Sweden this, U.S.A. that. Its always the same countries churning out the metal that lands on the cluttered desk of Steel Druhm. Sure, every now and then a Middle Eastern or Asian act tosses a spiked glove in the ring, but it’s predomiantly Europe and the Americas tasked with carrying the metal standard these days. That’s why its such a treat when we get a promo from someplace new and exotic. Nothnegal clearly qualifies, since they hail from the tiny Maldive Islands, way out in the Indian Ocean (their location is actually listed as an atoll, which counts as mega-exotic). Decadence is their first full length and its all about modern melodic death with loads of keys, bells and whistles. They take the basic melo-death concept and mix in semi-industrial Fear Factory-like riffing, loads of electronic effects, keys and even synthesized guitars. The big mystery is how this remote isle act wrangled drum services from Kevin Talley (Six Feet Under, ex-Hate Eternal, ex-The Black Dahlia Murder) and keys by Marco Sneck (Poisonblack, ex-Kalmah, ex-Charon). Sounds interesting so far, right? Well, it may be interesting, but sadly, it ain’t too good. Despite the endless array of interesting keyboard noodling and effects, things never really work out and Decadence quickly sinks below the waves of mediocrity. This is a real shame, since there are some interesting ideas on hand and some talented folks involved. But, as the saying goes, no band is an island (sorry, island jokes are rough going).
As soon as things kick off, two big problems become all too clear. The first being an overproduced, glossy, nu-metal guitar tone which sounds awful generally, but especially when put through an endless series of Fear Factory-style staccato, machine gun riffs. They started annoying me before I could spell “nu” (and I’m a fast speller). Right alongside the bad guitars are the equally bad vocals of Avo. Mr. Avo goes for a hybrid of a “screamy” style and a more “true” death grunt. It doesn’t work for me at all and drags the whole enterprise down to Atlantis. Tracks like “Salvation” and “Claymore” have legitimately cool musical ideas and at times, sound like left-overs from Omnium Gatherum‘s epic New World Shadows, but the vocals and the metalcore chug-a-lugging come chug-a-lugging along to kill everything. Songs like “Janus” and the title track never seem to go anywhere and just drag along with sub-par, screamy vox and mindlessly mechanical chugging.
They shake things up a bit with some Exodus-like thrash on “Armageddon” and then throw a big curveball with the last two songs, which adopt clean singing and totally different styles. “Sins of Our Creations” isn’t much different from what Redemption is doing these days, while “Singularity” is spacey, semi-proggy, light metal. While they get points for diversity (and retiring the death vox), it seems a strange way to end the album and it leaves things feeling a bit disjointed.
As mentioned above, the quasi-death vocals are terrible and trigger a reaction in my medulla oblongata not unlike road rage. The guitar work from Hilarl and Fufu (ha ha ha, Fufu) is painfully metalcore-ish, samey and boring for most of Decadence. They do uncork some interesting leads and solos here and there (“Claymore,” “Armageddon”) but it isn’t frequent enough to overcome the weight of the extensive chuggery. The keyboards by Marco are quite solid and keep this from dropping into the total shite zone (though some of the effects sound like they belong on a Stabbing Westward album). Sadly, they also serve to highlight what might have been if the rest of Nothnegal elevated their game accordingly.
While not a winning debut, these islanders have the beginnings of a cool sound. If they can fix the vocals and ditch the brain-numbing riffing, they may be ready for primetime. Until then, they sound like a third-rate, core-ish version of Omnium Gatherum, best relegated to cast away status and forgotten. As harsh as this review may seem, I’m pulling for these Maldive metallers to bounce back strong, like Wilson, the smiley soccer ball! We need more exotic metal these days.