Review Summary: Journey into the jagged mountains.
Post-black metal you say? These riffs would like to have a word with you. From the very first moment of the opening track, it’s obvious that Nemus does not want to be just another Show Me a Fen for Crippled Deafbaths. Not that there’s anything wrong with those bands, but there’s no denying the very obvious similarities between and amongst them. That’s also not to say there isn’t some of that type of sound present here, but with "Stein – Mensch", Nemus is seeking to carve out his very own niche, and he’s using a Surtr-sized flaming sword of riffage to do it.
At the same time, he doesn’t rely entirely on this to move the instrumentally conveyed story along. If you haven’t guessed from the tracklist, this is a concept album (which I am a complete sucker for). It tells the story of a climber who, while scaling a mountain, wandered into a cave and discovered the metaphysical heart near it’s peak. Absorbed by its supernatural power and transformed into a half-human, half-stone being (Der Golem, if you will), he is cursed to prey on other climbers, killing them out of jealously for the purity of their mortality.
The rugged, desperate-sounding vocal performance and heavy, down-tuned main riffs convey this creature’s loneliness and anguish quite well. Said riffs are simple, straightforward, but impactful and memorable, coupled with a drum and bass performance that mirrors this approach. Between and amidst this are scattered tastefully done and appropriately tragic orchestral/symphonic elements. An occasional soft break featuring strings and piano, a vibrant vocal chorus, rising and falling in tune with the melodic backing riffs. And yes, there are blasts beats; just enough to satisfy, not enough to overtake the sound. Carefully utilized, they are often spread out and dropped in where you least expect it, yet they fit perfectly within the structure of each song, and across the album as a whole.
Speaking of song structure, there is a significant improvement over Nemus’ debut in how each track progresses and flows into the next. While the presentation of the atmosphere and the overall emotional content of his previous work (See – Mensch) were surprisingly effective, the ability of each track, and individual sections within them, to grab and hold your attention suffered. That is not the case here; as one engaging, exciting section ends, there’s just enough time for a soft break to bring some of that atmosphere and dark emotional weight back in. Then it’s over before you know it and onto the next foot-stomping shockwave of rock-crushing riffage. Head-banging stretches are abundant but intelligently spaced out, even featuring a few inspiring solos layered over them. Your classic tremolo-picking undercurrents are right where they need to be, rounding out the already cold and isolated mood with a chilling sting.
The balance struck within each song and across the album is not perfect; some tracks benefit from this unconventional placement and utilization of elements more than others but taken as a whole, it’s a powerfully entrancing, and consistently compelling experience. Nemus has much he can improve on but has also accomplished much with his first two releases, and the improvement from his previous album to this one is apparent. I hope he continues this upward trajectory; if he can successfully combine the eminent atmospherics and earnestly conveyed emotion of his debut, and further improve upon the kick-ass core riffs and superior songwriting present here, we might be in for a modern post-black metal spectacle that could be a striking achievement not just on a technical and sentimental level, but also provide a truly original take on a relatively stagnant and oversaturated sub-genre. Something to that effect is sorely needed (bands like Numenorean and Solstafir are trying) and the makings are here. I’ll be following Nemus closely, and with great anticipation.