Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus – Madness Incarnate Album Review and Band Interview
This week, we are going to highlight a black metal band from Pennsylvania, USA; Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus. They look Scandinavian and sound like Scandinavian. Like playing Japanese music, better than Japanese. I know this example surely sounds exaggerating, but still, these guys are good in what they are doing.
I have been listening to Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus’ latest EP album; “Madness Incarnate” (2016) for few days. I cannot call myself a big black metal music fan, but unexpectedly, I found this one quite interesting. The album is mainly guitar oriented. It’s powerful, aggressive, violent, dark and rich with very delicious progressive metal motifs (which was very surprising). But most importantly, it never gets boring. The non-standard and complex compositions, musically keep you fresh and stimulated. Most of the time, I wanted to shut my eyes and dream away. And in my opinion, the most successful element in their performance on Madness Incarnate album is how well Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus reflected their emotions into their music.
The album opens with “Traversing The Frozen North.” Very exciting intro as an album opener track. It definitely has a deep, mysterious feeling. You start to feel the North from the first second, its cold, dark and tense. As a part of the whole album concept, the song has a great atmosphere with ups and downs. The footsteps take you to that place, where that mysterious story happened, and leave it to you to picture everything in your head.
The second track is definitely my favorite one; “Madness Incarnate.” This is where everything gets more and more exciting. This song summarizes the whole album, contains all the motifs in a very balanced manner. Full of progressive guitar licks with aggressive vocals, and never loses the Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus atmosphere.
The next one is “Virgin Essence.” Melodies of this beautiful, clean guitar intro remind me of some Iced Earth, Behemoth, and Opeth licks. A typical black metal song with Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus spirit from the beginning to the end.
The fourth song of the album is the most violent one; Immaculate Deconception. Gore, blood, and destruction. Like, trying to wake yourself up from a nightmare, or running away from the devil in your dream. The uncertainty and unexpected changes are always keeping your attention alive. The music and the feeling that Madness Incarnate gives you, never repeat itself. This is what they are special about I guess.
Comte-Sponville is the last song of the album. Such a great experimentation, instrumental song. I loved it. Recording an EP album (Extended Play; musical album under 30 minutes of length) and deciding to put one instrumental-experimental song, which won’t make any label company happy because of its low commercial value. Big respect point! This is why I have great respect for these guys. They didn’t have anything else in their minds, but music. Listening to a melodic black metal record with Gojira-ish, Opeth-like partitions, death metal vocals, progressive, and jazzy guitar licks. What else I can say, simply amazing.
Eventually, this is an album with great value. Guys obviously worked very hard, put so much thought and effort into it. We can also call it; “the period of the lifetime,” where they put their bests into notes at the time. It’s well-written, organized and produced. Guitar parties are the superstar with the vocal performance. It’s like, if somebody would have told me that the vocalist is from a very popular death metal band and joined Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus for their new project, I’d believe him. And the only negative thing that I noticed about this album is the recording quality. It could have been much better. I believe this is not their last one; they have a long journey ahead! I definitely look forward to hearing their next album. Highly recommended!
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THE OFFICIAL FACEBOOK PAGE
1 – Who is Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus? Tell us about the band.
Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus (Finnish for Nihilistic Barbarism) was formed outside of Philadelphia in 2012 by me (Mika Mage) and Manuel Rodriguez, as an outlet for atmospheric black metal songs we were coming up with. We developed an LP entitled ‘Synkkä Tuuli’ (“Grim Wind” in English), which ultimately saw a CD release on Mike Juliano’s Horror Pain Gore Death Productions, as well as a cassette release on Infernal Kommando Records in France. Manuel left the band soon after (although he would return a few years later to contribute bass), rendering NB essentially a one man band; so it has remained to this day. Although the music is now entirely composed by me alone, I do enlist the help of session/studio musicians to provide a little more dynamic and fill roles I cannot myself perform (for instance drums and vocals). Over the course of 5 years Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus has put out 7 physical releases (not including an initial self-titled demo) – 3 CDs (2 LPs and an EP) & 4 cassettes – on labels including HPGD, IK Records, Depressive Illusions Records, Black Lion Productions, and Symbol of Domination Productions (a sub-label of Satanath Records).
2 – Who are Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus` influences, Which artists, which bands and which albums?
