This album has harsh vocals.
That will be enough of a review for some people. Indeed, I was once one such. I don’t know that I’d go as far as to say I hated harsh vocals, but I certainly avoided them with extreme distaste. I had many friends suggest I needed to open my mind, and one let me know she wasn’t able to appreciate harsh vocals until well into her 30s. It seems I was a similar late bloomer. I wouldn’t say I appreciate harsh vocals now, but I certainly can tolerate them where the music more than makes up for them. Opeth was my gateway drug, with their Ghost Reveries album, and ever since my musical world has rapidly expanded. Italian band, Nero Di Marte was suggested to me as a band to listen to a few years back, and Derivae impressed me greatly. Enough so, that as soon as I heard a new album was being released, I was keen to review it.
Nero Di Marte seem most often to be compared to my fellow countrymen Ulcerate (New Zealand), Gorgots (Canada) and Gojira (France). Now, I will put my hands up straight away and say that nothing I have heard from Ulcerate or Gorgots is really something I am into, and, while I can hear why people make a Gojira comparison, I think this is more in keeping only with Nero Di Marte’s debut album. With second album, Derivae, and even more so this new album, Immoto, the Gojira comparison is becoming more and more dated. If I were to make comparisons at all it would probably be with Oranssi Pazuzu (Finland) and High Dependency Unit (New Zealand). Ultimately, though, despite any amount of inferred influences or comparisons, Nero Di Marte sound uniquely their own.
The new album starts off with the epically titled Sisyphos, and being the third-longest track on the album, it’s a fairly large statement of intent. Presently this is the only track available to listen to on the band’s Bandcamp page, but it sets out the stall well. What you can expect from the album is presented here in one track. Military precision and militant technical complexity, but with a groove so that the music sounds, almost paradoxically, meticulously constructed, yet fluid and dynamic. The music oscillates between musical extremes, ebbing and flowing and never stuck in one place. Of course, this works particularly well in a song using Sisyphos and his stone for a metaphor. Syncopated rhythms abound, and along with guitar riff after riff, they build, then calm, then build again, until ultimately descending into a beautifully atmospheric coda.
With Sisyphos alone, I think it is apparent how much of a step up Immoto is from Derivae, but this is only reiterated with each new track. Basically, and this is simplifying horribly, the band has taken previous extremes to further extremes. The heavy parts are even more crushingly brutal, and the quieter and more introspective parts are even more ambient and atmospheric. For a band that always had a great variation of sound within a track, that variation is even greater. The final two minutes of Sisyphos are absolutely gorgeous and are one of many moments that remind me of quite possibly my favourite New Zealand band, High Dependency Unit. This comparison is heightened by the first two minutes of L’Arca. Like HDU, Nero Di Marte meld jackhammering aggression with slower, more hypnotic passages, to amazing effect. L’Arca was my favourite song from the album upon my first listen, and still holds up well after many repeated listens.
Appropriately, the title track is the longest on the album, and also my favourite from Immoto. It’s dark and brooding, although on first impression it didn’t impress me so much as other tracks on the album. Surrounded by more bombastic tracks, Immoto sounds perhaps more subdued, so on first listen, I think it was merely overwhelmed. There is just as much detail and dynamic in the title track as the rest of the album, and after the first listen where it seemed stuck in the background, it now presents itself as a standout track. As with most of the album, I have no idea what is being sung (only two of the songs on Immoto have English lyrics), but it’s impossible not to feel the emotion of what is being sung, even if it cannot be understood. (It probably comes as no surprise that second-longest song La Casa del Diavolo is another favourite of mine. The sonic presence of this track is immense.)
My only complaint about the album, and it is a very petty one, is the sequencing of the last two tracks. I feel Irradia would have made a far better closing track than La Fuga. La Fuga is not at all a bad song, and I do like it, but Irradia just has a greater sense of finality about it. Furthermore, as one of the only two songs sung in English (with the other being the opening track), Irradia would have bookended the album beautifully. Having La Fuga play before Irradia would also maintain the long track, short(er) track sequence of the album.
However, if the only complaint is over the order of the tracks, I think it shows just how strong an album Immoto is. In my opinion, this is most definitely the best Nero Di Marte album yet. Derivae was a huge step up from the debut, and this is an even greater step up. Goodness knows where the band can go from here, but I will definitely be continuing their journey with them, as long as they allow me to!
01. Sisyphos (11:30)
02. L’Arca (8:42)
03. Immoto (12:59)
04. Semicerchi (7:14)
05. La Casa del Diavolo (12:00)
06. Irradia (10:05)
07. La Fuga (4:37)
Total Time – 67:10
Sean Worrell – Vocals, Guitar
Giulio Galati – Drums, Percussion
Andrea Burgio – Bass
Francesco D’Adamo – Guitar
Record Label: Season of Mist
Country of Origin: Italy
Date of Release: 24th January 2020