Núll – Entity Review

Off the top of my balding head, I can’t think of a genre that’s more difficult to pull off convincingly than depressive suicidal black metal. It takes quite a talented hand to navigate that particular battleship down those choppy seas. Go too hard, and you run the risk of being unlistenable, borderline or not. Go too soft, and you’re tossed into the tar pits and forever labeled a “try-hard edgelord” by those who should know better than to go that route. So I can empathize with any band trying to crack into that difficult niche market, and it doesn’t hurt that in this case, we have a band comprised of members of Carpe Noctem and Misþyrming. Núll1 dropped Null & Void, a 34-minute, one song EP, back in 2014, and today, we have their debut full-length, Entity.

The good news is that there’s nothing cringey or ham-fisted on display, and opener “None” sets a somber, if a bit warm, tone as a singular riff carries most of the song through its almost-nine minutes. A slow, pulsating rhythm and S.S.’s clean vocals, which remind me of a younger Vincent Cavanaugh (Anathema), misled me into believing that Núll would marry their country’s knack for shimmery-yet-downtrodden black metal with the warmth and uplifting hope that many modern post-metal or doom bands have been running to for comfort these days. Those thoughts were dashed halfway into the song, as the drumming blasts, the warm and sunny tones are swapped for harsh tremolo riffs, and S.S. morphs from a guy worshipping at the altar of The Silent Enigma into a shrieking pterodactyl. Yet, somehow it flows effortlessly while keeping you on your toes. Once it wrapped up, I was eagerly awaiting what laid ahead…

And what laid ahead was the stark reality that “None” was the best foot Núll laid forth. While its immediate follow-up “Reduced Beyond the Point of Renewal” has a quirky and bizarre, if not quite immediately catchy, chanting section that would least cause an ear or two to perk up, the majority of Entity is more than content to go at one pace with a mere handful of interesting ideas for the majority of its playtime. When that happens, short songs like “Reduced Beyond the Point of Renewal” feel like ten minutes, and longer songs like “Conjoin the Vacuous”2 feel like an eternity. By the time “An Idiosyncratic Mirage” dies down in its feedback, it felt merciful. Also, the first S.S. pterodactyl shriek was impressive. Hearing it dozens more times, not so much.

At least the quality of production retains the lushness usually found in most Icelandic black metal these days. The plucky synthesized strings that open up “An Idiosyncratic Mirage” sound lively, and not once do the guitars drown out everything else. Only the bass drum has a weak “bass pedal on wet cardboard” sound, but other than that, the sound quality is impressive. I just wish I could say the same about the songwriting. When you have members who are a veritable “who’s who” of Icelandic black metal, you can’t help but wonder what creative sounds are gonna be crafted. Sure, this creates lofty expectations, but even then, Entity doesn’t mix things up nearly enough to retain that feeling of the album being one long, homogeneous song, save for the incredible first track.

I love Icelandic metal. I love black metal. I love post-rock and doom metal. Entity is all these things, but yet I can’t get into this album, save for the first song and the occasional odd moment peppered here and there. Given the talent behind Núll, maybe I was expecting something with more variety. The melancholy is definitely there, that’s not in dispute. But when things just plod along, it doesn’t make for an engaging listen. Perhaps it might come down to taste, but this isn’t doing it for me. Maybe on the next one…

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Ván Records
Website: 0000000.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: August 28th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Sometimes going by just 0.
  2. Tell me Nick Holmes isn’t kicking himself hard right now for not claiming this as a song title, or at least a lyric. It’s easily the most Paradise Lost song title I’ve ever seen.
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