The sound of Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus has evolved over time, particularly as the band changed from a duo to single person act. To begin with Manuel was into many traditional black metal (Graveland, Hate Forest, Ulver) and atmospheric (Paysage D’Hiver, Velvet Cacoon, Darkspace) bands, and I think these influences are pretty obvious in the first album. My personal influences were always more progressive, both with regard to black metal (Old Man’s Child, Enslaved, Naglfar, Windir) and other melodic genres such as power metal (Sonata Arctica, Ensiferum, Bal-Sagoth) and melodic death metal (Dismember, Dimension Zero, Darkane). Thus, as I took over the reins creatively the music started to develop more along those lines. My current scheme for Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus is to attempt and meld progressive melodic ideas with traditional black metal aesthetics, for instance playing in major keys while tremolo picking chords or introducing Gothenburg style riffs.
3 – Every band has their own way of writing music. What can you tell about the band`s writing process? Who is the main composer?
At the genesis of the band Manuel had an assortment of riffs already written, to which I added my own and ultimately organized the whole gamut into formal songs. When Manuel left my writing process became pretty informal yet fairly standard: Since I am mainly a guitarist the songs virtually always begin as a series of riffs, to which I then add bass and program drums to give the overall feel for each section of the track (a session drummer later replaces the programmed drums with real ones). Finally the lyrics and vocals come last, the composing of which I am open to involving outside persons (except when it comes to lyrics, rarely will a song have someone other than me have a credited as a writer).
4 – Usually, musicians who are making/playing aggressive or violent music, have opposite type of personalities in their daily life. Unlike their music, they are mostly very calm. How do you consider yourselves?
I’m not sure if I would call myself a calm person, as I can be very energetic and eager when it comes to aspects of life I am passionate about. However, I am very interested in healthcare and medicine, having volunteered and worked in many facilities which require a stoic demeanor and kind bedside manor perhaps not expected of one who enjoys extreme metal; these include an Adult Day Care and Cancer Resource Center at a hospital, a hospice (providing palliative care for the imminently terminally ill), and even a kennel (where I currently work taking care of people’s pets). So, maybe there is something to that sentiment after all…
5 – ‘Madness Incarnate’ is going to be a year old in few days. How do you personally still feel about the album now one year later? How was the feedback from your fans?
I am very pleased with how the ‘Madness Incarnate’ EP performed, both with regard to feedback from fans as well as the critics. The music on the EP is much more accessible, not in a pop/mainstream sense, rather the production quality was elevated so as to not render it quite so raw (making it listenable to more than just the hardcore black metal fans) and the riffing styles more melodic and less abrasive than traditional black metal would normally allow for. As such, the reviews have been the most positive we have seen for any release, a trend I’m very grateful for and hope continues.
6 – How was the recording process of `Madness Incarnate`? What was the most challenging factor? Also tell us about that period of time in your personal lives.
For the recording of ‘Madness Incarnate’ I was fortunate enough to attract Manuel back into the fold to contribute his service as guest bassist, and it was a real pleasure working with him again. Prior to MI all releases were recorded at the personal home studio of M.w.s. (named At Thee Illuminated); when it came to recording MI, I finally had acquired enough equipment in my own setup that I was able to do everything in-house (aside from recording the drums, which was done in Mexico by Joffre Videz). The most unique facet of the EP is that it has 3 different vocalists: Gary Hadden (Lesch-Nyhan), Joel Robert Thompson (Omelas), and James Dorton (Black Crown Initiate, Nightfire, Aborted Existence). It was a real treat employing the talents of each, particularly James as he had to take time out of his busy schedule with Black Crown Initiate (currently the biggest band on the planet, exaggerating only slightly) to contribute (this was actually the second time he sang on an Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus track, the first time being on the title-track for the 2013 EP ‘Väinämöinen’). Definitely the most challenging portion of any recording session is the recording and editing of the vocals, but only because it is a time consuming and laborious process (but no pain, no gain).
7 – How do you describe the band`s musically progress since the first release in 2012? What changed?
I mentioned a lot about this already, but to summarize Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus has definitely become more progressive and melodic while implementing more death metal techniques and ideas, largely the result of me becoming the sole creative force (allowing my influences to come through more boldly). Production wise the quality has increased exponentially, mainly the result of having better access to equipment over time.
8 – Which bands would you like to tour the world with, if you were asked to choose? And why?
Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus was all set to support Unearthly (a Brazilian black metal act) on the second leg of their US tour in 2015, but it fell through due to logistical reasons with regard to getting a live lineup together. It was really unfortunate since I was really looking forward to finally getting a chance to play live (NB has never played live yet, so it would have been a great “trial by fire” experience) and seeing how metalheads react to it. As it stands now there are no plans to play live, mainly because it is difficult in my geographic region to find musicians willing to dedicate their time to what is essentially my personal passion project, of which they would have little (or no) creative input and receive virtually no remuneration. However, in my dreams I would love to play for Bal-Sagoth or Sonata Arctica (just because they are a couple personal favorites of mine).
9 – Can you picture Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus` next album in your head? How does it going to sound like? More aggressive? In which field you would like to focus more?
For the next album I plan to build on what I’ve already done with ‘Madness Incarnate’, while also heading further in a death metal direction. To describe it using contemporary bands, I’d say it would ideally sound like a mix of Bal-Sagoth, Old Man’s Child, and Ensiferum (emphasis on ideally, as I would be happy to achieve half of what any of those bands manage to produce sonically).
10 – Do you have any plans for the next Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus record? Any information about When or where? (which studio)
The next Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus album will be produced in my own home studio setup, although I’m unsure exactly when it will occur. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of time to dedicate specifically towards music at the moment due to my work and school life being quite hectic; however, I don’t feel like I’m in any specific rush either, and as such will probably take the rest of the year to compose 8 to 9 songs and then begin the process of recording them sometime in 2018.
11 – Tell us about your non-metal interests, and do you also listen to other genres?
Professionally I hope to become a physician one day (I currently have a B.A. in Biology and M.H.S. in Infectious Disease Epidemiology), so I’ve spent much of my time working and volunteering in different healthcare arenas (as I explained briefly before). In my personal life I of course love music and going to shows (though not nearly as many as I used to when I was younger); when it comes to listening to music I limit myself to metal but do listen to most genres equally (aside from nu-metal and hardcore subsets). Aside from music I am very into horror movies (recently It Follows and The Babadook were favorites of mine) and Chinese gun-fu flicks (John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat are heroes of mine)
12 – What is your most favorite black metal album? and why?
My favorite black metal album is ‘A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria’ by Bal-Sagoth (some may argue it isn’t a “true” black metal album, but it definitely fits the bill more so than their future releases). This is because it was one of the first black metal albums I listened to, having been drawn in by Bal-Sagoth’s newer material (which was far more progressive and death metal). It also has several songs which today remain amongst my favorites and evidenced to me early on that black metal could be fun and catchy while remaining brooding and atmospheric (all elements I strive to incorporate in my own writing). Examples of such tracks are “Dreaming of Atlantean Spires”, “Enthroned in the Temple of the Serpent Kings”, and “Witch-Storm”.
13 – What’s the best concert you’ve ever attended that you did not play?
The best concert I ever attended was Sonata Arctica’s first ever show in the USA; it occurred in 2005 at the now defunct Jaxx Nightclub in West Springfield, Virginia. Me and my friend Ken Weichert skipped school and got there about 8 hours early in order to camp out in line and get front row “seats”; we ran into the band as soon as we pulled up hanging out by their tour bus and got autographs and photos with them (they later put these on their official website). It was definitely a star struck moment for us and one I won’t soon forget.
14 – Tell us about the band`s future plans, tours dates, and new projects.
As far as Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus goes there isn’t much planned other than what already was mentioned. In the meanwhile, fans should check out Moonlight Prophecy – the side-project of frequent Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus guest contributor Lawrence Wallace (Lawrence’s Creation, Shadows in the Crypt, Serpent ov Old, ex-Evil Divine) – which just released a 3 track EP entitled ‘Eternal Oblivion’ (featuring yours truly on bass!). To stream and buy (name your price) the EP visit the Bandcamp page at https://moonlightprophecy.bandcamp.com/album/eternal-oblivion.
15 – Lastly, what would you like to say to our readers?
Thanks for the opportunity to answer a few questions and thanks to the reader for taking the time to find out more about Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus! Be sure to check the band out on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nihilistinenbarbaarisuus or http://www.nbmetal.net and if you want to check out and buy our most recent EP ‘Madness Incarnate’ visit our Bandcamp at https://nihilistinenbarbaarisuus.bandcamp.com/album/madness-incarnate. For physical copies, visit Black Lion Records (https://www.blacklion.nu/store/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=125) or Symbol of Domination Productions (http://satanath.com/shop.html). Cheers!