Review Summary: An experience that you should probably consider submitting your mind to almost immediately.
You can’t just really “listen” to a Nadja record in the same way you “listen” to a pop punk record, a hip-hop record, a power metal record, and so on. There’s some great stuff from each of those genres, but you listen to those kinds of records, those records with more structure and melody, differently than you would of anything by Nadja. You, as lame as it sounds, have to experience
a band like Nadja. You have to lie down on your bed, tell your Mom not to bother you for a few hours, and drift off with the monolithic and beautiful compositions this band can so effortlessly create. Nadja aren’t some pussy band you experience easily. You have to work
Nadja is made up of workaholic Aidan Baker, who creates spectacular drone/ambient albums under his own name and is even known to publish a book of poetry from now and then, and Leah Buckareff, whose body of work is certainly less imposing than Baker’s. Known for creating formidable drone epics that are almost always creative and stunning, Radiance of Shadows
may be the band’s most inaccessible album in a very inaccessible discography. However, it is also the duo’s best.
Radiance of Shadows
isn’t unlike anything else Nadja has done throughout their five or so years of making music. In fact, all the hallmarks of the band’s sound can be found here: there’s all-encompassing and sometimes even brutal drones made up of layers upon layers of guitar feedback, and they are often placed in front of rhythmic synthesizer lines and simple yet powerful drumming. Build-ups are also found aplenty throughout Radiance
’s three suites, each of which are longer than twenty-three minutes in an album that’s length is in the vicinity of most movies. Also adding to this record’s inaccessibility is the little restraint the duo places on their wide-ranging epics. The first suite here, titled “Now I Am Death the Destroyer of Worlds”, expands slowly from throbbing electronics and random blasts of feedback to whole minutes of screeching noise, intricately layered and very complex “noise” to be accurate, and demanding repeated listens. Of course, the madness dies back down, condensing into more restrained heartbeats of guitar that resonate after every stroke, all before building upon itself again. This enormous effect is breathtaking, and you’ll sit in awe, feeling as if you’ve been repeatedly punched in the stomach by Jacob Bannon, but in the best and most sickly pleasurable way possible.
However, if all three of these compositions had the same effect as “Now I Am Death”, Radiance of Shadows
might have been too much to handle. Thankfully, there are many moments of chiming beauty here, though moments of unrestrained and unbridled heaviness are still the basic focus. Chief among these beautiful moments is found in “I Have Tasted the Fire inside Your Mouth”, where Baker croons the title softly again and again, sounding fragile against the ready-to-collapse music and producing an effect that is as beautiful as it is mournful. Unsurprisingly, the track moves slowly and pulsates with guitar feedback, but gives off a less evil feel and puts you in a calming trance, acting perfectly as the calm after the storm. This only lasts for the first ten minutes, however, as the track builds back up into the heaviest portion of the album, with Baker’s vocals sounding suspiciously like the devil’s, if the devil liked to scream over ear-splitting electro-drone noise. The loud-soft dynamics explored here easily shows off Nadja’s ability to simultaneously move and scare you, and overall, the track may be the simplest way to show off the band’s talents in general. If you can’t enjoy the second movement of Radiance of Shadows
, then you probably aren’t going to enjoy Nadja.
The final self-titled track of an album that is made to just zap your mental energy away is easily the most exhausting of the three. Alternating from a Krautrock-ish beat to an obviously black metal-influenced burst of demonic vocals and speaker-busting feedback, “Radiance of Shadows” may be enough to have you yelling “enough already!” But with Nadja, there is never enough, and while this 80-minute long album may sound like torture to most sane people, there’s plenty of enjoyment to be found in the band’s mix of drone, doom, electro, and black metal. As I said in the beginning, this is truly an experience, and one that you should probably consider submitting your mind to almost immediately.