Review Summary: Well-constructed, well-executed but frustratingly constrained, NAAT's self-titled debut is nonetheless promising.
It’s undoubtedly a topic brought up many times before, but arguably instrumental post-metal is the metal world’s most potent double-edged sword. Unlike any other vocal-less metal subgenre (which, as a caveat, I’m not saying are any better or worse), it takes a genre where the balance between ‘atmosphere’ and heaviness is paramount to its make-up, and then removes the most easily connectable component. As a consequence, most albums are a combination of being excellently written, confidently progressing monsters, and a frustrating disconnect between music and listener. Yet whether it’s a conscious stylistic direction or a product of convenience, bands keep cropping up - one such band being Genoa’s ‘NAAT’.
As it happens, much of the output on their self-titled is very promising, the ‘push’ of the album focusing heavily on contrasts. The melancholic feel of ‘Falesia’ is starkly different to the manic, uncomfortable voicings present on ‘Baltoro’, despite both being constructed in fairly similar fashions. However, it’s the closing two tracks, ‘Dancalia’ and ‘T’mor Sha’, that mark out their true potential. ‘Dancalia’ forms wonderfully out of a primarily drum based start, as bittersweet guitar lines morph seamlessly into a thoroughly savage finish; conversely, ‘T’mor Sha’ comes flying out of the hatch with a surging hard rock-influenced riff, its energy slowly dissipating into a more controlled, sludgier conclusion.
However, NAAT does
fall into some of the pitfalls that instrumental post-metal harbours. Containing chunky, unusually timed riffs very much in the vein of Precambrian
-era The Ocean, opener ‘Vostok’ seems content to shift ideas around a base theme, be it in the guise of a layered tremolo-picked section or a lurching time-signature change. While in itself not a bad thing, the execution here feels more like a jam session, resulting in a fun but ultimately unfulfilling piece. Additionally, ‘Temo’ and ‘Bromo’ comprise the staple ambient filler tracks which, while performing some kind of role at breaking the album up, offer little in terms of their intrinsic value.
Sadly, the biggest issue is the obvious one: every now and then, NAAT
really feels like it needs vocals. This isn’t a product of the music itself being uninteresting, but it lacks the hooks to keep parts circulating around the brain after listening. Consequentially, this isn’t an album one is likely to wake up in the morning specifically wanting to listen to; rather one that, while looking through a music library stares back at you, providing a welcome reminder of its existence. No longer than it needs to be and filled with exciting ideas, NAAT show themselves to have a mature approach despite their fledgling status as a group – just held back by the inherent constraints of their chosen sound.