Album Review: Nami – "Fragile Alignments"

 By Mark Laffin

Somewhere buried along the rugged, mountainous border lands of Spain and France lies the tiny nation of Andorra. It’s less than half the size of Rhode Island, but within it harbors a considerably loud and angry beast in the form of Nami. It would be a fair enough statement to say that these guys would represent Andorra’s biggest metal band. In fact, they may be Andorra’s only metal band, if not one of their precious few bands period. Although virtually peerless as far as where they come from, this band showcases a musical prowess that can rival some of the greatest metal bands to ever come out of Europe. Being on the roster of Year Of The Sun records, I had expectations that this would be good, but I was surprised with just how impressive this record really is. This is not just good for a metal album, this is a very complete and fulfilling musical experience. This is a decidedly artistic grand opus that eschews the standard formats, and turns out to be a successful experiment in song structure which goes on to explore the furthest corners of the sonic spectrum. The musical dynamics offered here are as divisive as they are effective. As brutally violent as the songs become in places, there’s also a fair share of lush melodies and gracefully austere soundscapes. Actually, the overall vibe of this album reminds me of a delicate fusion between Opeth and Porcupine Tree.

Normally, I might point out some particular songs that serve as highlights of the album, but I don’t think I’m going to do that this time. Although there certainly are highlights, this record serves so well as a complete canvas of work that it almost feels like it would taint the band’s artistic vision to dissect the album track by track. This doesn’t even feel like listening to a collection of songs at all, but more of a large single cohesive statement. The band structures this work as a thematic conceptual piece which explores a storyline that centers on the elements of the Earth. Although this is not an entirely original idea, (Thrice’s The Alchemy Index comes to mind) they manage to present it in such a way that it doesn’t matter. It’s almost as if they’ve just completely hijacked the idea altogether to completely call it their own. The range in musical dynamics is nothing short of astounding, and all ends of the scale are winningly accomplished. Across the duration of this sonic assault on the senses, the band paints a vast and vivid landscape of layered textures that range from warm and idyllic, to a plethora of savagely complex guitar riffs all executed with mechanical precision.

One thing which I am very particular about when it comes to metal is the vocals. Sometimes when metal vocals are too guttural it can come off as gratuitous and comical. When the heavy parts come in on this album however, the singer’s voice is very guttural, but it is with purpose and context. These moments actually serve as a careful contrast to the mellower parts with distinctly clean vocals. It sounds as though he is offering a host of characters with various voices to help bring the story alive. I also especially admire the bending of the paradigm which dictates that aggressive vocals should accompany the heavier guitar parts. The lines defining the rules of metal begin to blur here, as we hear feral screams layered across clean acoustic passages, as well as some harmonious singing juxtaposed against some fierce and beastly metal riffage. The band seems to employ every available device in order to immerse the listener into their world, evoking emotions of despair and madness, but yet also solace and hope. Perhaps the true triumph in this project is how both the aggression and musicality is allowed to flow together so naturally and effortlessly, the music never comes off as contrived.

This album could very well serve as a benchmark in modern progressive metal. Although some influences are audible, the band sounds as though following their own true artistic path with an uncompromised vision. There is an extremely wide range of musical artifices engaged here but there is not a single moment that lacks in sincerity or focus. The louder parts are a grand display of rhythmic intensity and brutal resolve, while others will surprise with their tonality and graciousness. The sonic continuum is also colorfully embellished with lots of melodic guitar harmonies that homage Iron Maiden or early Metallica. It’s really all a commanding, multi-layered beast that allows subtle melodies and other nuances to slowly manifest themselves over successive listens. Not to mention the mammoth riffs that sound like the soundtrack to the rapture. It’s all done with such adept fluidity and with careful deliberation to create just the right atmosphere and ambience for each respective part of the narrative. Having said this, this record however is very imposing and does demand a lot of attention. One could even accuse the band of being excessive and the album of being overlong and indulgent. My advice is that if you can commit yourself to lend the attention this album truly deserves, you may find yourself enrapt in one of the more rewarding musical offerings of this year.


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