Review Summary: With Qaal Babalon, Nibiru have created the best possible soundtrack to an impending apocalypse. Hold on to your senses.
A couple of months ago, crackpot theorists and doomsday enthusiasts revelled in the idea that the end of the world was actually going to happen, a theory which detailed a newly discovered planet, called Nibiru, would crash into Earth's atmosphere and crush it into smithereens. The date when this supposed event was announced to happen was four days ago, funnily enough on the exact same day as Judas Priest were being announced for the final Bloodstock headliner. No wonder then that this supposedly destructive planet shares its name with one of Italy's most enticing propositions in the realm of extreme metal. Indeed, Nibiru have built their strong reputation over the years as a band that love to dabble in otherworldly mesmerism, contained in a nihilistic vortex of sludgy riffs, paranoia-inducing soundscapes and some of the most monolithic vocal delivery to have emerged in the last few years. Coincidentally at the same time as the supposed aforementioned doomsday event was scheduled to occur, Nibiru have returned to unleash more of their demented, menacing sounds and the result is latest album Qaal Babalon
There's no two ways about it: Qaal Babalon
is a complete and utter menace. Ardath's electrifying and horrifyingly deep vocal roar proves itself to be utterly enthralling. The constant squall of earth-shakingly heavy guitar work present halfway through album opener "Oroch" is malevolent. The tribal drum beats and unnerving ambient overtones in final song "Oxex" revel in nightmarish soundscapes and never once seem to be clawing to a cleaner sound. Indeed, it's quite the monster compared to its predecessor Padmalotus
. Whereas the previous album certainly refined Nibiru's penchant for warped, spacey atmosphere and the sense of being pulled into a black hole for eons and eons, this album literally laughs at you as you gasp for air, floating in space and having your brain oozed out of every possible hole, before contorting all five of your senses and rendering you inadequate for human existence. Well, this is essentially the feeling you can get when listening to opener "Oroch" in its nineteen-minute entirety. The song builds with ear-shattering feedback and some of the most aggressive basslines of any album released this year, until grinding guitar work and Ardath's aforementioned rasping vocal delivery (strangely enough similar to that of Mayhem's Attila Csihar) completes the song and you're left wondering if the world really is doomed. "Oroch" does the job of representing a more demented version of the same band that produced Padmalotus
The other three songs are just as warped-sounding, but in their own unique way. This is the magic of Qaal Babalon
, that there's simply no two songs which sound like each other, and whilst this may be clichéd to say (especially given the fact that the album has merely four songs) it's a stone cold fact. "Faboan" revels in its pacier, more immediate presence, where the rhythm section instruments arrive at the forefront and display a ferocious, feral energy which is, unsurprisingly, matched by Adarth's eccentric performance. "Bahal Gah" features Adarth at his most versatile, at times attempting and succeeding at producing a cleaner vocal tone, but before you wonder if the band are about to be laidback, your fears will be quashed thanks to Adarth's abrupt change into a neolithic roar. The song also demonstrates a clearly progressive structure, where moments of isolated ambiance are slowly distorted into rhythmic violence, continually pummelling the listener's eardrums with moments of thmping heaviness. Yet the highlight of this album is the most surprising here, album closer "Oxex", which features the least amount of instrumental distortion and rhythmic presence of all four songs. Featuring eleven minutes of slow, gradual albeit unsettling spacey and synthesised ambiance, Nibiru make it their work to leave a mark on your psyche, grinding and almost praying to astral gods for eternal damnation, as hinted at with Adarth's consistent ritualistic chanting. This chanting is the icing on the cake, a brilliant aspect of the band's hard work ethic which points why Nibiru are so revered by their fanbase. This aspect was hinted at on previous albums, but here, as with Adarth's vocal delivery on the album's three other songs, the bar has been raised to an unreachable point.
Focus and a penchant for developing ritualistic, astral soundscapes has always been Nibiru's order of the day, but it's a certainty that Qaal Babalon
will end up being the band's magnum opus. Every aspect has been finely tuned to feature the best of what the band has to offer, but at the same time Nibiru have not lost that overbearing sensation that you're being dragged into a seemingly endless black hole, with no way of escape to put you at ease. This nightmarish oddyssey turns out to be one of the most excellent albums of its kind, not just for 2017, but for the last decade or so.