roam ice-crusted Norwegian forests, it’s still incredibly well-written black metal with a penchant for menacing atmosphere. Sporting some of the most patient passage movements I’ve seen in a hot minute with a confidence that oozes from every orifice, it’s nice to see the youngsters hitting the mark with so little experience. It’s better than my ska-influenced intro deserves, which is high praise for a black metal band just getting started.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Vendetta Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: May 29th, 2020

Show 5 footnotes

  1. >:(
  2. Bunch of Believers’ “It’s a Ska, Ska, Ska, Ska World.”
  3. S/O to Harry Potter.
  4. Or is it assonance? It’s not like I teach English or anything. Pft.
  5. Well, two and two thirds the runtime. It’s not like I’m married to a math teacher or anything. Pft.
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