Formed in the late 1990s in Dubai by guitarist Alex Zubair and drummer Alan Madhavan, Nephelium are a band who made their name in their homeland with their potent blend of old-school-indebted, yet impressively vital death metal before upping sticks and relocating to Toronto, Canada. Having already notched up support slots with such acts as Skinless and Deicide, it seems that all the band has left to do is properly announce their arrival on the world stage with a full-length debut. Enter Coils Of Entropy – an album 10 years in the making that easily carries the force and conviction necessary to make Nephelium a potent force in the contemporary death metal landscape.
Nephelium‘s influences clearly lie in the poundingly brutal and intricate compositions of the 90s Floridian death metal scene – the technicality and bludgeon of Suffocation and Cannibal Corpse pulses throughout the six tracks that make up the album. However, rather than being derivative of their forebears, Nephelium manage to carve out an identity for themselves both by dint of a subtle incorporation of Middle Eastern melodies into their guitarwork, and also by their extremely assured deployment of dynamic songwriting. Guitarists Alex Zubair and James Sawyer sound equally as comfortable whether deploying punishingly groovy riffs that lurch like enraged golems (see for example ‘Hellborne”s closing minutes or the pit-demanding slowdown halfway through opening track ‘Burial Ground’) or letting fly with nible-fingered technical riffs like the spidery finger-tapping that skitters periodically across the opening of self-titled 10-minute epic ‘Coils Of Entropy’. Blistering leads are scattered liberally throughout also, and it’s within these bursts of pyroclastic shredding that the traces of the band’s Middle Eastern lineage can be most easily discerned.
Whatever twists and turns Zubair and Sawyer take the guitarwork through, the rhythm section of drummer Alan Madhavan and bassist Flo Ravet are always right there with them – the former nailing down each tempo-shift and swerve with a battery of pummelling double-kicks and some tasty fills, the latter underpinning the considerable heft of the guitar duos weighty riffage and occasionally coming to the fore himself for moments like ‘Malediction”s subsonic breakdown. Perhaps the star of the show, however, is vocalist Devlin Anderson, whose sickeningly guttural roars perfectly encapsulate the tone of uncompromising malice that suffuses the record. He even manages to contort his vocal style in order to accomodate a quick tribute to Obituary‘s John Tardy during the climactic moments of ‘Malediction’ before shifting gears into something that resembles the Tasmanian Devil and finishing off with an ear-piercing scream.
Appropriately enough for a release so steeped in old-school death metal influence, Coils Of Entropy‘s production is pleasantly shorn of excessive sample-replacement or overly quantised and edited performance – the guitar tones growl like enraged grizzlies, the bass rumbles like an approaching steamroller, and the drums clatter and pound with palpable force – yet for slower, more melodic moments like ‘Halls of Judgement”s midsection (during which a particularly impressive solo rings out over a crawling rhythm riff while Ravet’s bass bubbles malevolently beneath), the mix is clear enough to allow each instrument its room in the mix. In fact, overall I haven’t got a criticism of Coils Of Entropy that’s particularly significant – the album’s blend of arresting riffs, insistent groove, punishing brutality and intelligent, ever-shifting songwriting makes it one of the most impressive death metal debuts I’ve heard in some time.
Nephelium’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nephelium