TDK - Nemesta review
|Release date:||March 2023|
02. Fiasko (Alo, Policiyata Li E?)
05. Kazvaha (Nishto Ot Tova, Koeto Pravish, Nyama Znachenie, Ti Si Neshtastnik, Umri!)
What makes Balkan post-metal bands suddenly turn into avant-garde prog jazz outfits?
If I had a dollar for every time that happened this year, I wouldn't be rich, but it's still pretty weird that it happened twice. I'm talking of course about The Canyon Observer's Figura, an album I reviewed and that really struck me as very forward thinking in its detour from the band's usual post-metal/atmo-sludge sound into something of a avant-garde free jazz heavy rock behemoth that relied a lot on tension and release, and that actually had a small orchestra alongside the band. Differences between the two are still abound. On one side The Canyon Observer are Slovenians, which are objectively the least Balkan of the Balkaners, while TDK are Bulgarians. But that's surface level.
TDK already had plenty of weirdness in them. Their post-metal sound was already blended with more post-hardcore and even had some The Mars Volta-esque prog leanings on their previous album, 2019's Успех. The jump from it to Nemesta isn't as stark as the one The Canyon Observer did, but it's still a huge leap. Though jazz still abounds, it feels less of its improvisational avant-gardist kind and more of a nice palette enhancer of a band that relies more on their conventionally heavy instrumentation. Instead of getting an orchestra alongside them, TDK get a saxophone (done to death, I know I know), an accordion that is used from more than just an interlude, and an electric organ. Add to that a bunch of noise injections that either turn the punchy heavy sound into noise rock or act simply as palette enhancers.
The metal here is still tangible, so I would call this mostly avant-garde metal. The heavy guitars definitely feel post-metal and occasionally post-hardcore enough to justify calling this a metal album, whether in more heavy moments or more dissonant mood-setting ones. The way the album is structured and layered is quite a lot to sink one's teeth into, but it feels very purposeful and not overly crowded with forced technicality. The push into prog makes it lean towards the avant-prog of King Crimson or Magma or the brutal prog of Ruins, but applied to a post-metal band, and one that uses jazz injections, either through the extra instrumentations or just the really jazz-inspired drumming at times. Even as an instrumental album, this would be a very weird pill to swallow, albeit still a very swallowable one.
But I'd be lying if I didn't say that half of what makes the album interesting is Nikola Nikolov's vocal performance. The lyrics are in Bulgarian so there's a lot that we're probably missing out on by not speaking the language, especially since a lot of the album is vocally performed in more of a spoken word way, with some very specific inflexion that reek of a detached irony and a righteous indignation. And add to that the singing and crooning and the more spastic punk/metal moments that showcase just how wild Nikola's range is, grounding the album through all its weirdness and its language barrier into something that still manages to have quite an emotional impact nonetheless. And that's just his vocals, the album also makes great use of backing vocals, usually in the form of very dramatic choirs.
With the rock world already pushing forward the envelope of avant-garde progressive music through acts like Black Midi, Squid, and Black Country, New Road, it was time for metal to catch up as well. Who would've thought the revolution would happen in the Balkans?
||Written on 19.03.2023 by|
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