Nux Vomica are a bunch of moody ol’ Crusties, transplants from Baltimore that use to be in a band called Wake Up on Fire and are now in Portland. Fast forward to two-thousand-and fourteen, and they have finally released a new full length, five years after one of my all time favorite albums in the Crust Punk world, Asleep In The Ashes. To make the deal even smellier, this newest self-titled album is released from Relapse Records, a label that ruled my world with bands like Today is the Day and Brutal Truth, to name just a few. It seems that Relapse took a similar route, moving from Philly to PDX a number of years ago. Although my time around Baltimore was brief, it’s certainly of interest to me that both the label and the band went a similar route as I did in terms of location.
I first found out about this band because of this crazy Crust buddy I had named Sass a number of years ago, whom unfortunately did not stick around to hear this album come out, so I have some strong emotions associated with this band. In fact, it was the night of a show up in Seattle with Order of the Vulture that he showed me the same gun he ended up using to take his life with, so I simply can not escape associating him with Nux Vomica, and vice versa. Enough of the sob story though, it was always the people closest to him I truly feel for anyway.*
My love for all that is Crust has often been surface deep, focused more on aesthetic and a similar ideology than most of the music that is simple D-beat Discharge worship, which is enjoyable but wears off quicker than a patch sewn on with dental floss. Nux have gone quite a different route, with the newest release only featuring three songs, but being over forty minutes, which is the complete opposite route of say Assuck. It’s hard to say they even still fit into the genre, it is really the gut wrenching vocals above all that make it clear who they are, but considering Amebix is a huge influence on them I guess it is no surprise they not only embody the idea of being Crust, they also dare to go completely different routes than many in the genre.
Starting off the first twenty minute track with over five minutes of an atmospheric build-up is sure different than putting an Aus-Rotten album on. The swelling guitars and steady drum beast are more reminiscent of The Cure or Tool than anything, and if you had no idea what you were getting into, it would be easy to assume this was going to go in the way of radio Rock. I always believe though the best bands have the ability to write music that could be mass marketed, but simply depending on who they are they instead decide to go a different route. While Nux Vomica is certainly not the kind of band you would hear on the radio, due to both longevity and the abrasiveness of the songs, it is easy to tell that they are the kind of band that would easily make an album your mom would enjoy. Insert favorite “your mom” joke here.
Kidding aside, the passion and intensity behind this album is matched by few. They bring in so many different influences it starts to sound like everything you ever loved about music being put into one album in a coherent way, satisfying for someone with eclectic tastes like myself. In one second they are Sigur Ros, in the next Dystopia or Neurosis, and the new Altar of Plagues, all bands I can easily see them listening too. The production on this album is astonishing as well, far surpassing most in either the Punk or Doom worlds yet not falling into the abyss of over production like what killed the Melodic Death Metal or Symphonic Black Metal scenes. By the way, those genres too could easily be seen as an influence, its like they took my record collection and added parts from each album. The bass is so clear and concise I can only hope this inspires many other four string players to quit being wannabe guitarists and accept that the bass is an equal part of the band.
Music like this completely relies on atmosphere and build-up. They take a sound and go with it for a few minutes, patiently allowing each part to flow into the next and letting the rhythm of the drums and bass carry on while the guitarist kicks out riffs that are beyond epic. The vocals of Just Dave are a spitting fire, filled with so much passion I almost want to join the party and go protest with some kids down in Olympia, but unfortunately their sound track is not something like this, or else it would be more about the passion of an ideology instead of merely wanting to hang out and pretend you are doing something cool. At one point, they have a riff that is totally reminiscent of ‘80’s Metal, I could easily see a thousand Metal fans banging their heads to this one (I was distinctly thinking Iron Maiden, which another reviewer pointed out as well so I will let them have that one).
During another section, it gets heavier than even Khanate or Iron Monkey, a slow and menacing riffs with some of the best screams I have ever heard. So many different things stick out, it seems shameful to just write one review, in fact this needs a book to discuss each separate section. During Sanity is for the Passive, the music breaks down into a complete mess that reminds me of the building of a mandala in Buddhism, taking hours to form a beautiful and thoughtful image, then ruining it for nothing can ever be permanent. As mentioned, my buddies’ passing is evidence of this, but what we do have, as long as the technology allows (and your files are not deleted or albums are not caught in a fire) is music like this which forms the soundtrack of our lives.
I could honestly spend hours writing about this, have in fact, it just seems like so much is happening, that so many parts exist which blow me away and I want to find the words to describe each and every one of them. After hearing this, I can safely say they need to go on tour with the aforementioned Amebix, Tragedy, and Neurosis. All these bands have taken the idea of Crust Punk, and dared to explore this sound in various ways. I’ve always been more into the melodic / atmospheric stuff, and adding the intensity of Punk just makes it even more enjoyable. This is heavier, faster, slower, more thoughtful, and is bursting with so much passion it becomes the epitome of all that is good in music. When the music starts to speed up and the vocals let go with a rapid fire venom, it has the feeling of being free that only music can bring, sounds which bring hope and devastation, both bringing the world to ruin and planting a seed. This tree will grow to be a reminder of what the possibilities are, to inspire musicians of all sorts.
Even those who are not into heavier music, if they can tolerate the vocals they will find some sort of inspiration through the incredibly well crafted music itself. This may be the album that starts a musical revolution in the Crust Punk world, for it is clear the level of musicianship is far beyond many, and that the idea of limiting oneself to a style is completely contrary to any concept of freedom. Nux Vomica seeks that freedom, sickened by our modern society and knowing that something better exists for us but we have chosen the wrong path. This music will certainly not change the world, nothing really does, but it could change your world, not only how you see yourself but in its impact on you as a body of music, and in truth that is kind of the same thing. At least, it is the closest we can get to finding that sensation of freedom.
*I truly hope this does not ruffle any feathers in the Alda camp, but the song Wandering Spirit is dedicated to him.
01) Sanity Is For The Passive
03) Choked At The Roots