Noctivagant is a black metal duo who hail from Narimanov in Astrakhan Oblast, which lies in Southwestern Russia. The band consists of one Bekzhan on vocals and the equally vaguely named Vadim on guitar and keyboards. Together, they manage to weave a traditionally depressive darkness using minimal ambient structures and a droning, brooding landscape of lo-fi metal. The Sleep of Reason is the band’s debut full-length album, and it is a fine example of depressive black metal done right despite its excruciatingly small limitation of 33 copies. The melodies are simple yet steeped in a total caustic despair that other bands can only dream of conjuring. The lyrics are harsh and range from raw pitch-black wailing to a guttural wheezing growl in that co-exists in perfect harmony with the slow but unrelenting melodies that form the skeleton of this dark and dreary project.
To capture despair and the confinement of solitude is a gift, and this is something that Noctivagant truly masters. Each and every song on The Sleep of Reason is a homage to that slowly spreading decay that is loneliness, a creeping uncertainty about what lies beyond, and the luring whisper of the reaper just beyond the thin veil of reality. It might be a bit cynical to say that I truly love this wallowing in despair. The songs are just minimal enough to allow the emotive essence behind the band’s compositions pass through you, yet they feel ambitious enough in ways that go beyond that of ordinary depressive black metal. Songs such as “Soul of Light” bring a chill to the soul with a frigidly haunting atmosphere that has been birthed through wailing guitars that are accompanied by the banshee howls of Bekzhan. “Postskriptum” is another excellent song with its bleak rolling melodies over unrelenting riffs and the occasional desolate piano solo. Overall, this album is filled with tiny bits and pieces that push it just to the right spot in my mind.
There is a sense of utter hopelessness in these initial eight compositions, and for the first time in a long time, I feel that depressive atmospheric black metal might actually be something that I can relate to again. Perhaps I was just looking in the wrong place, because I now know that a small town in Russia was the spawning ground for one of the better albums of 2013 — an album that is, for better or worse, doomed to obscurity. The Sleep of Reason is an album that receives my strongest recommendation; it is a slow poison that creeps through your system, and fills it with a lovely, blissful, frost-bitten despair.
01) The Sleep of Reason
03) Soul of Light
04) Postskriptum (Interlude)
07) Alone in the Dark
08) There’s Nothing Left II