Noltem
Illusions In The Wake


4.0
excellent

Review

by Sunnyvale CONTRIBUTOR (62 Reviews)
October 16th, 2021 | 33 replies


Release Date: 10/15/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Fine-tuned atmo black with some twists

The ‘similar bands’ referenced on Connecticut-based band Noltem’s Sputnik profile (and the comparable collection mentioned on their Bandcamp) read like a “who’s who” of the world of atmospheric black metal. From progenitors like Ulver to more recent headliners, European and American, like Drudkh and Agalloch, this assortment is undoubtedly high-class, but I’m not sure it does Noltem any favors. This isn’t to say that the group's new LP, Illusions In The Wake , doesn’t fall under these artists’ purview, as influence from many of them can indeed be cited throughout the album. It’s just that, when such a broad range of the most successful and acclaimed bands in this particular subgenre are brought up in this way, there’s an inevitable expectation that Noltem may just be a derivative and generic representative of the style. Fortunately, this very much isn’t the case. While building from a foundation of atmospheric and melodic black metal, Noltem have succeeded here by integrating a number of other threads into their music to create a record which is very much their own, along the way demonstrating an uncommon level of craft for their first full-length.

The six tracks Noltem present here run a gamut of genre stylings. While black metal has typically been a bit of a monochromatic genre (and often all the better for it), here the music eschews the limitations of only frostbitten shades of black and gray to be more reminiscent of the gorgeous and lush album artwork, diverse and colorful despite retaining grit and even brutality. First of all, Illusions In The Wake frequently seasons its blackened textures with progressive influences, which don’t take long to rear their head. Opener “Figment” features soaring guitar solos which emphasize this side of the band’s sound, even as it is one of the less adventurous tunes on offer. Closer “On The Shores Of Glass” is an even better example of this tendency, a lengthy instrumental which veers sharply into proggy metal goodness. In addition, much of the music here has a groove-laden and sludgy tinge, and periodic blackgaze and post-rock moments also arise, like in the lengthy outro to “Ruse”, even if the band doesn’t fully commit to this direction. The great thing about this album, though, is that these genre experimentations don’t feel forced, and flow together effortlessly. This isn’t the easiest thing to accomplish, let alone on a debut album (the band’s only previous releases were widely spaced out, a demo in 2005 and an EP in 2015).

All told, Illusions In The Wake feels like an ambitious release within a digestible runtime (under forty-one minutes in total). While there’s nothing here truly unprecedented, the songs are a confident and deft-handed exploration of a number of styles. I wouldn’t claim that this album is a classic, but it’s a blast to jam nonetheless, and given its masterful execution there should be high expectations for the band’s future output.. Let’s just hope that we don’t have to wait too long for a follow-up.



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user ratings (50)
3.7
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
October 16th 2021


3217 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I really like this album, tasty stuff. Check it out, if this sounds like your thing!

zaruyache
October 16th 2021


24853 Comments


this was on my wishlist wewww

trilo
October 16th 2021


4359 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

nicee, been waitin for this one. singles ruled. also artwork is gorgeous

Digging: Earl Sweatshirt - Sick!

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
October 16th 2021


16134 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Guess I don’t need to panic about my review for this. Great work Sunny

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
October 16th 2021


3217 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sorry to steal your thunder Nocte, didn't know you had your eyes on this one!

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
October 16th 2021


16134 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

To be fair I’ve got my eyes on almost everything. Between Notrap, Dewi and myself it’s probably a task to find something we don’t have eyes for. Plus there’s a disparity between the stuff we want to review vs the stuff we have time to review and the stuff we actually review. Metal has definitely had some time in the spotlight this year.

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
October 16th 2021


3217 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Fair enough! It's been a great year for metal, and in general, in my book.

Trifolium
October 16th 2021


28975 Comments


That is one gorgeous cover! Giving this a go later, "diverse and colorful despite retaining grit and even brutality" sounds promising!

Elynna
October 16th 2021


1073 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The 'recommended by reviewer' entries and beautiful album art got me pretty hyped to check this out

Digging: Wilderun - Epigone

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
October 16th 2021


26771 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Heard this yesterday, it was really good, gotta revisit. Nice to see you writing frequently while keeping the quality and jumping from genre to genre with ease, Sunny, keep it up!



"Between Notrap, Dewi and myself it’s probably a task to find something we don’t have eyes for. "



Haha very true, unfortunately we don't have time to write about all we want to, but we definitely try!

Digging: Anna von Hausswolff - Live at Montreux Jazz Festival

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
October 16th 2021


3217 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Cheers guys!



@Trif, definitely give it a go, hopefully you find it worthy of that description.



@Elynna, this album does its own thing, but if you like those albums I'd say there's a good chance you'll dig it.



@Dewi, thanks, appreciate the kind words!

WatchItExplode
October 16th 2021


9464 Comments


Best thing about this album was the cover. I wanted to like it, I just did not find it exciting in any way... She Said Destroy however needs a listen from my metal people.

TheNotrap
Staff Reviewer
October 16th 2021


17129 Comments


I've been wanting to check this out for a couple of days now, the album has been getting good press.

Sunnyvale
Contributing Reviewer
October 16th 2021


3217 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@WatchItExplode, to each their own... I did check that She Said Destroy album yesterday, some awesome moments, will be returning to it

WatchItExplode
October 16th 2021


9464 Comments


Perhaps I thought I was in the mood for atmo black, but actually needed something a bit more adventurous. Or maybe this was just a bit too colorful. I will give it another chance to find out.

Azog
October 16th 2021


681 Comments


Gets better with every spin.

Digging: Funeral Mist - Deiform

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
October 16th 2021


16134 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Easiest 4 of the year

Doomcifer
October 17th 2021


13 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

^ Damn straight.

Evok
Contributing Reviewer
October 18th 2021


8765 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Ah hell am I ever glad I found this review. Checked them out on a whim and loving it. This is really good stuff, though the drums sound a bit artificial for this kind of music.

Digging: Ferrara Ensemble and Crawford Young - Figures Of Harmony: Songs Of Codex Chantilly c1390

combustion07
October 18th 2021


9523 Comments


Really, really love this cover art! Gonna have to jam. Not gonna lie I've slacked pretty badly on black metal this year

Digging: Discarnated - Deus Misereatur



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