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Nevertanezra : Bastard of Prometheus (EP)

Nevertanezra return after an extended hiatus with a solo EP that both highlights the band's roots and develops them in new ways.

Dating back to 1999 and with a variety of line-ups to look back on, Utah's Nevertanezra nonetheless have a surprisingly brief discography: one EP and a full-length - spaced just a year apart - and then a seven-year hiatus before this 2018 EP.

Never the most garrulous of bands, with - to date - a couple of brief pages of technical information and thanks in sleeve notes, it was a surprise to read a more personal statement inside 'Bastard Of Prometheus', explaining a little about its lengthy birthing. With only 50 CD copies pressed and, according to Facebook, no plans to ever reissue the EP, it's probably worth a quick summary here: this was an entirely solo work by band founder Michael Ventura. Budget limitations led to it being recorded and produced without the use of any professional facilities over a five year period, with the resulting single instrumental track intended to symbolize the journey from birth to death.

So, what you should expect from it? Clearly, nothing that's a completely seamless continuation of Nevertanezra's previous early-Anathema-esque outings, where much of the focus was on Rick McCoy's guttural vocals, or the occasional foray into clean male and female voice. However, bearing in mind that Ventura's guitars always did have extensive prominence, and the band's use of unornamented instrumentation meant that there was never anything more than guitar, bass and drums laying down the music - as is the case here - there's actually less of a discontinuity than might immediately be imagined.

In the event, the principal musical difference - to my ears - is simply the pace. 'Bastard...' eschews the quick-change tempos of 'NTNR' and the chugging riffs of the earlier 'Nevertanezra' in favour of a consistent and deliberate, almost-Funeral, unfolding. Much as with previous releases, there's simply too much detail and variation in the lead lines for that to drag it fully into the Funeral Doom genre, leaving 'Bastard...' hovering around the rather more flexible borders of ultra-slow, ultra-precise Death/Doom. A background of droning, feedback-laden bass and sporadic, but thankfully real - rather than programmed - percussion puts some body and depth into play. Essentially, though, what you'll be listening to is just over half an hour of painstakingly-developed lead guitar trying to simultaneously fill all the roles of melody, progress and focus.

That it does such a good job of fulfilling those very different criteria is, quite simply, a tribute to Ventura's skills with his preferred instrument. Because, to be honest, that's a pretty hard ask of any one sound, especially when expanded out to such length. And, really, I have to give full credit to anyone who can get close to stepping up to that mark. I'd have to say, it didn't particularly take me on the same conceptual journey (maybe that's just me, but my personal cycle from birth to, well...fortunately I'm not dead yet...so let's just say 'here', seemed to have plenty of rather more chaotic interjections in it than are displayed in this measured performance), but it was a journey nevertheless. Just one more akin to the spacy crossing-the-void-type voyages of, say, Horizon Of The Mute - or, in old money, Tangerine Dream's mid-'70s cosmic travails, with guitars rather than keys at centre stage - than one concentrating on a human-centric experience.

I'm not always terribly sensitive to, or impressed by, that sort of exploration. It's too often been used as an excuse for vague and random noodling over the decades. But, here, Nevertanezra keep things tight and structured, simultaneously showing a rigorous discipline yet allowing what feels like a deeply personal touch and direction to show through. It is walking a tightrope, but it does so with a notable and noteworthy classiness. And, in the end, I strongly suspect the only concrete determining factor as to how you rate it is really whether you want to understand and appreciate how many dimensions a single guitar can give simultaneous voice to.

That most certainly isn't any kind of criticism, either of where 'Bastard...' is coming from, or how it's received as a listener. It's simply an observation that this won't be the easiest listening experience of the year, nor will it be the one that offers the most immediate reward. It does, though, offer a unique insight into Nevertanezra, and one which sets aside any question of whether they're ploughing previously-travelled ground, or failing to develop a more personal and distinct identity. Clearly, neither is the case, whether or not you actually enjoy the results. Happily, I do, and though I think there could have been room for a more explicitly-defined, obvious endpoint to the voyage, it's still very much worthy of your interest, and a release I personally rate very highly for stepping outside the many boxes and expectations that even our beloved and iconoclastic genre sets on its children. Listen with an open mind. You may well be surprised by how it stays true to the band's roots, but translates them to a far less travelled road.

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Reviewer's rating: 8.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Bastard Of Prometheus

Duration : Approx. 33 minutes

Visit the Nevertanezra bandpage.

Reviewed on 2018-03-25 by Mike Liassides
Aesthetic Death
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