Neolith is a great name for a death/doom band. The word refers to a stone tool used in the latter period of the Stone Age, conjuring up the image of something being forged through weight, brute strength, and barbaric force. The Polish lads behind the Neolith moniker began in 1991 as a death/doom band, but have since changed their sound to reflect the shiny and polished aspects of stone instead; they’ve transitioned to, in an awesome phrase coined by one of our commenters, Nergal-core. As such, Neolith will be serving us a fairly traditional Polish dish they call Izi.Im.Kurnu-Ki, but not all pierogies are created equal.
About twenty seconds into Izi.Im.Kurnu-Ki’s first real song “Of the Angel and His Orison,” Neolith launch into some energetic riffing, drumming and vocals that immediately recall Evangelion, carrying on enjoyably yet predictably until the 3:15 mark where something funny happens on the way to the Throne ov Baphomet: the appearance of full-on synthesizers. Synths in metal aren’t new by any stretch of the imagination, but IO (credited for “electronics”) adds a weirdly enjoyable element to Neolith’s music that doesn’t feel forced and doesn’t often (if ever) appear in such prominence in modern blackened death metal. “Ire Thru Fire” is the best overall showing of the intertwined blackened death and techno-ish elements, with the final section standing out due to Beast’s relentless double kick layered over a pseudo-funk drum machine beat and some frantic synths, which sound better through headphones than they appear on paper.
Guitarists Bolus and Conrad and bassist Kriss doubtlessly know their way around their instruments, but their riffs never quite cross the threshold of greatness. They’re never bad and provide ample fodder for headbanging and fun, opting to mainly stay within the 2004-2009 Behemoth framework with nods to the tried-and-true tremolo of Malevolent Creation and Deicide. “Are We the Lost Ones?” breaks the mold with a solid and memorable modern melodeath lick, and the chugging mixed with club-styled synths that make up the refrain of “Chariots of the Gods” is a fun departure that really shouldn’t work but does. The riffs and songs are consistently good, but there’s no barnburners like “Slaves Shall Serve” or “Slaying the Prophets ov Isa” that really stand out, and throughout Izi.Im.Kurnu-Ki’s 38 minute runtime I felt satisfied with the quality of music coming through my speakers, but never blown away.
Neolith keeps up with the Polish equivalent of the Joneses in production, electing to master Izi.Im.Kurnu-Ki at Demigod levels of loudness. Guitars have a heavily processed distortion that sounds “metal” enough but lacks any grit whatsoever, giving the record a shiny plastic veneer that detracts somewhat from the intensity. Vocalist Levi takes a hit with the production too; while his great performance sounds throat-shredding the visceral impact of someone screaming their lungs out is lost when polished to these lengths. Beast’s drums take the most damage, with a highly compressed, nearly obnoxious snare and a kick drum that sounds like an angry typewriter when speeds are high – which is often. Beast’s performance is impressive, but ends up sounding slightly disingenuous due to the overprocessed hyper-modern sound of the kit.
Albums like Izi.Im.Kurnu-Ki are tough to review. Outside of the detrimental production and three wasted minutes on an intro and interlude, Neolith technically does everything right, and each actual song is full of good if predictable riffs. Each time I finished the album, I was content; I’d had my fill, and it was good. Izi.Im.Kurnu-Ki is fun to listen to, scratches the blackened death itch, and entertains with the added electronics, but it lands short of the “great” mark. If you want to freshen up your blackened death playlist or you’re fiending for another worthwhile addition to the genre, look no further; just don’t expect to be amazed.