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Dalla Nebbia : Felix Culpa

The Black Metal cousin of Mesmur, Dalla Nebbia nonetheless include some Doom elements of their own.

Dalla Nebbia (Italian: "from the fog"): they're a Black Metal band, right? It says so in Metal Archives, though with a rather crucial "Progressive" qualifier in front. Well, I wouldn't say it's quite that simple: it's steadily become more eclectic and interesting than that, taking on board a number of different influences. And, while some of those are Doom-based, that's only part of the reason for including this, the other being that it has a very legitimate Doom connection, with two of the members, Yixja (Guitars/Clean Vocals/Programming) and Alkurion (Drums) forming half of Death/Funeral Doom band Mesmur.

The first full length album, 2013's 'The Cusp of the Void', features tracks from the earlier demo and debut EP, re-recorded with the full band line-up, and that - clearly - shows where the Prog Rock-meets-Black Metal label comes from. Fast-forward two years, to 'Felix Culpa', and it's a more ambiguous - and, indeed, ambitious - beast altogether. Before tackling it, I suppose it'd be appropriate to repeat (for I'm sure I've said it before) that, of all sub-genres, I find Black/Doom the hardest to reconcile, given the almost polar opposite characteristics associated with the two parents, other than with a somewhat arbitrary 'doomy feel'. Reasonably clear-cut, if you're considering something like the tormented distress of Cultus Sanguine, the heavy ritualism of Atriarch, or Dolorian's sinister cold; less so, when someone like Deinonychus or Mourning Dawn turn on the jets and unleash a barrage of double-kick speed and aggression.

Or when Dalla Nebbia combine some quite typical doom elements - thoughtful, yet very dark lyrical material, melancholy interjections from violin, a crushingly heavy soundscape, slow and sad instrumental sections and harsh vocals that often embody a powerful Death/Doom rasp - with a considerable quantity of high-tempo drumming, and a somewhat lesser amount of speedy guitarwork. I certainly wouldn't go so far as to give it a Black/Doom tag, though it often ends up no pacier than the more blackened moments of the latter two bands, but that isn't really what Dalla Nebbia are looking for, anyway. In their brief interview with us, harsh vocalist Zduhać described it ...the best music being made in metal is where you say “This band is this, this, this, this, and this….and you can’t quite describe it…”. Doom is certainly one of the "this"'s, but at the end of the day, it isn't committed to that, any more than it is to any of the others - and only shows marginally more loyalty to being a clearly Black Metal construct.

Regardless, whatever you actually want to call it, it's extremely professionally put-together, beautifully executed and packed with strong, vibrant compositions. 'Felix Culpa' opens and closes with wistful, folk-based instrumentals, and briefly diverts into a short Industrial-type interlude, leaving the body of the material contained in seven longer pieces mixing up the body of elements described above. Much like the excellent Swedish band Ancient Wisdom, or the later UK outfit A Forest Of Stars, the atmosphere is strongly melodic and, indeed, progressive, with most of the impression of speed coming from the drumming, whilst the main instruments - including voice - often take a heavier and slower tempo. Something else Dalla Nebbia shares with the aforementioned (or, when slowing down, perhaps more like Elegeion or Secrets Of The Sky) is a seemingly-effortless ability to create arrangements in which any shift of pace, melody or participating instrumentation is accommodated with a delightfully organic flow. That permits the seemingly-paradoxical qualities of complexity and accessibility to exist comfortably, side by side, allowing the listener to easily appreciate both the technical and theatrical aspects of the music. There are plenty of both: it's a busy album, with a lot of detail packed in - violin, choral effects, harmonic clean vocals, samples and keys are layered in to highlight both drama and moodiness, while the guitars and percussion describe restlessly mobile, twisting arcs through each track, the harsh vocal lines providing a comparatively static constant that gives at least one solid anchor to the narratives.

The end result is music that is certainly quite happy to indulge in some pomp and bombast, overtly pushing as many emotional buttons as it pleases. That, quite possibly, is more of a deal-breaker - from a Doom perspective - than the actual pace of it: the tracks centre around soaring, sharp and quite cheerful themes at least as often as they descend to melancholic gloominess, making it something of a rollercoaster ride. I like that a lot: it makes it one of those albums that genuinely and convincingly refuses to be pigeonholed, demonstrating the courage of its convictions rather than adhering to arbitrary genre limits. Yes, you'll almost certainly get the most out of it if you already appreciate the melodic/symphonic end of Black Metal, but it's got enough appeal outside that to hook underground listeners of all sorts, and I wouldn't expect many extreme doomsters to find tracks like 'Until The Rain Subsides' or, particularly, 'Paradise in Flames' fall far outside their comfort zones. Especially if following the intelligent lyrical poetry, provided in full in the CD booklet.

Regarding the score: that's an assessment of its merit as an extreme metal album. Doom-and-only-Doom purists, please feel free to mentally deduct anything from one to several points, depending on how much the Blackened thing grabs you.

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Reviewer's rating: 8.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Memento Mori
2. Until The Rain Subsides
3. Abandoned Unto Sky
4. Lament Of Aokigahara
5. The Banner Of Defiance
6. Not Within The Stone
7. Felix Culpa (Theodicy Corrupted)
8. Das Gelächter Gottes
9. Paradise In Flames
10. The Silent Transition

Duration : Approx. 56 minutes

Visit the Dalla Nebbia bandpage.

Reviewed on 2016-03-06 by Mike Liassides
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