It’s been said that the scariest monsters are those which are vaguely familiar. From zombies to the shape-shifting alien in The Thing, it seems the best way to leave a sense of lasting fear in your audience is to take familiar traits and twist them into something grotesque and appalling. Metal (usually) isn’t designed to scare people, but the same basic principle applies. The new releases I enjoy the most are those which take recognizable features from other bands and morph them in their own unique way. Portuguese quintet Nihility are a great example of this. With their Thus Spoke the Antichrist debut, the group take the Behemoth and Belphegor influence promised in the promo blurb and mutate it with an injection of brutal death metal. The result isn’t perfect, but it’s a bludgeoning good time nonetheless.
Like any good young band, the most notable thing about Nihility is how inspired they sound. Opener “Indulge Self Restraint” does anything but, blasting through fast chunky chords, swift chugs, and pinch harmonics all within the first minute. There are clearly a lot of ideas coursing through the band’s veins, not the least of which are the huge swirling melodies in the song’s second half that add some atmosphere and emotion to what begins as a wholly brutal piece. The band’s frantic, melodic, and vaguely technical riffing reminds me a lot of Man Must Die, a comparison which is furthered by second track “Organic Fallacies” and follow-up “Shallow Ataraxia.” The vocalist furthers the brutality with a deep and massive growl that occasionally lapses into a clean shout in the same way later Behemoth sometimes does.
The band’s style is immediately addictive and it helps that Antichrist is laid out well. After a strong opening trio, the title track offers a welcome reprieve with a cleanly picked intro that arrives at the perfect moment. Nihility also incorporate a bit of variety with the obsidian tremolos that crop up in both the title track and closer “Prophecy of Denial,” with “Denial” harnessing them to conjure a particularly dramatic ending. Sadly not everything in between is so good. I know second half songs like “Will to Nothingness” and “Abeyance of Own” are enjoyable, but I can’t remember a single idea from them unless I literally just played them.1 These tracks fall into the “good not great” category, with riffs that are engaging but not memorable and an overall quality level that doesn’t quite match the other songs.
The production has its downsides as well. While the clear and modern sound ensures every riff is heard in all its explosive glory, it’s also a bit loud. As such Antichrist occasionally becomes hard to follow, particularly considering that the compositions are often dense enough to rival Venom Prison‘s newest. Fortunately the band seem to recognize this and keep things short and sweet as a result, with the album’s eight tracks coming in at a brief 29 minutes. Likewise the guitarists are veritable riff machines, churning out everything from slicing tremolos to frantic chords to fast wailing solos like they’ve been playing since birth. The drummer keeps things tighter than a jock strap that’s three sizes too small, battering through blast beats and urgent rhythms like he’s a fusion of man and metronome.
Nihility are the type of band you want to root for. While a bit of fine tuning would help in the future, the group are positively bristling with energy and have a style that’s unique enough to avoid the dreaded “sounds just like XYZ” trope. Likewise, the band’s name is more than a reference to the Decapitated album, as the members claim they perceive nihilism not just “as a philosophy, but also as a way of life.” While I’m sure some eyes were rolled at that statement, I’d much rather have a young band that seems genuine in their lyrical approach as opposed to a bunch of old buzzards who tread the same grounds over and over because that’s what made them famous.2 Ultimately, Thus Spoke the Antichrist is more than just a promising debut, it’s an inspired and riffy piece of modern death metal that successfully infuses some brutal and blackened elements in a way that expertly distorts what’s familiar.