SMOHALLA — Nova Persei (review)

SMOHALLA — Nova Persei album cover EP · 2007 · Avant-garde Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
SMOHALLA emerged from the Normandy region of France but adopted their name from the Native American Wanapum prophet from the Dreamer’s movement in the US Pacific Northwest region. Living up to their appellation, this band found a unique niche in carving out some of the most surreal and psychedelic metal of the 21st century. Although their first release “Smolensk Collection” was initially a demo, it became a fully fledged member of the official SMOHALLA canon yet lacked a production that distinguished it from its initial demo status. While formed in 2006, the band that consists of three members: Slo (guitar, percussion and vocals), Camille Giraudeau (bass) and A.L. (electronic wizardry and programming) plus mystery guests such as the sonic siren who supplies the operatic female vocals.

NOVA PERSEI was technically their first official release as a short near 21 minute EP that contains six tracks that unleash the full avant-garde prowess of SMOHALLA’s vibrant inhibition. As on the demo turned official release which preceded NOVA PERSEI, this collection of bizarre musical concoctions is chock full of avant-garde progressive metal in the vein of Enslaved, Ulver, Ved Buens Ende, Solefald, Arcturus and Elend melded with psychedelic electronica and progressive rock that evokes everything from the psychedelic mellotron rock of Pink Floyd to the ethereal dream pop of the Cocteau Twins albeit with a production and mixing that blows “Smolensk Collection” away and a sense of adventurism on steroids.

While also on that release, the compositions were complex and unrelentingly unpredictable, on NOVA PERSEI the musical constructs are even more twisted and surreal and the only word that adequately describes them is “chaotic.” This EP was inspired by the writings of H.P. Lovecraft and evokes a soundtrack to a grand chaotic battle between the star NOVA PERSEI and the demon star “Algol,” which awakens the spirit to a cold eternal darkness that permeates space as the phantasmagoric parade of disparate musical elements clash and collaborate in seemingly random modes of sonic interplay with tremolo guitar distortion blasting through the ethereal winds of the synthesizers and bilingual utterances of raspy black metal, clean progressive rock and operatic divas create a beyond bizarre listening experience.

Chaotic indeed as everything on NOVA PERSEI is unrelenting and in-yer-face with heavy angular metal riffing duking it out with placid clean vocal progressive rock, operatic angels singing in the horizon and trip hop electronica beats. While there are times of respite such as the surreal intro of “Algol,” the music takes no time to deviate from a calm angularity to a frenetic surrealistic black metal nightmare. The superior production allows a mystifying tapestry of brutal metal, otherworldly keyboards and incongruent clean chanted vocals alongside brutal black metal raspy screams. In some ways, SMOHALLA evokes a less chaotic version of Unexpect minus the comical circus music and gypsy jazz. SMOHALLA certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. This is some of the most complex and convoluted mix of musical ideas there is to be had. It is truly an interdimensional battle of disparate musical styles offering the listener a glimpse into a delicate balance that seems on a tightrope ready to derail completely.
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666sharon666 wrote:
10 months ago
Reviewer's Challenge points: 3

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