Review Summary: As long as you have the time and patience to give it the involvement and attention it deserves, this is a more than worthy listen for anyone with any appreciation for post-metal.
At first glance, the second full-length by Spain's Nahrayan
(they actually split up in 2007, only to return in 2011 to re-record some old tracks and write a few new ones to create The End of the Beginning
) is extraordinarily, excruciatingly typical post-metal. Yes, it has lengthy passages of meandering ambiance and lightly picked post-rock leads, and yes, these sections are punctuated by crushingly heavy, monolithic sludge riffs. The shortest song is just under six minutes and the longest nearly fifteen minutes, and themes of sorrow, apocalypse, loneliness, anger, and introspection preside over the lyrics, the song titles, and the album's general mood. Nahrayan
, of course, take heavy cues from contemporaries like Amenra
and Cult of Luna
, and every moment of every song is pristinely produced in a way that would make your average basement-dwelling black metal elitist smash his painstakingly corpse-painted face in with his autographed copy of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas.
The Beginning of the End/The End of the Beginning
certainly is run-of-the-mill in ways that will be readily apparent upon one's first listen, but its painstaking intricacies become more and more prevalent with every repeated listen and every ounce of undivided attention given to its full 65-minute run time. Remember in high school English class when your teacher assigned a reading for a night's worth of homework? More likely than not, you merely skimmed the text just so much as to gain a rudimentary understanding that would be enough to allow you to pretend to be engaged during class the next day. With this minimal experience, you probably spent time before, during, and after class grumbling with your friends about how incredibly uninteresting the reading was, and how you'd much rather be skiing right now. However, maybe if the teacher had you reread a book or a poem multiple times, you began to appreciate the subtle nuances behind every phrase, every chapter, and every carefully-chosen word handpicked from the author's undoubtedly expansive vocabulary.
This is Nahrayan
's greatest triumph. The act has an uncanny ability to inject far more meaning into its work than can be deciphered with a mere passing listen through one's computer speakers or by listening to the tracks with the coolest-sounding names on YouTube. Whether it's the masterful progression from crushing heaviness to calming ambiance and back again on immense opener Demons Without Face
, the energetic riffing of A Dying Sun
, or the dark atmosphere of the inventively-titled epic closer The End
know how to make quality post-metal that is simultaneously accessible to the uninitiated and engaging to the learned listener.
However, possibly the strongest aspect of The Beginning of the End
is the inspired vocal performance by guitarist and vocalist Julián Velasco. One of the greatest weaknesses of post-metal is the tendency of its vocalists to sound like lesser versions of Aaron Turner or Steve Von Till, but Nahrayan
turn this unfortunate habit on its head. The closest analog to Velasco's style may be the screeched orations of Zao
's Daniel Wayandt or Trenches
' Jimmy Ryan, but instead of the grating metalcore-infused harshness typical of these contemporaries, he opts for a more muffled, semi-demonic shriek layered in such a way that it is transformed into arguably the most powerfully frightening vocal performance in a post-metal record since the last time Neurosis
released something. The superimposition of Velasco's immensely refreshing and surprisingly disturbing howls with the entire band's painstakingly crafted meld of breathtaking soundscapes and devastating sludge is the final straw that makes The Beginning of the End/The End of the Beginning
an early contender for the most entrancing and multi-layered post-metal record of 2012.