As a general rule, I don’t go into potential album reviews blindly. I generally know at least something about the band, or if it’s a new band I’ve heard one of their songs streaming somewhere online, so I have an idea of what to expect musically before listening to the album the first time. Not so much with Nero Di Marte. All I had was an email that described them as an “Italian atmospheric metal” band who play “progressive, avant-garde and technically precise metal/death metal.” I was intrigued by the description—as we’ve recently covered, call something ‘progressive’ and I’m probably going to be all over it—so I gave it a listen. I was expecting something complex, challenging, and technical. And this album is all of those things, but there’s something else going on here that elevates this album to an entirely different level than almost anything I’ve ever heard before.
Here’s the best way I can describe Nero Di Marte: imagine a supergroup featuring the rhythm section from Ulcerate, Luc Lemay of Gorguts and Joe Duplantier of Gojira on guitars, and Spencer Sotelo of Periphery on vocals. It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but all the basics of their sound are covered: the unbelievably tight rhythm section that can change tempos in the blink of an eye, very technical rhythm guitar work with a groove, a lead guitarist who can either play complex lead lines or add more tech-death based rhythm parts, and a vocalist who can soar over it all. Unless he’s growling like Jens Kidman from Meshuggah. Or doing something else entirely. I swear, vocalist Sean Worrell (who also plays guitar) even sounds like Layne Staley at the beginning of the song “Nero Di Marte” Really, Worrell shows more of a range of styles over the course of this album than any other vocalist I think I’ve ever heard, which is just one of the remarkable things about this disc.
But what really gets me excited about Nero Di Marte, whose name comes from “an iron oxide that produces a deep, dark, intense black that when in contact with other colors can permanently coat or noticeably transform them,” is this: you know how with even the most technical of bands, after listening to a certain number of songs you can figure out their tendencies and start to anticipate where the songs are going to go next? I’ve given this album close to a dozen listens and I’m no closer to figuring out how they structure their songs or anticipating where each song is going to go next than I was the first time I listened to it. It may be the only metal album I’ve ever listened to that many times and I still have no idea how they’re doing what they’re doing. This is incredibly complex music made by unbelievably talented musicians, and this album is going to be on heavy rotation for a very long time because it’s an absolute masterpiece.
But don’t just take my word for it, You can spend the next six minutes agape while streaming the album’s first track here and . And then you can pre-order Nero Di Marte, which will be available via Prosthetic Records on March 18, by clicking here. Mark my words: a finer technical metal album will not be released this year.
Final Grade: A+