THE NEGATIVE BIAS – Narcissus Rising

THE NEGATIVE BIAS – Narcissus Rising

  • Rating: 4.5 / 6

The 2nd installment from the Austrian black/death metal ensemble brings a fairly original mix of Enslaved/Emperor structures, Behemoth-ian power, dissonant harmony a’la Ulcerate/Deathspell Omega, with liberal helping of My Dying Bride-ian/Osole-ic doom/death for mixed results.

Formed in 2016, The Negative Bias, featuring Ingo "I.F.S" Fundulus (vocals, lyrics, songwriting), Golden Dawn’s Stefan "S.T" Traunmüller (guitars, bass, songwriting, production), R.J. Athtarion (guitars, bass, songwriting) and Thomas Leitner (Irdorath, Groteskh) (drums) took off big bang-style with their debut album. "Lamentation Of The Chaos Omega" was an excellent melodic 90s atmospheric black/death metal recalling Cradle Of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, Dark Tranquillity, and Hypocrisy with modern songwriting of Watain. "Temple Of Cruel Empathy", from the split with Golden Dawn (2018), threw in Deathspell Omega and Enslaved-style structures with clean but still creepy vocals on top of growls. I enjoyed both releases immensely and looked forward to this, based around an ancient mythological concept, new album.

According to the creators’ own description on their website, the concept revolves around Greek mythological character Narcissus, who, conceived by the water nymph Leirope, who was raped by the river god Kephissos, grew into a physically beautiful man who rejected male and female suitors. This resulted in him being cursed by goddess of justice, Nemesis, who condemned him to love his own reflection in the river without awareness of it being his reflection, whereby he died in eternal unfulfilled longing for it. The myth is a veil behind which there lies "human self-obsession, the elevation of physical appearance and public perception as raison-d’être" all of which "are deceitful powers that can lead those who suffer from them into misery and chaos".

The full album title is Narcissus Rising (A Metamorphosis In Three Acts) released by Aeternitas Tenebrarum Musicae Fundamentum, ATMF, in short. While the record contains only 2 tracks, the 2nd one has 2 acts. Each track is over 20 minutes long, full of twists and turns, the 2nd track evidently a more melodic affair, although both liberally borrow from doom/death stylings of My Dying Bride with clean vocals recalling Paradise Lost’s Nicholas "Nick" John Arthur Holmes. In no small part due to the help of Hafsteinn Viðar Lyngdal (Wormlust, Martröð) the structures resemble Enslaved or Emperor do business, but frequent and unusual changes of pace bring albums such as Deathspell Omega’s infamous "Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum" or Ulcerate’s "Destroyers Of All" to mind while the creepy and haunting chantings and prayers (?) with seemingly a-melodic instrumentation – Artcturus’ groundbreaking and horrifying aptly named "La Masquerade Infernale". There’s plenty of fast blastbeat black metal and thunderous bassy death but these are often interspersed with periods of non-musical atmospherics.

And that’s precisely the problem I have with this album, just as I did with the aforementioned Deathspell Omega’s "Fas, Ite". I get that this is a concept and that it’s a tragedy with emotional baggage bigger than Batman’s, but we’re not exactly Carach Angren, here. While the opening track has those creepy "we’ll be back to our regular programming momentarily" breaks which already effectively kill the whatever momentum was painstakingly worked up by the savage or doomy parts in between, there is simply no good reason for it to be all of the final 8 minutes of "Insomnic Sermons of Narcistic Afterbirth/At the Threshold Where Chaos Turns Into Salvation". Seriously, what the hell, guys? Why not simply fade out the proceedings at 11:57?

"Narcissus Rising" is still a very good album, but in their pursuit of original expression in form and structure, The Negative Bias lost a lot of their consistent instantly gratifying melodicism while needlessly brutalizing their message. I suggest they take a look back at their debut, before penning album number 3, in order to rediscover what made them so compelling in the first place.