Review: Naisian ‘Metal’

Sheffield’s hard hitting progressive sludge metal foursome Naisian have been bothering the ear drums on and off since 2003. Unleashing a steady stream of EPs and one album on the unsuspecting public between 2008 and 2012 the band, comprising of Michael Aitken (Bass/Vocals), Jordan Garlick (Drums), Adam Zejma (Guitar/Vocals/Vocoder) and James Borrowdale (Guitar/Vocals), pedalled a seemingly unstoppable brand of DIY infused progressive and yet primitive riffing that utilised instrumentation often created by Aitken’s own Aitken Audio company.

Naisian ‘Metal’

Following a five-year hiatus the band returned in 2018 with the tortured howl of their Rejoiner EP, a raw three tracker that alongside a Neolithic battering style, also featured moments of humour such as Mantis Rising and introspective musings on writers block, that was mastered by none other than James Plotkin.

Their sophomore album Metal, despite its unassuming title, is ten tracks of uncompromising, unsettling sludge, that seeks to grab your attention and not let go until you submit.

Taft Point is an exercise in sonic gas lighting, first slamming you with an intriguing deep grooving opening, followed by a tsunami of blunt edged, visceral aggression then, caressing you with light synths that calling them a ‘sludge’ band does little to prepare you. The quiet moments are perfect and tender, the snaring dual vocal interplay over savage beats hypnotic, making it hard to decide which moment you want to be in at any one time.

Liquid Attraction dispenses with this finesse and is just content with smashing you over the head to the point where even the guitar solo is seemingly created to add to the discomfort rather than providing relief and the transitional track Is It Through does nothing to take the edge off before Asteroid collides with its tumbling rhythms.

Just when you think that Metal is little more than an exercise in blunt force trauma, FILA comes along to catch you off guard. A sombre, electronic, choral and piano moment of seeming tenderness, the plodding notes, laced with effect laden vocals add a mournful regretful tone to the proceedings before Brain Throne returns with more familiar brutality.

The synths claw at the centre of your brain, the riffs never allow you to truly settle into a comfortable groove and the guitars seem like a trigger sound for madness…

However, this midway point does seemingly herald a change and the back half of the album introduces more experimentation and lighter, more progressive elements to balance the roar.

Praying For Elliot has a dancing, playful bass line over which the guitars accent and emote in a manner that has more in common with the likes of Sons of Alpha Centuari than Bloodlet, and just as you lose yourself in the almost shoegaze passage, the band bring the hammer down with off kilter riffs and demented howls.

Closing out with the lumbering Paradoxical Undressing, the dual vocals seemingly strained beyond the ability to articulate without sounding like the members themselves are punch drunk, the band combine all the elements they have, seeming thrown at the wall to create a physically assaulting cacophony.

The synths claw at the centre of your brain, the riffs never allow you to truly settle into a comfortable groove and the guitars seem like a trigger sound for madness. It’s both brilliant and horrible simultaneously.

Metal is a complicated album, not only in terms of composition, but also in terms of listening experience. It can be an intriguing journey and seeks to step out far beyond the confines of what ‘sludge metal’ can be, adding flavours and nuances that owe a debt to pioneers like Neurosis, seeking to challenge the listener beyond their comfort zone.

At times it can be a bit of a headache. Naisian show they definitely have the ability to write great, dynamic music, I’m just not sure I can listen to it on repeat.

Label: Sludgelord Records
Band Links: Facebook | Instagram

Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden