NHOR – Within the Darkness Between the Starlight

Nhor - Within the Darkness Between the Starlight. (2015)

“Within the Darkness between the Starlight”, aside from being the eternal realm of the old ones, is now the latest release from ambient folk, atmospheric black doom metaler and notorious adjective hoarder Nhor, and the first thing I noticed upon picking it up is the album cover.

Their cover is immediately reminiscent of the illustrations you used to get in old Lord of the Rings novels, with greyscale forest bleeding upwards into a chaos of branches and a tiny figure who seems lost and alone, even though, as far as we’re aware, this could be their daily commute. Mostly I assume to give some scale to what might otherwise be a really dramatic artist’s rendition of the inside of a hedge.

Viewed in the context of their music, it’s also a pretty fucking apt representation of what to expect.

It starts with a piano, one of the most underused of Metal’s tools, building up what might be considered simply classical, a two minute intro that eases its way to completion, bleeding into the chaos of the guitars, drums and distant, choking vocals of the title track. From there is more slowness, more glacial pacing and more distant, echoed agony where vocals might be. Which isn’t to say it’s entirely serene, there’s more than enough railing, screaming and gnashing of teeth, but agony is far from the focus. “Within the Darkness’” more natural tone gives it a more earthen, vital feel. It’s not devoid of strangeness, of course, and the movement of the celestial and the infinite still plays a hand in the unfolding of Nhor’s rhythms, but absence is definitely not the focus here. This is more a musical tour of the darkness and sunken beauty of R’lyeh than an unflinching look into the emptiness of eternity.

Fortunately, the sombre, unsettling style rolls thick through the album. Its longer songs are drawn out masterpieces, each with their own pauses, peace and the crashing revival of motion that distorted guitar brings. Some celestial piano to float gently over the distorted sea of blended riffing, sometimes the anguished howls of a distant vocalist and sometimes the quiet of gentle, enfolding piano, the longer songs are impressive audioscapes, epic and filled with moments of tension and relief, passion and quiet, fucking raw guitar work and measured allusion. It’s the sort of thing I can gush about ungraciously for four hundred words or more.

Four hundred and five, even.

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