We ended 2020 with a review of FLOVER’s newest record, light-heartedly mocking their blatant borrowing of HIM’s style and sound yet championing a fresh dose of alternative, romantic dark pop. It ended the year on a high note, and we hope to transition those wholesome good vibes into my first review of the new year. Let me introduce to you HERR NOX. The Canadian project made their debut with the album “Stargazer” in 2018, where they effectively blended electronic synth-wave with darker alternative rock elements, and it was a fine dose of melodic melancholy. Just before Christmas, they got in touch with me, asking me to check out their up-coming sophomore release “Where Shadows Fade” …scheduled to drop February 5th. With that said, let’s forgo the formalities and give this a listen, and get 2021 underway with a positive outlook!
We open up with a track called “Doomsday” …really? Guys, I was meant to be kicking off the year with something positive, something encouraging...but no, you’ve got to go and throw the end of the world in my face straight out of the starting blocks. Well done. The track is the first of a handful of collaborations with Norwegian musician Jorgen Munkeby, who’s worked with a plethora of established metal musicians so we’re seemingly in good hands...it’s got an initially hushed introduction; soothing, meandering keys and subtle pulsing electronic bass, and it allows for a cold, brooding opening, before we descend into a flurry of pretty generic off-kilter guitars and uninspired vocals. It went from atmospheric to anticlimactic a bit quickly if you ask me and lets you down following the minute and a half intro.
The title track follows up and it’s a full-blown case of the opposites. The jarring off-kilter percussion starts us off with some intense sax playing, and seemingly leads us into some progressive jazz, before transitioning into some more laid-back melodic rock, and the more subtle Goth aesthetics appear more prominently over the course of the track. As jarring as the intro was, this track works far more effectively, emoting better vocally and tonally resulting in a far smoother listen believe it or not...if you can ignore the saxophones like. It works for GHOST and ELECTRIC SIX but don’t push it y’know? Luckily, we’re then greeted to album highlight “Black Butterfly” featuring LINDSAY SCHOOLCRAFT and it’s a welcome dose of straightforward alt. Goth. Given the hard rock core sound with accompanying synths and tight solo, clean vocals and presentation, as weird as this may sound it’s like, a cross between TOOL and KILL HANNAH. Either way I’m not complaining, I like this.
Elsewhere tracks like “Kiss The Butchers Hand” highlight the blend of frosty electronica and progressive post-rock tendencies, as the track utilises both in a wonderfully climactic fashion. The semi-whispered male vocals mirror artists such as TIAMAT, reinforcing that Gothic vibe, and again it works well. “Heads Will Roll” sadly isn’t a cover of the YEAH YEAH YEAH’S but the synth-driven hard rock works well and in places it’s got elements of peak MARILYN MANSON, resulting in a bold, energetic listen. Sadly, whatever is left of the album fails to truly inspire.
Schoolcraft returns for “The Art Of Noise & Silence” and while atmospherically moody, the spoken word segments detract from the track, however brief. It’s got a subtle avant-garde approach, ever so slightly bridging classic goth with light prog for an ultimately slow, deep, anti-ballad. “Gotta Light” then incorporates more of that spoken word in its intro, alongside more of that softcore porn sax and ultimately becomes an instrumental. The sax here does work better than previously mentioned, but in regards to the tracks title, this is like going to the smoking area of the club, pulling out an overpriced non-branded Marlboro, and, have you got a light? No. You loser. You look around, everyone is busy, chatting with friends, so you just stand there, with an unlit cigarette, you contemplate asking for a light, but your self-esteem is through the floor, and so you don’t ask, you hope someone notices and offers you flame, but they don’t, so you stand there awkwardly, craving, until you just go back inside unfulfilled, and feeling as sad as these saxophones sound. Was that bleak? Good, because that sums up this instrumental.
Overall, artistically, Herr Nox have taken the darkest aspects of their debut and expanded upon them, ramping up the Gothic elements, allowing the synths and guitars to flow like black velvet. It’s neither an improvement or a disappointment, they’ve merely altered their course creatively and there’s plenty of promise here to be fair. This black butterfly just needs to emerge from its Canadian cocoon, as I’m sure it has plenty of dark beauty to share with the world, just give it time.