Nicarus – Coal People Coal Puppets Review

Well, well, well. Looks like I found myself a unicorn. No, not the band picture, I’m speaking metaphorically. You see, whereas there are plenty of one-man bands, there are not a great deal of one-woman bands. On top of that, Tali Green, the mind behind Nicarus, hails from Israel; hardly a hotbed for metal. So it goes without saying that the underdog factor for Coal People Coal Puppets is sky-high. If this were a Hollywood movie, she’d be de facto winner of 2021 already. But is this real life, or is it a fantasy?

The sound Tali is attempting to develop on Coal People Coal Puppets is quite interesting. Its closest comparison would be the non-deathy half of Oceans of Slumber, for its alt-pop-doom sound. But whereas Cammie Gilbert and cohorts specialize in airy grandeur, Nicarus sounds more down to earth, even urban, sporting hints of a lived-in grunge directness. The greatest asset in this is Tali’s vocals; she has a beautiful clear tone, and her emotive projection is excellent, particularly on “Are You Afraid to Die Alone.” There’s a seductive alt-rock edge to her purposefully lazy enunciation, stacking a lot of character on the heavy doom riffs.

But the songwriting is unpolished to the point of feeling unfinished. “Coal People Coal Puppets” and “The Architect of Grime,” combining to half the total running time, are the most irksome by far. “Coal” subsists for 10 minutes on a single riff, interrupted only by a several minute long treatise on coming off age rituals by donning masks and fighting kids. It’s interesting the first time around, and annoyingly long-winded thereafter, which is always the problem with extended soundclips,1 and there’s more of them peppering the running time. “Architect” has more variety, to the point where the track lacks unity because of a shortage of good transitions, until the second half stops transitioning altogether again, and an overuse of vocoder-like effects robs Tali’s voice of its strengths.

These are all signs of an album severely undercooked. Coal People is Nicarus’ debut, and it shows. Throughout the album, the rhythm and pitch don’t always quite match. The production is muddy and the mix is unbalanced; while it’s smart to focus on the strongest aspect, the vocals, they overpower the music most of the time. The repetition and the soundclips feel like they pad the runtime, rather than add more to the album. The flaws are manifold, and yet they are so clearly caused by lack of experience and the necessity to do so much herself that it gives me hope for the project’s future. The sound Tali is going for is grounded and very interesting, lifted by her sultry vocal work. The riffs are simple and too few, but the solos show promise, and when everything falls into place, it’s like a crystal ball into what is yet to come.

International Year of Disaster and Misery 2020 kicked off with The Krueggers, which seems strangely prophetic is retrospect. If that precognitive effect holds, 2021 is not going to be a very enjoyable year either, I’m sorry to say. Coal People Coal Puppets has the amount of ideas to fill a short demo, and it kneads and pads and stretches it to the length of a full album. The subsequent execution of those ideas leaves much to be desired as well, aside from Tali’s decent vocals. But there is hope. The grungy alt-doom sound she’s developing does show promise, and with a few more years of fermenting, it could lead to something far more impressive than what’s on display here.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: January 8th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. The only criticism I have on 1914’s The Blind Leading the Blind.
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