Hailing from the badass sounding and “damned pits” of Bled, Slovenia, “Xullux”, the debut album from the “spiritual katharsic black death cult” Nephrolith, has put the band on the outskirts of the traditional black metal map.
Initially inspired by legendary Swedes Dissection, Nephrolith was brought to life in 2008 and has settled with founder Nerthag on vocals, Isvaroth and Skargart on guitars, Navtyr on drums, and OH MY GOD THERE’S A BASSIST (Tersagir). 2009 saw the release of a demo titled “Vinsketh”, and the group toured their native Slovenia, hitting festivals like Metalcamp. Within the Slovenian scene, which Nerthag describes as “kind of sleeping,” Nephrolith are clearly trying to stand out in the sludgy black mass of one-up trve kvlt artists who think Darkthrone is still obscure and Fenriz is not one hilarious fucking guy.
The recording of “Xullux” was wrapped up in June 2010, and finally released in February 2011 via Haliaetum Records. With influences such as Alice in Chains, Johnny Cash, Sólstafir and Lady Gaga, I knew there had to be at least one interesting thing to write about.
First off, the production of “Xullux” is what I like to call “professional kvlt.” It has a clear kind of rawness that makes it more listenable than the typical lo-fi fuzz, but it certainly wouldn’t be Metallica-approved.
I wouldn’t exactly call “Xullux” a “melodic” album, but that doesn’t mean the elements aren’t there. Nephrolith inject their blackened rasp with a good dose of melody, especially in “Xullux,” which boasts old school Norwegian blast beats and buzzing riffs trading on and off with this insanely catchy melodic passage and COMPREHENDABLE lyrics. Amazing. Easily my favorite track. ‘Subsistence of Disease’ is another killer.
‘Intermezzo’ is a sweet moment of acoustic calmness, sandwiched by ‘Abandoned Essence Part I’ and ‘Abandoned Essence Part II’. This is where Nephrolith really shows off their ability to meld different styles and instrumentation into a comprehensive musical storyline.
Naming the first track ‘Alpha’ and the last track ‘Omega’ is like if every fraternity had that nerdy kid who looks like Abbath. But the doomy church bells of ‘Alpha’ set a chilling tone that sets off ‘Spiritual Departure’ perfectly, and ‘Omega’ is actually a beautiful ending to 12 acts of “worshipping creation of illuminated darkness against putrefacted human existence.”
If you’re looking for some technical shit to debate with your technical shit friends, this is not the album for you. The guitar work on “Xullux” is solid but not super impressive. The vocals are borderline typical black metal, edging into crustier growling reminiscent of crust and punk influenced bands. The drumming is fantastic, and the addition of an actual bassist (“THAT’S SO VNTVRE”) make up a heavy outfit, although it would be nice to hear more of that bass. The trade off between acoustic, raw, and heavy passages shows that the band isn’t afraid to take risks, and the non-traditional guitar solos are worth noting.
“Xullux”, which is “lux” forwards and backwards for idiots like me, is an appropriate title for Nephrolith’s debut, which reflects their belief that (I’m using a lot of quotes from this band because they are SO QUOTABLE, not every band refers to themselves as a “spiritual keeper between dimensions of the living and the departed”) “essence within humanity itself has been covered by infinite ignorance and evil light”. Nephrolith is definitely a light among tired, exhausted fiats of the traditional.
If you’re tired of the same old black metal potpie for dinner, Nephrolith is the bloody pizza party you’ve been looking forward to all week.