Review Summary: Blending The Beyond-era Cult of Luna and early Fall of Efrafa, enter a post-metal tale of the holy, the occult, blood, and God.
Relative newcomers to the post-metal scene, Seattle-based sextet Bréag Naofa revealed themselves to the world in 2012 with this self-titled first epic revisiting a sound that was perhaps not new, but executed with a prowess few but the greatest have matched. Massive sludge-infused riffs intertwined with aerial melodic passages, complemented by intense growled vocals of the highest quality – the band’s approach never pretended to be groundbreaking, but the result is no less of a hazard to our cervical spines. Had they come out a decade earlier, they may well have entered the post-metal pantheon – or so can one speculate.
Furthering the apparent tradition of a genre where bands name themselves after Egyptian gods, title their tracks Masses, and present themselves as worshippers of celestial bodies, Bréag Naofa employ religious imagery at great length. Their particular take paints a bloodstained tale of religion as a historical epicentre of war, deceit, and madness. From the band’s very name, Old Irish for “Holy Lie”
, to the artwork depicting the cephalophore Saint Denis saving his severed head from the wrath of men, the aesthetic at play here is anything but concealed.
Far from being merely ornamental, these external traits magnify the messages the music conveys in and of itself. While not taking themselves too seriously in their communication with the outside world, Bréag Naofa are a band with something to say: religious powers are poison and the sacred is murderous. Like many before it, the album starts and ends on vocal samples, the first describing a man pleading with his God but abandoned to his mortal fate before the first crushing riff takes the listener by surprise, the other critiquing the Scriptures with an excerpt of J.J. Dyken’s The Divine Default
. Despite being vehement about their inclinations, the band knows to maintain a level of nuance: while most lyrics here touch on themes of obsessive faith, megalomania, and religiously-fuelled ostracization, the album also fittingly describes the story of a man so consumed by disproving the existence of God that it becomes his very own cult, and in another track refers to a solipsist Sith Lord from the expanded Star Wars universe to discuss narcissism and extravagant self-glorification.
The heaviness and intensity of the subject matter is manifested musically as much as it is lyrically, with each track growing darker, mightier and more ominous, displaying an incessantly renewed barrage of pounding post-metal riffs and growled despair. It is not before its second act that the record reveals the full breadth of its sound however, as the band suddenly unleashes faster paced, bone crushing punkish sections reminiscent of Owsla
amidst their classic post-metal sound, to conclude on a fantastic, melodic yet earth-shattering finale. The band’s influences are strong and clear, and if the Black Rabbit of Inlé or the Moon Cult mean anything to you, they should be of the greatest appeal.
Whilst musical freshness may be prerequisite for historical value, its absence does not preclude enjoyment and quality. Bréag Naofa
feels both familiar and new - an old friend coming back with more songs of a style you already know but enjoy nonetheless. This debut album is a ritual full of colour and dynamics, of accelerations and calm, of melodies that breathe and crushing explosions that suffocate. The line between frantic violence and pounding heaviness is one the band walked more gracefully here than in any of their later records, and this makes the album their magnum opus to date. If you have not heard post-metal classics, you ought to go there first; but if you have and want more, this is the place to be.