Written by: The Administrator
Full disclosure: this haggard scribe is not exactly what one would safety consider a connoisseur when it comes to the weird world of grindcore and deathgrind. A certain base of familiarity feels like a requirement in an environment defined largely by extreme abrasivity and extreme...well, extremity, and I'm always left questioning whether my casual enjoyment of a grind-adjacent release will translate in the eyes of people who drink deep of the genre's turbulent waters. While the classics are always fun to revisit, and I'll dabble here or there when it comes to stuff that particularly grind-knowledgable people seem to universally enjoy, grind is a space in which I'm happy to take recommendations...but less happy being the recommend-er.
Today, however, I can hardly resist putting in a good word. Narakah is a Pittsburgh-based deathgrind outfit with an apparent knack for infusing the style of the early aughts with a fresh-faced flair. Their latest effort--the 12 minute Blast Haven--is an incredibly strong showing of Discordance Axis-esque chaos with a notable focus on intriguing composition.
At its most unrelenting, Blast Haven goes hard as fuck, but in the midst of frenetic grinding chaos, Narakah nevertheless know when to let off the gas and build a bit of intrigue. Indeed, this is their greatest strength when it comes to presenting a release that works as a whole, becoming more than the sum of its component parts. Even in the very succinct 12-minute runtime, there is ample room for dynamic movement--this truly is an unexpected journey through different sonic pastures. Take, for example, the claustrophobic thrumming ambiance of "Cynocephalus (Destro's End,)" which promptly erupts into the furious high-octane deathgrind exhibited by the opening strains of (highlight track) "Black Guard." It's a stark contrast, but a welcome one, particularly given a certain tendency in grind to exist in a perpetual state of full-frontal pugilism, perhaps with an occasional vocal sample being the only thing to shake up the delivery. The occasional well-placed sample of course serves to spice things up herein, but beyond that, there's always a question of whether or not the more drone-adjacent soundscapes will make a reappearance, which in turn lends a sense of maintained interest across the breadth.
The production is notably mighty. The bass is particularly bombastic, and the percussion department is absolutely savage, in contrast to the majority of performances within the deathgrind arena. The tone fits the general aggression like a glove--there's a distinct physicality to these burly riffs and (equally) burly bass drums. The vocals sit comfortably in the mix, and, despite a tendency to include a whole lot of noise at any given time, nothing ever feels particularly overwhelming. Grind that welcomes the listener in is a bit of a rarity.
Blast Haven feels significantly longer than it is in actuality. Generally, this is a trait I would be critical of--it implies a lack of self-editing. In this case, however, the shorter-than-it-feels quality chalks up to a perception of time well spent. Like unto the best of grind, there's a stupidly impressive number of ideas crammed in such a concise package. As such, the last moments of closer "Dakimakura" leave me yearning for more. I dunno what Narakah are planning next, but this is a saliva-inducing appetizer.
Narakah - Blast Haven was self-released on Feb. 12th, 2021
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!