Review: Naga – Void Cult Rising (Spikerot, Nov 15)

Though black and doom metal both can greatly benefit from compositions that are quite freeform in nature—swirling, repetitive storms of smothering darkness (see YodhAntelux)—they can also, like most musical styles, be bolstered by some excellent, concise songwriting. I don’t use “concise” here in the way I typically do to refer to the lengthy atmospheric excursions spread across Naga’s third studio album Void Cult Rising. These are not condensed microcosms of horror and violence; the six tracks take up plenty of space with their massive, elephantine grooves, building anticipation both within the riffs themselves by alternating low and high chords and over the course of the song via some excellent dynamic control. I call them “concise,” however, because nothing feels longer than it needs to be.  The grimly titled opener “Only a God Can’t Save Us” is in the upper percentile of tracks in terms of length but comes across as an expertly paced tone-setter, and the full breadth of Naga’s structural prowess is demonstrated on “Melete” where a plodding jam falls into quiet repose before culminating in a spectacularly crushing climax. Though the lumbering, deliberate pace is maintained throughout, even when desperate blast beats claw their way through the murk, an abundance of rhythmic variation and frequent appearance of psychedelic elements make Void Cult Rising a gripping and engaging entry in the 2019 metal canon.