It’s been a while since I have listened to some crusty, raw black metal and I would be remiss to say I had any regrets about that, until now.
Inferno Reqiuem’s Nüwa is a re-release from Taiwanese one-man black metal band and although it has all the hallmarks of a lofi kvlt release it also manages to surprise with melodic sensibilities, atmospheric qualities and intriguing song writing. I also find the record to be unusually moving, I always enjoyed this kind of black metal as a background music, music that sets a mood but is not necessarily actively listened to, this album has those moments but also captivates you with stirring lyrical melodies and progressive song structures.
Fog, the one and only member of the band has been writing music for quite some time, with his first demo being released in 1999. He has only released three full-lengths in that time but also a number of EPs, splits and compilations. Nüwa was initially released in 2017 and is technically not his most recently composed material. When diving into new black metal these days one always has to do the obligatory scanning of lyrics and associations, just to be sure and one refreshing element of Inferno Requiem is the subject matter. Although there are the not too unusual lyrical themes of ghosts and horror, the music also touches on ancient mythology and specifically Mongolian history. The title Nüwa in fact refers to a goddess in ancient chinese mythology who is cited as the creator of mankind as well as attributed with repairing the Pillar of Heaven (one of the Eight Pillars of the Sky which are a concept in Chinese mythos).
I struggled to find officially published lyrics online but I did manage to dig up some on a Taiwanese website (and used Google Translate – shame). Although one must account for the fact the lyrics may have been lost in translation, from my reading the themes of mythology, ghosts and Chinese history seem to run strong. The lyrics are poetic, melancholic and misanthropic. I particularly like the translations of track five ‘The Investiture I’ (seemingly about the content of a 16th-Century Chinese novel titled Fengshen Yanyi dealing with gods and demons) and ‘Necrobewitchment’ (just altogether dark and poetic). Here is a link to where I found the lyrics so you can check them out for yourself.
To talk music, I found the entire album to be engaging and moreish. Although I don’t think I can say much that won’t entice people who aren’t already interested in the genre of raw black metal, for those who are not partial to it, I would say this is one of the most stand-out albums of this type that I have heard in some time. The guitar tone is on the verge of breaking your speaker yet still has a palatable feel to it. The bass is pretty non-existent as to be expected from this style of black metal but the drumming work is impressive (which is also probably to be expected). I think the vocals and the lead guitar might be the standout performance elements of the album. The vocals are blasphemous, and disturbing which contrasts with the powerful and moving lead guitar work.
To talk about some stand out moments of the record, the intro track ‘Nüwa’ has an incredible hook that keeps me on the edge of my seat throughout the piece. Similarly, track four, ‘Nefarious Moaning’ also delivers with mouth watering lead melodies. Track seven ‘Sanguineous Obscurity’ is the only new track of this release but features a remarkable middle-section build up that leads into the iconic, dulcet guitar work that is a trope on this album.
There are some interesting electronic elements heard on the album too which could potentially be described as dungeon-synth.You hear these moments initially as the album starts but also in odd places such as briefly at the end of track four. You also hear organ/keyboard sounds in the instrumental, track six, ‘Mephitis Leftover’. I like these moments of respite in the album as they serve as contrast to the balls-to-the-wall, apocalyptic black metal that book-ends these sections.
Although initially I was not expecting much from a 2020, raw black metal reissue I must kick myself for judging an album by it’s genre and state unequivocally that this release is enormous and even if the genre may not be your thing, give it a chance, you might be surprised.
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You can grab a digital copy of Nüwa over on Inferno Requiems’s Bandcamp page but only a small amount of his materials can be found on Spotify (pretty kvlt) . Most merch available can be found over on the Bandcamp page but I could only find vinyl of this record over on Discogs.