Lviv, Ukraine’s Nønsun plays a style of doom metal mixed liberally with drone, sludge and modern post-metal. As the years have progressed, the meanings of these aforementioned genres have come to denote an assortment of things, and, seemingly in answer to that fact, this band, on points throughout its 48-minute Good Old Evil “demo,” manages to cover most of them.
“Jesus’ Age,” after a beginning blast of noise and feedback, lumbers into a doom metal plod that’s anchored by vocalist Goatooth’s full-throated roar. Droning noise rushes back over the song, like the ocean reclaiming the coast, but after roughly a minute guitars, drums and vocals re-enter the song with a devastating, YOB-style heaviness, complete with bluesy stoner metal soloing that is undeniably indebted to that band's sound. The push-pull between drone and metal continues, with long stretches of both commingling beside one another. Out of the final stretch of metal, the drums and guitars begin to pick up speed for a bashing, almost punk section that collapses into molasses-drenched doom and feedback.
In addition to the expected heaviness and passages of enveloping noise and feedback, some surprising bits of melody find their way onto the album. Moments like the second half of "Rain Have Mercy," with its elegiac-sounding riffs and soloing and spoke-sung vocals, reveal how far-reaching Nønsun’s sound is within its chosen genres. Though less representative than “Jesus’ Age” of what Nønsun does most, “Rain Have Mercy” might be the best track to introduce the average listener to exactly what the band can do. Though I love how huge and angry the former is, there's a transfixing emotional nuance to the latter that draws me to it individually, even if I don't have the time for a listen to all 48 minutes of the demo.
Nønsun’s strengths, as mentioned above, are in the way it fits together the extreme influences that encompass its style. It follows, then, that Good Old Evil’s weakest point is the nearly 7-minute rolling drone that is “Message of Nihil Carried by the Waves of the Big Bang,” which contains little-to-no genre mixing and only the barest changes in tone or mood. As with other drone and noise compositions on extreme punk and metal records, the emotional flatness of “Message” belies the peaks to which these genres can be carried by veteran practitioners.
After the droning of “Message,” closing track “Forgotten is What Never Was” makes a slow transition back into doom metal, beginning with noise and piano and working up to an ancestral stomp, out of which only occasionally bubbles growls or chanted vocals. Little more than a mesmerizing exercise, the 11 minutes of “Forgotten is What Never Was” feel longer than the 18 of “Jesus’ Age,’ and while its slow, atmospheric progression makes it a stronger piece of music than the drone work that precedes it, it joins that work in being part of the weaker second half of what is otherwise an excellent first release.
Overall, this is a band with a ton of promise. The impressive amalgam of extreme genres (on both the metal and noise sides of that spectrum) represented on the first half of the release, if reigned in with a slightly tighter compositional leash and carried over the final two tracks, would have made the word "demo" completely unnecessary here and elevated the band from "awesome, can't wait to hear how they improve next time" to a plain old "that's awesome."
Stream Good Old Evil below and/or download it for free from Nønsun's Bandcamp. [Note: The band sent me a download of the album.]