Drone/Doom/Sludge Metal quartet Nonsun, from Lviv in Ukraine, return with Blood And Spirit, the follow up to their 2018 debut album Black Snow Desert. They have certainly become more ambitious and, in many respects, heavier with this release.
Nonsun – Blood And Spirit (Dunk! records)
Release Date: 15 April 2022
Words: Jools Green
Nonsun intended their first album to be considered as a single composition, spread across six tracks. In contrast, Blood And Spirit is more of a collection of distinct, standalone songs, each telling its own story.
If from the genre description, you are expecting gut-churningly brutal heaviness and cosmic emptiness of the likes of Sunn O))) it’s not. Instead, it’s more like a mix of the fuzzy drone of Om with an extra crushing edge and an added heavyweight version of Earth.
“The album title refers to spiritual struggles through the bloodiest of times,” the band said. “The five tracks, in a sense, are yearnings, or prayers, thrown into the void. What doesn’t kill you… Does it make you stronger? Or leave you even more crippled? When all magic is gone… Is wisdom worth a thing? It’s about raising questions rather than giving answers. As the rational mind and willpower fail, a spiritual quest begins.”
The songs were written and recorded between 2016 and 2020. “Though initially it was meant to have a more personal meaning, never could we imagine how painfully relevant the album’s title would sound near the time of release,” the band said.
Blood And Spirit sounds initially like, but isn’t, an instrumental record from a technical perspective. The vocals are delivered in a non-traditional, non-lyrical manner in the form of subtly integrated rumbling, guttural vocalisations and breathy chants. These are carefully woven into the very fabric of the tracks, often at a barely perceptible level but adding a considerable degree of unnerving dark atmosphere, melding with the lower elements and complementing the higher, often hypnotic riffs.
It delivers five tracks, spanning fifty-four minutes, so some pretty weighty duration pieces, each with its own individual, hugely immersive story to tell.
Opening on A Wizard Grieving Over The Loss Of Magic, which eases you into the album, its intro unfolding gradually and quietly. The intensity makes a punchy impact at just under two minutes in a rich meld of haunting riffs, equally distant vocalisations, and punchy, fuzzy bass lines with haunting high leadwork making its presence felt from midway. Then you get a reflective second-half drop away before a final haunting, crushing build.
That Which Does Not Kill is reflective to open, building and ebbing in crushing waves that surround, smother and try to overpower your senses. It’s superbly punctuated by the drum work and the occasional well placed sonic riff. I love the oppressive, repeated, “crushing smother” effect of this track. Hugely powerful and one of my favourite pieces on the album.
I also love the opener to Days Of Thunder Bring New Wisdom. Haunting hypnotic riffs are met by sonically low vocalisations that get higher as the intensity builds, ebbing back to more reflective, sonic edged proportions, repeating this pattern across the first half of the track with variance and great effect, along with militaristic drum rhythms building in the second half. This heralds a more haunting, pulsating and at times sonic sound, another favourite with me.
The final two tracks take their time to develop, both having very lengthy opening passages. The first Guilt, Disgust, Disaster, has a wistfully reflective, slow build, encompassing pretty much the whole first half, then ebbing back and erupting into repeated explosive crescendos and distant sonic elements.
The second and final offering of the album, In Your Eyes I’m a Cripple, has a more morose, reflective feel and is punctuated by bursts of crushing doomy blasts and sonic riffs. A beautifully bleak and oppressive listen that is massively atmospheric, particularly when the haunting deep vocal drones permeate the quieter passages. Again not picking up the pace until midway, but when it does, it’s an intense and all-encompassing, hypnotic meld of driving but haunting riffs, droning vocal sounds and subtle keyboards simmering beneath the surface, adding an ethereal feel. Pummelling drums are also subtly applied, just enough to make their presence known.
Fans of Doom, Drone, Post-Metal, and Avantgarde music will find Blood And Spirit a fascinating, slightly unnerving and powerfully compelling listen.
Vinyl 2xLP pre-orders are available from dunkrecords.com/products/nonsun-blood-spirit-2xlp
Digital pre-order is available at nonsun.bandcamp.com/album/blood-spirit