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CD Feature/ Nadja: "Radiance of Shadows"

img  Tobias

The connection between Nadja and Alien8 Recordings is quickly turning out to be a fruitful one. Part of that may be down to the fact that both parties are enjoying the exploratory side of their relationship. For the label, the signing of the band represents their first step into the world of Metal and a completely different fan base. For Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff, the contact with a record company closely connected to the experimental scene enables them to find their voice on completely intuitive terms and through their organic way of combining spontaneous improvisations with smart post-production. On “Radiance of Shadows”, they have taken this technique as well as their by now unique and recognisable style to a temporary peak.

I even dare to venture that the band sounds the way they always wanted to on this occasion. On three long meditations, they scan the entire land of brute distortion, visionary calm, deformed beauty and seductive horror, while bringing all of these opposing elements into a coherent and clearly structured whole. Never before have they been as resolute and to the point as here, yet never as daring and over the top. “Radiance of Shadows” is not an experiment in the sense of “Guilted by the Sun”, their EP on Conspiracy Records which split the fans in the middle according to Baker by diversifying into adjacent and even remote genres.

Instead, it takes their roots in Doom and Ambient as a given in a bid of finding out how far they can be taken until tearing themselves from the soil. “Now I am become death the destroyer of worlds” takes 23 minutes from beginning to the end, “I have tastes the fire inside your mouth” 27, while the closing vortex of the title track sucks up almost a complete half hour in the black hole of its tortured, industrial coda. Within the boundaries defined at the outset, not all too many acts have gone farther.

The foundation for this bold move are Baker’s riffs, which he plays with a sort of blast-effect, turning each chord into a threatening explosion of tonal splinters, crunching fifths and white-noise fuzz. By lending a greater-than-ever flexibility to them, however, he renders them recognisable and infuses them with a rhythmic component, a bizarre groove and a dark, sado-masochistic shimmer. In the moments, when these martially rolling cannonades combust and set free sparks of ambient harmonics, glistening like dew drops on the surface of his guitar, the work reaches its emotional climax, a sense of being overwhelmed by something huge and inexplicably important.

Nadja have also brought more variation into their internal interaction, the loud/quiet dynamics being enriched by more subtle dramaturgical means: In the last track, subdued staccato-sequences take turns with a bombastic powerchord inferno which acts as a sort of chorus; the drone stretches are no longer just intermezzos in between the metal charges; and Buckareff’s drums can serve as the percussive basis, as well as take on almost thematic character.

What surprises most is that this abundance never seems pretentious. “Radiance of Shadows” instead shows Nadja as a band with all the confidence to stand by their vision and all the experience to realise it in full. Is this the direction they are going to take for the future or rather a last stab at doing what they do best, before continuing down the road of “Guilted”? With a highly diverse back catalogue and signed to a label as adventurous as this, who is to say.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Nadja
Homepage: Alien8 Recordings

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