The Noumenon – Apocrypha (Self-released, 13 December 2011)
Well, would you look at that — the week’s halfway over already. But then again, that means there’s still half of it left. And I’ve got a terrible fucking headache. Feeling lousy seems to be a common problem this time of year though, especially living in a city that’s notorious for its unpredictable and ever-shifting weather patterns. The past couple mornings the temperature has been hovering just above freezing level, but it’s supposed to go up about 25 degrees higher by the time I leave work this afternoon. It’s hard to get adjusted to stupid shit like that, and the fact that every day this week has had high or very high pollen levels has not helped things one bit. But, whatever. I can sit here and whine and bitch about it, but that won’t do me any good — so instead I’ve decided to take some allergy pills, drink a shitload of coffee, and throw on my headphones with some loud fucking metal music until I can’t feel anything anymore.
Fortunately, I find that today I’ve got a new CD with me, Apocrypha by Edmontonian band The Noumenon, which is pretty much just what the doctor ordered…
I first became aware of this Canadian quintet a couple of months ago when this EP was discussed over at That Devil Music. In his review, TDM writer Rob Liz mentioned that when approaching brand-new bands who get tagged with the prog-death and/or tech-death genres,
“there is always a bit of trepidation on my part going in. It’s either a wall of noise with too guttural of vocals or massive amounts of weedily deedily highlighted by chaotic vocals.”
I couldn’t have said it any better myself. So many bands these days get so hung up on the technical aspects of the music, or try so hard to sound avant-garde, that they forget to write actual songs. Plus, everything (vocals and instruments) is often so over-processed that it’s damn near impossible to distinguish one band from another. So when Rob went on to have some pretty positive things to say about these guys, in contrast with the grievances described earlier, well let’s just say it caught my interest and made me curious about checking them out.
I didn’t know it at that time, but before long I’d have the chance to do exactly that. Near the end of last month, That Devil Music posted an announcement that they would be giving away a CD copy of Apocrypha; all that was needed to enter was to comment on that post with a definition for what “The Noumenon” means. Well, I had no idea if it was even a real word — didn’t bother Wikipediaing it or anything — so I thought maybe they were looking for a made-up definition. All I did was say the name inside my head, and for some reason it kept sounding like Joss Ackland‘s voice; his character (the evil genius guy from the future) in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey was named “Chuck DeNomolos” but when he introduced himself, he said “I am DeNomolos,” and in my head it sounded very similar to “I am The Noumenon.”
Now I realize that’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s all I had. Anyway, as it turns out, only a few people had answers for that question (I guess the others actually knew what the word meant, or at least they looked it up), and soon afterwards, there was yet another announcement — this time saying that they had randomly drawn a winner, and that winner was me! So a little while later, I got this CD in the mail. I apologize for having such a boring story, but that’s how I came to be in possession of it, and now here we are.
For what it’s worth, I did eventually do a bit of research on the band’s name, and it seems that a “noumenon” is something that is known — in contrast with a “phenomenon” which refers to something that is sensed or perceived. In other words, you can actually see or touch phenomena, but noumena are ideas — “objects of the highest knowledge, truths, and values,” according to Plato. Incidentally, the word comes from the Greek νοούμενoν, roughly translated as “something that is thought.” Furthermore, the album title also comes from a Greek word, ἀπόκρυφα, which approximately translates as “things that are hidden away,” and is most often used in relation to religious texts, but in a more general sense can refer to any knowledge that is hidden or secret.
Basically, I guess you could call this “thinking man’s death metal.”
This twenty-minute-long four-song EP starts out sounding like fairly standard progressive death metal, with the song “Ulterior Predation” featuring pretty brutal death-growl vocals, nice and heavy riffing, and a sweet guitar solo near the end. “Journey in the Absolute” introduces a little more variety to the sound, including a bass part complete with some sustained chords highlighted during the intro — in fact, the bass tends to shine throughout this song, particularly when things mellow out a bit near the middle, alongside a touch of piano and a brief flirtation with clean harmonized vocals. The brutality recommences, but during the song’s outro it gets joined by a little bit of reverby electric piano as everything fades away…
Next, “A Lengthened Shadow of Ignorance” opens with — gasp! — strings, acoustic guitar, and clean singing, although the heaviness quickly builds up once more, to a climactic point near the end where the bass leads a furious call-and-response riff that is echoed by the guitars and piano. Closing track “The Imbalance” explodes out of the gates with some more up-tempo, punishing death metal, which keeps up for about three minutes or so, until things suddenly turn all thrashy, except with the inclusion of a bit of old-school-sounding organ. From there, things head in a more jazzy direction, built on top of a swing rhythm in the drums. All of this is but a momentary diversion, though, as the band returns to true death metal form over the course of the last minute or so of the song, until its abrupt ending.
And just like that, the disc is over. The variety of sounds heard here, and the level of talent with which they are produced, definitely leaves me wanting to hear more, so I’d have to say I am totally looking forward to whatever the next step might be in this band’s career.
Listen to Apocrypha using this Bandcamp widget, or click here to download it for free directly from the band’s website!
By the way, that incredible piece of cover art up at the top of this review was created by Randy Ortiz, whose website is located here. If you like the design, you’ll love this: click here to flip through a series of photos showing that image through all the various stages of its completion!