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Nonsun - Black Snow Desert album art

Black Snow Desert

6th January 2016 – Self-released

01. No Pity for the Beast, No Shelter for the Innocent
02. Ashes of Light, Demons of Justice
03. Crystal Empty
04. Peace of Decay, Joy of Collapse
05. Heart’s Heavy Burden
06. Observing the Absurd
07. Rest of Tragedy

The faint of heart – and even hardcore metalheads – may baulk at the thought of a double album of drone metal, but with Black Snow Desert Nonsun have crafted something colossal. Brimming with character and full of ideas, the double album format gives them a chance to expand their themes and develop ideas at their own thunderous pace.

Nonsun give themselves a vast amount of creative freedom on what is a truly titanic release. By giving themselves a huge amount of time to play around with, they allow themselves to develop their tracks into sprawling soundscapes. This gives individual tracks the breathing room to melt from the occasionally quite busy “Ashes of Light, Demons of Justice” to the spaced-out thrum of “Crystal Empty“. Taken individually these tracks are finely-crafted stand-alone pieces, but as a whole the album works well as a very, very long, bleak soundscape. Moments of melody jump out like motifs in a film soundtrack, notably the almost folk-y riff around the mid point of “Peace of Decay, Joy of Collapse“.

The length of the album is its greatest secret weapon; for a record that dabbles in abrasive noise, jarring dynamics, atonality and periods of ambience, the double-album format allows it to express all of this and actually come across as cohesive. An outsider’s view of this kind of extreme music is that it’s lazy or underdeveloped but nothing could be further from the case here; this is a cerebral, architectural release. This cohesion and thoughtfulness could have been stretched out even further, to make further use of motifs in order to tie the entire piece together but as it is the mammoth release is far from disjointed.

There’s more than a little nod to Earth to be found, which seems like a redundant statement considering how niche the genre is and how influential Dylan Carlson‘s group have been. However, on an album with titles like “Ashes of Light, Demons of Justice” reading heavily like a nod to Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light the parallels seem more obvious. What this means is that the album always seems haunted by the spectre of Earth, which, aside from some occasionally busy percussion work, they never really seem to shake. This is a little bit of a shame for an album which is otherwise doing a lot to push the drone envelope, but doesn’t significantly detract from the effectiveness of the tracks. In other words, hero-worship in this sense may appear a little incongruous but the overall impact of the album is not reduced.

By the conclusion you’re left emotionally exhausted and a little physically overwhelmed; this is an album to be enjoyed in the background whilst the mercurial sounds jolt and fizz and melt their way into your subconscious. For anyone looking to be a little more experimental with how they experience heavy music the this is an excellent album for you; the same goes for seasoned drone fans looking for bands from further afield. An excellent offering and a fantastic debut.

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