Thursday, July 28, 2011

Nero Order: The Tower (2010)


The drummer of San Francisco doomsters Nero Order contacted me about reviewing their debut album, The Tower. He made it sound very enticing--progressive doom, recorded completely with analog technology? I couldn't resist.

The TowerThe music seems to fuse elements of post-metal and doom with Georgia sludge. The chords often make me think of Baroness, especially on the last track. They make solid use of the loud-quiet loud dynamic with their slowed-down Georgia-isms, complete with plenty of dissonance and progressive flourishes. Overall, the effect isn't too far removed from a combination of Neurosis and Unearthly Trance.

All of that makes it sound mind-numbingly awesome, but there are going to be some sticking points for many listeners: song length and vocals.

The four songs on the album range from 9 to over 17 minutes in length, with varying degrees of success at these super-long runtimes. The last five minutes of the album sound like a separate track, a disposable one at that. I felt the 9 minute "Celebration of a Wounding" was longer than it should have been, while the nearly 16 minute "Every Pillar and Its Crumbling" (the highlight of the album) was actually just about right.

Vocally, Alex Lindo uses a wide variety of techniques, from crooning to growling, but they're mostly somewhere in the clean-to-half-growl continuum. And almost always, the clean singing is off-key--which isn't necessarily a bad thing. At times, it's absolutely phenomenal, as when he quotes the Lord's prayer and sounds like a mad prophet. Other times, it can be grating.

Between the hit-and-miss vocals and the sometimes dragging compositions, the album can become tiresome. On the other hand, there's some really great stuff on here.

The Verdict: Nero Order shows a lot of promise with this self-released debut. If they hone in on what they're doing right, while excising what they're not, they could be a force to be reckoned with. For now, the album is available from a variety of outlets, including a pay-what-you-want FLAC option on their web site. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

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