One-man bands, once the exclusive domain of basement dwelling, meatloaf-munching black metal denizens, are now becoming a trend in doom as well. Spirit Adrift impressed the AMG staff earlier this year and Via Vengeance is making a name for themselves (himself?) as well. Now make room for Nupraptor, the solo project of one Matt St. Our. Hailing from the Maryland metal scene and having put time in thrash act White Hornet, Nupraptor is his own private labor of love. The Heresiarch is his first effort and it’s a solid dose of doom with nods to all the genre giants who need no introduction. If you think about it, doom does seems the ideal solitary pursuit, inspired as it is by depression and designed to trigger introspective poutery. And that’s exactly what you can expect here as Mr. Our paints in 51 shades of grey and blue. But is any man truly a doom island?
After a short, solemn instrumental opener gets the juices flowing, “Through the Smoke” introduces the Nupraptor sound with a suitably forlorn lead and some interesting fret-work. Our’s clean vocal style is similar to Scott Reagers of Saint Vitus and suits the downcast riffs and mood well. The music shares other commonalities with early Vitus, but the Sabbath and Solitude Aeturnus schools are also represented in what is a surprisingly polished song with a lot of slick, satisfying guitar-work. Followup “Burning the Believers” utilizes a distorted vocal effect that must be intended as a nod to Trouble‘s immortal classic “The Tempter” while bathing everything in unhappy doom melodies and weighty riffs.
The nine-minute title track is a major standout overflowing with sadness and bleak energy. The simple but effective riffs conjure images of lost souls struggling through soul killing hardships and Mr. Our delivers an effectively plaintive vocal performance. Somehow the song manages to invoke the majesty of Atlanteam Kodex while inexplicably channeling the stripped-down mope-drone of Warning. This makes for a poignant yet weighty moment in doom appreciation. The mega-monolith arrives with the nearly 12-minute closer “The Fall of Christ,” which leverages the best traits of Our’s musical vision into one slobberknocker doom set piece that flies by way faster than it should.
At 50 minutes, The Heresiarch is an ambitious effort. The songs all work well and though most fall on the epic end of the spectrum length-wise, none feel too dragged out (a sure sign of quality writing). The production is clear and spacious, but retains a rough DIY appeal. The guitar has sufficient bite and overall things feel balanced and ear-friendly.
Our’s guitar-work is often impressive and at times quite beautiful (the extended solo at 3:30 of “Before the Eyes of God” really grabbed me). His riffs and harmonies drive the album along effortlessly and provide some “wow” moments along the way. His voice however is the soft spot in the Nupraptor armor. He’s a limited ability singer but when he stays in his mid-range comfort zone he’s more than adequate. When attempting to reach his upper range or trying more nuanced vocal tricks though, he often falters and goes off key, sometimes quite badly. This amateurish quality hurts otherwise rock solid songs like “Before the Eyes of Gods” and “The Fall of Christ.” It’s also fair to point out the drumming doesn’t really do much of note, remaining functional but workmanlike for much of the album.
Despite occasional glitches and shortcomings, I’ve been playing and replaying The Heresiarch and I like a lot of what Mr. Our delivers on his maiden voyage ov Doom. This comes dangerously close to a “Very Good” rating and potential runs deep here. With some spit polish and perhaps a guest singer, Nupraptor could well be the next Pallbearer. Perhaps one man can’t always do it all and sometimes it’s wise to seek outside assistance1. We humans are social creatures after all, even the doom loners among us.