It took underground metal act Naisian five years to follow up their ‘Monocle’ release, but 2018’s ‘Rejoinder’ EP was an amazing disc. In three songs, the band explored a whole world of doom, sludge and angry sounds, often doing more in short four minute bursts than some bands manage over the course of a whole side of vinyl.
Following their ‘Metal’ full length (Sludgelord Records, 2020), the ‘Scalar Waves’ EP presents a huge dramatic shift, both in terms of musical arrangements and production quality. At the heart of the four tracks, you’ll still hear the heart of the earlier Naisian beating furiously, but there’s so much here that suggests the band has really matured. Following a brief spoken word intro, the title cut explodes with a mechanical post-rock groove where a heavy bass and hard edged guitar suggest someone might have overdosed on Boss Keloid and Awooga during lockdown. This immediately sets up a really solid sound, but things genuinely intensify once scattergun metal riffs punch through with more of the aggression some listeners will be expecting. A further voyage into choppy post rock and arty metal brings waves of Tool rhythms beneath a bellowing hardcore voice, which goes a long way to solidifying Naisian’s commitment to all things arty, before a barrage of sludge metal riffs flesh out the music bringing everything in line with older recordings. With a throat caning hardcore vocal dragging everything to a close, this track is a very broad showcase for the band’s collective talents.
Acting as an extended interlude, ‘Rhodes’ takes a dub reggae rhythm and uses that to slowly push forward an almost trip hop-ish groove where rhythmic drumming dances above bell-like sounds and echoed, droning atmospheres. Stoking up the keys a little en route, the short track becomes a melodic post rock workout with traces of Cities – all really enjoyable, but in reality, it’s main function is to make the sounds that follow seem much heavier. …And, indeed, the opening riffs of ‘Lumlush’ really crush when Naisian return to their earlier, more metal oriented sounds with a massive confidence. The main riff is a genuine speaker buster, but beyond that – and befitting the rest of the EP – there are some superb layers which give the track more of a complex edge. The way a massive sledgehammer lurches riff back and forth with a genuine intensity will be enough to win over post/sludge metal fans everywhere, but the addition of a relentless hardcore vocal ensures this quickly becomes the EP’s most assertive piece. In terms of those aforementioned layers, it’s great to hear everything falling away to reveal a brief post metal/prog metal groove, and an atonal lead guitar which arrives rather late adds an unexpectedly angular sound, more in line with retro post-punk than anything else within the Naisian cannon. It’s one of those tracks that can feel rather wearing at first, but its very cool.
As if to balance out that aggression, the choppy ‘Wharncliffe’ retreats into a world of melodic post rock, where layers of synths, a warm bass and a brilliantly mechanised rhythm evoke the proggier aspects of Explosions In The Sky, and a heady use of vocoder exposes a love of 70s weirdness. The vocoder could easily have made this sound rather dated, but with full credit to the band’s arrangement skills that it works – and what’s more, it actually sounds strangely effective at the time of release. Finally, in order for fans not to feel as if this EP has bowed out with a very divisive track, its coda unveils some of the heaviest riffs. Blending hardcore and sludge metal, the music sometimes sounds like a close relative of Byzanthian Neckbeard, whilst the shouted vocal does a great job in linking this with the noisier elements of the opening track, thus bringing everything full circle. In short, it’s superb.
By branching out into various different areas of progressive and post rock, Naisian stand a good chance of reaching a broader audience with these release. The intense vocals might be a sticking point for some listeners, but there’s such a great range of riffs here – both heavy and atmospheric – and the inventiveness within the music really elevates Naisian within the post-metal and experimental metal ranks. Overall, this is a great listen, and a great step forward for the band. If you enjoy sounds that fall between the angular end of post-metal and the proggier end of doom/sludge, there’s definitely plenty here of great interest. A very welcome return.