I always enjoy reviewing grindcore. You can rely on its pace, energy and brevity, ensuring that it won’t be a chore to summarise. Narakah, sporting just a couple of other releases under their belt, has arrived in 2022 with a 20-minute “full-length” album entitled Nemesis Cloak. Despite this band’s relative youth, the members include alumni of a host of Pittsburgh metal and hardcore groups, including Slaves BC, First Day Dead and Meth Quarry. Its one sheet boasts of “evolving, brutal and catchy, blast and groove creative chaos fueled by anime, manga, comics, video games, TV shows, movies, & pop-cultural curiosities.” It with on such a ridiculous description and pedigree that I chose the promo, so it was with interest that I proceeded.
Nothing here is especially innovative. Grindcore is characterized for me by being both sharp and blunt; Nemesis Cloak accordingly has a stable of sawing guitar leads and battering rhythms, hitting that sweet spot. It’s replete with the jittery, kinetic energy that lends grind the unhinged edge that separates it from death metal, spinning all sorts of instrumental limbs, off-the-wall movie samples and frequent change into a manic whirlwind. It’s far from the best or most imaginative grind but it’s impossible to be bored and there’s little to truly fault in Narakah’s solid execution of the style.
Nemesis Cloak’s boundless dynamism results from the song-writing but also the instrumentation. The guitars blend a range of leads, from the swaying-but-sawing style on “Crosstream Sumeria” to the blackened intensity of “Silian Rail.” Closer to the end of the record, “The Colour of Illusion” opens with a speedy, thrashy riff ripped from the heavier 80s bands, while the deep grooves of slam show their ugly face on “The Rogue’s Wallet.” Everything undoubtedly fits under the grind umbrella, but this riffing diversity keeps the album fresh throughout. Similarly, on the vocals, the amalgam of hardcore-infused roars, guttural gurgles and gang shouts sitting in the top layer contribute to the variety. And while they’re less obvious than the guitars and vocals, the more listens I completed the more I noticed that the drums are key here. I know it’s the fucking point of a rhythm section to dictate the pace and heaviness of the wider music, but Narakah boast an especially nimble drummer who underscores the songs with cool fills and dynamic transitions.
The other element worth noting on Narakah is their sampling. Subversive movie samples are, again, hardly unusual in grind but they’re deployed effectively across Nemesis Cloak. In some cases, different samples are layered together in a perverse fashion, such as on “The Uzi Crusades.” The innocent voices of children singing is overlaid with an angry man throwing insults, before unexpectedly cutting into the song proper. Similarly, “Hausu” fuses what sounds like an ad jingle with a screaming girl. In other cases, the samples are cleverly written into the music. “Silian Rail” begins with a Ghostbusters clip, and wraps the powering-up sound of the proton packs into its chewy slamming riff to badass effect. And elevating these even further is the use of distortion, feedback and jarring cuts, lending an especially unhinged edge to proceedings.
You may reasonably ask why my score is not higher. I’ve found it hard to specifically criticize any aspect of Nemesis Cloak. Sure, the master could be roomier and the riffs could be catchier but it’s as solid a grind record as you could ask for. And with 18 tracks over just 20 minutes, it shouldn’t be too much for anyone to digest even with its erratic energy. But that’s as far as it goes. Narakah have released a robust, engaging, good piece of music but it doesn’t really get close to great. But that’s fine, and I’d recommend it to any fan of grind.1
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Force of Reckoning Records
Websites: facebook.com/narakh | narakh.bandcamp.com
Releases worldwide: July 1st, 2022