Near is an Italian metal band.  By nationality alone it’s natural to assume the styles of metal that drip melodrama.  Seven minute songs spinning tales of velvet draped gothic-romance where the blood of a lover is dashed across marble columns, ranging from symphonic grandiosity to tear jerking doom.  Near takes it down several notches and bring you seven minute songs of 90’s black metal that simmer at medium heat allowing the riffs, vocals, and reserved synths to congeal and spread like the hot gases expanding rapidly at the edge of the universe.

“Old Springs of Astral Matter” begins with a short spacey synth intro before shifting into a familiar black metal tear.  On Own Sun the riffs are few and repeated endlessly.  The songs don’t progress so much as compound.  Each play through of a song’s main riff reinforces the last play through.  In this way the music promotes a sort of cycle of thought and philosophizing.  It’s laying on a knoll staring up at the night sky, a view most are no longer familiar with, and pondering the bright coagulation of stars forming a spiral arm tip of our galaxy. Own Sun inspires in that such way.  As a catalyst for mental brewing that commands you to wander into the night, look upward and think higher; Forget the town square, what’s going on out there?  Is there an end?  and what is our function, if any, in the scheme of it all.  By the time you snap back to conscience you are in the middle of track 6, “The Eternal Light of Illumination” (English obviously being their 3rd language of choice, but yeah… I only know one).  You spaced out in thought for the last 20 minutes yet, inexplicably, are glad to skip back to repeat the tracks missed or pick up with the current riff and continue listening.

I’ve mentioned enough now that Near really push the fuel gauge needle with each riff, and the repetitive nature of the album could surely a negative for some.  Most of the songs feature a central riff that functions like the supporting pole of a spiral staircase.  Betting all of your chips like that is risky, but Near come away like getting four matching numbers plus the powerball. That being the style of their songs they could be worse off than with these riffs.  Own Sun is not the jackpot instant classic by any stretch, but only the greedy will complain about fifty thousand free dollars.  “The Hidden Side of Mankind” starts like blazing asteroid of ice and raw elements being sling shot by Jupiter’s gravity with both major riffs holding intensity.  “The Eyes of the Ancient Trees” is an urgent three chord affair chronicling the violent entry of the asteroid through Saturn’s rings and deep into the gaseous obscurity.  As to the production, I’m a fan of the extra dry, distant, mallet striking wood sounding snare.  The guitars on Own Sun are buried by time and dust, but prominent and set square in the center of the mix.  Played sharp but smoothed over with a little production space and reverb.  Even where the riff is a bit ho-hum the synth part compliments nicely and strongly supports the albums astronomic atmosphere such as on “Weight of Life”, and come through with a really solid song.

As I’ve been trying to think of bands that I could reference for comparison they are either more atmospheric or more grandiose in style, than NearNear create an equilibrium between the mid-paced, swirling style of atmospheric black metal, and the blasting, grand triumphant synth storm of some other bands.  They might be a more cosmic, less frosty Sorcier des Glaces, or Setherial’s Nord, though trading some pomp for efficiency.  As much as I dig this album, to hardsell or gush would over-hyping it.  I myself was very close to glossing over on this one but it revealed itself to be quite an earworm.  Coupled with the fact that the album seems to be barely promoted or distributed for sale beyond the labels own webstore I was compelled to be it’s little champion.  For those of you that scoured mail order in the 90’s for albums that featured covers designed exactly like this one and gladly paid the import price, music unheard, it’s every bit the same ‘ole crotchety black metal you know and love

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Mars Budziszewski
June 21st, 2016

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