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Numinous's Debut on Northern Heritage Swallows the Light and the Dark Indiscriminately

Numinous

Numinous

“Numinous” means “having a strong religious or spiritual quality.” It is the definition of this word which is stated as being the basis of all music produced by the band using it as their title. As heard on their sole and self-titled full-length album, released back in 2011 on Northern Heritage Records, the compositions crafted by Numinous are conspicuous sonic conglomerations of ideas and spirituality as audibly expressed in their nearly palpable, abrasive overtones. They explicitly demand in their liner notes to not be labeled with specific genres as the songs themselves are created exclusively as a religious statement and offering to, “Jahve, the divine author of all evil, our unnameable Lord and God.” Though I’m sure there are some out there that would view this move as being pretentious, I can understand the reasoning behind establishing yourself as being independent of specific classifications. Regardless of the order to not be boxed into genres, this band crafts a type of music that will only cater to those that enjoy extreme varieties of metal—perhaps especially those that might be put off by the less desirable, newer directions that metal (black metal particularly in this context) has taken thanks to its steadily increasing popularity. There may very well be reasons that elude me for the this band to not want to be labeled, but there are a few observable common themes in black metal over the last seventeen years which I suspect as the primary culprits. One of my suspicions is regarding how over the years the aesthetic of black metal has lost some of its impact. In a time when people do things like make cat puns on metal band names or take well-known photographs of black metal bands and superimpose them over surfers surfing in the ocean, it makes it easy to sympathize with those not wanting to have themselves associated with something that’s been all too commonly turned into kitsch for the irony-obsessed masses. Beyond this, there are other “serious” projects that, of course, have managed to turn the genre into a parody of itself, never mind the slew of bands intentionally making a joke out of it (e.g. Impaled Northern Moonforest and Misantropical Painforest). And with bands like Woods of Infinity, it becomes difficult at times to discern when it is or isn’t intentional. Lastly, another issue that continues to surface in black metal is what the genre does or does not represent. Rather than getting caught up in all the unproductive debates on its meaning, it makes a lot of sense to me to remove yourself from the discussion altogether and state your own purpose on your own terms; the listener either enjoys that or they don’t—take it or leave it. While I do admire those that choose to stand their ground and keep extreme metal true to its roots, I personally appreciate Numinous’s approach as it still feels like an act of resistance that is particularly congruent with the original themes of isolation, misanthropy, and the hatred of “god” so heavily seen, heard, and felt in black metal. In the end, regardless of what anyone may be inclined to call it, the music Numinous writes is dissonant, uncomfortable, heavy, even trudging at times, and blatantly saturated with a darkness designed to manipulate one’s mental state into a foreboding anticipation of something ominous being summoned from the depths of the netherworld.

While the entire album itself is worth a listen, the first half is the most impressive portion of this release. The intro, “The Opening,” sounds exactly like what would be expected from a track bearing that title. With the deliberate push and pull heard within and emanating from the strange sliding of notes, there is a sensation created of a rise and fall in gravity formed solely by instrumentation. When expressly touting your work as a manifestation or a concept of sorts, it’s important for an introduction to be as effective as this one is in setting the tone. When “Bound to Servitude” begins, it continues the same auditory heaving, only now having grown to a magnificence that feels nearly orchestral in scale. There are also times during this song when the second guitar makes manipulated sounds that nearly emulate a horn section from a horror movie score. Providing this, another appreciated element to this band is that while reasonable amounts of the music is repetitive, they throw in enough contrasting sounds over it, thus keeping it interesting to listen to unlike other projects that end up drowning themselves in misdirected monotony. “The Enormity of Evil Divine” continues the aforementioned inflation of sound. There is a riff in the beginning of this song that is recurring throughout its duration which sounds like a more discordant, uneasy version of “Greensleeves.” While the odds of this being purely coincidence are presumably quite high, the mental association made still somehow works really well with what they’re doing. It sounds to me like the occasional, more listenable elements such as this that are intermittently found on this album are intentional as they provide the necessary break from what is otherwise a rather relentless dissonance.

The duration of the second half continues along on the same path as that which came before, maintaining a steadiness of ferocity with enough variation to hold one’s interest. Though I can’t claim that Numinous is the most unique, interesting project I’ve ever heard, I appreciate that it effectively created an atmosphere clearly reflecting its stated intention and did so with a decent amount of engaging songwriting. This is the sort of release that is better suited for those that are interested in the conceptualization of sound and the use of it as an atmospheric tool—in this instance, one used in praise of something sinister. Since the band so blatantly wants to set itself apart from everything we know about music, I can’t expect this to be a cut-and-dry black metal recording, but it is one that does a decent job of representing some sort of looming darkness in the ether while utilizing a lot of chromatic riffs in order to do so. Furthermore, I was not at all surprised to learn that the project hails from Finland. Numinous lacks the distinct Finnish style notably heard in many of my favorite black, death, and doom metal bands, but per its refusal to take on any musical identity, that is presumably the point. Considering this, it does certainly maintain the sort of austerity that I also associate with Finnish bands, and it’s that stern fearlessness paired with its eerie and intense music that makes this album a worthwhile experience for people who like their music dark, heavy, and strange, as well as those willing to accept that Numinous isn’t seeking anyone’s approval.

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Track List:

01) The Opening
02) Bound to Servitude
03) The Enormity of Evil Divine
04) Drawn Towards the Black Beyond
05) In Lege Domimi Ambulabo

Written by: Anne K. O’Neill
Label: Northern Heritage Records (Finland) / NH-076 / CD, 12″ LP
Black Metal