Black Metal, Metal

Naxen – Descending Into A Deeper Darkness (Review)

Bands: Naxen
Release: Descending Into A Deeper Darkness
Genre: Black Metal
Country: Germany (Münster)
Release Date:3rd of May, 2024
Released viaVendetta Records
Cover Artwork:Paolo Sanna (Animamundi)

It’s been four years and an entire pandemic since Münster-based Black Metal outfit Naxen released their full-length debut Towards the Tomb of Times. Back then, I didn’t keep it a secret that I highly enjoyed this album. Showcasing a strong progression from their first release To Abide in Ancient Abysses, the US-driven tone of Black Metal that was present on this release fully convinced. Having released their debut album right at the beginning of the peak of the pandemic, it is definitely interesting to see the development of this band when having finally come back to regularly playing live shows and bringing their music to the audience.

Naxen is a three-member-outfit that released their aforementioned first EP in 2018 via Vendetta Records and sticked to their original label until today. Naturally, it needs to be mentioned that the band was not inactive between these full-lenghts, since they also released their live tape Of Fainting Faith in Futile Flesh and the EP The Perilious Path of Pain that contained one new track and a Negative Approach cover. After these releases, we still had to wait for three more

Long-term fans of the sound that Naxen plays will definitely be satisfied with the opening of the album right away. The first track “Our Souls Shall Fall Forever” immediately showcases that the overall Black Metal tone that was present on previous releases still remains on their second full-length offering. Right from the beginning, the majestic guitar tone that convinced in the past already introduces the listener to the album. It certainly was the Cascadian tone that Naxen brings forth that convinced me of their sound right from the beginning and it still remains one of the most present highlights of the band. The guitars remain in the absolute forefront, delivering an astonishingly bleak soundscape that is predominantly constructed by highly memorable lead melodies. This sound has been compared to the very Black Metal tone that label colleagues Ultha also bring forth. However, keeping in mind that the vocalists of Naxen and Ultha both were members of Goldust (quite some years ago), I kind of feel that this comparison does not sufficiently position Naxen’s sound. Rather, I feel that a larger shared set of musical inspiration might set up a tone that could be compared to Ultha, especially stemming from strong allusions at the Cascadian Black Metal sound of scene pioneers Woe. This is, in fact, the band that immediately comes up in my mind when trying to figure out how to describe the majesty of the sound that is played on this release. Although I’m no friend of name-dropping, I’d otherwise struggle a lot to put this sound into words.

It feels as if the impact of the pandemic is present on this album. Naxen’s Black Metal has turned bleaker than before. On their first release, there were still certain elements that arguably moved the sound of Naxen just slightly into the spheres of Post-Black Metal. Especially that clean guitar sequence at the end of “Gread God Of Grief” showed experimentation outside of the purist Black Metal environment. This stepped further into the background on Towards the Tomb of Times already, there was no clean sequence to be found yet the sound still worked with arrangements that occasionally focused on halt and served with moments of contemplation. Especially this element is no longer present on Descending Into A Deeper Darkness. There are, however, several sequences at which the music is put to a halt. At those spots, though, it feels as if the band deliberately chooses not to fall into the aforementioned, contemplative sequences but rather continues differently. During the first third of “To Writhe in the Womb of Night,” for example, there is a brief cut that might have been used as a transition point for the riffing on this track. However, it only initiates the very build-up for the upcoming progressive transition from the first to the second half of the track – fully remaining within the spheres of what could be considered rather purist (US) Black Metal.

Throughout the entire album, the most outstanding key factor that serves as major strength of this album stems from the outstanding melodies that are present from front to back on Descending Into A Deeper Darkness. On their debut LP, Naxen already showed that they have quite a good capability of writing strong riffs. On this first album, though, the riffing revolved around cathartic cadences that conjured its contemplating sound. On their sophomore full-length, this is still highly present, but the lead melodies majestically step into the foreground, showcasing a different shade of tone that can be found in Naxen’s catalogue. To a certain extent, one of the masters of melody in Black Metal – Dödsrit – came up in my mind when listening to this album. Obviously, the lead melodies that Naxen present do not move in the epic framework that Dödsrit opens up. However, it feels as if those melodies also take the listener by the hand and accompany throughout the entire running time of the album.

After having listened to Descending into a Deeper Darkness for the first few times, I have to admit that it stood out compared to its predecessor (which I still favor a lot). However, after recapitulating and trying to find evident reasons, it became a little more difficult. At first glance, those albums show many strong similarities ranging from the Cascadian Black Metal tone over majestic lead melodies and subtle allusions at the sound of DSBM. As mentioned, the melodies are a core element that add up to the sound of this album. However, it feels as if especially the production on this album also underlines an intensely strong bigger picture. At this point, it might be helpful to mention that this album was mixed and produced by Fabian Schulz from Sunsetter Studio. Those of you who attended some of Naxen’s shows during the second half of 2023 might have experienced that Fabian Schulz also helped out on guitar on several occasions. Maybe the implementation of a person that was already involved conjuring up Naxen’s music in live frameworks helped to find the core essence the band aimed at when writing this album.

When it comes to the physical releases of this album, Naxen remained in their former home, putting out Descending into a Deeper Darkness on different 12” vinyl pressings via Vendetta Records. All of those are available either via the official Vendetta Shop or via the band’s web store that can be found on their bandcamp page. Unforunately, the limited pressings are all sold out already by now. However, the album is also available on CD and it can be pre-ordered on tape on the band’s shop page as well.

After having enjoyed Towards the Tomb of Time to such an extent that I came back to this album numerous times even years after its release, I was fully overwhelmed by Descending into a Deeper Darkness. I did not expect an album that even tops the sound I favored on Naxen’s debut LP, but here we are talking about a strong contender for quite some year end lists.

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