Year of No Light - Nord [Crucial Blast - 2007]
Nord is the debut release by France's Year of Light. This music is all over the map, which is a good thing. Mostly though, it borders close to the Neurosis and Isis school of avant-metal. Don't expect a cardboard replica of such music though; it has plenty of individual touches which make it unique.
The press release lists the genre description for Nord as "brutal shoegazer" which is kind of funny, and I guess partly accurate, as there are touches of plodding Swervedriver riffs and long warbly instrumental passages. The metal songs are only shoegaze influenced in that the vocals are down in the mix, at about the same volume level as the band.
The press release description also compares them to Dinosaur Jr. and the Cure among the obvious shogazers My Bloody Valentine and the aforementioned Swervedriver. I don't see anything as straightforward as Dinosaur Jr. or anything even remotely (even early) Cure-like here. They do redeem themselves by going on to mention Neurosis, Isis and Troum as influences, which seems entirely apt. There are passages of echoey, dark drones which are very redolent of Troum.
As a metal band, these guys are pretty intense. The twin guitar attack is of the melodic and triumphant variety a lot of the time, and these tunes have some real drive as a result. The vocals are not quite at the level of black metal screeching. They are yelled to the point of incomprehensibility (I think, they are in French which I unfortunately am not fluent in), but since they're down in the mix a bit, they work really well, and don't overwhelm the music.
The passages of semi-ambient music, and the long instrumental passages add a dimension of drama to Nord. The band is tight, and manage these changes in mood nicely. Best of all, Nord is sequenced for maximum effect. Since it's meant to be a suite of songs, it really pays off to listen to the whole thing in one shot. Erwin Michelfelder