REVIEW: EYE OF NIX – “Ligeia”
Black metal is in an interesting place. For a sub-genre known for its passionate rejection of commercialism, it has an exceptional capacity for its own self-promotion. From its infamous pioneers to its contemporary torch bearers, bands such as Mayhem and Enslaved are keeping it afloat while controversial figures such as Myrkur are bringing the sub-genre back into the limelight in a way that had not been done since Cradle of Filth. And Eye of Nix, proving themselves to be compelling in the mix, are set to release their third studio album, ‘Ligeia’, in the middle of it all. The Seattle based quintet coalesce beauty and harshness on ‘Ligeia’ with memorable hooks and structures. An approach that has proved to be fruitful among the masses, if a little risky within the black metal community itself. Yet Eye of Nix don’t seem to concern themselves with such taboos. And it’s a good thing they don’t, as ‘Ligeia’ thrives on multiple levels, not all of them extreme.
In Greek mythology, Ligeia was a siren who used her voice to entice sailors to their deaths. Much like its origin story, ‘Ligeia’ also beckons its listener with gentle, captivating harmonies before revealing something far more sinister. “Concealing Waters” conveys the bands talent for creating ominous tones with emotive melodies. From safe, psychedelic beginnings to its eruptive black metal finish, this piece drags its listeners through a journey of peaks and valleys filled with noise and melody. As the records leading single and the albums opening track, “Concealing Waters” sets the bar high from the offset.
Vocalist, Joy Von Spain, uses her impressive, operatic vocals to walk with you throughout ‘Ligeia,’, like a guardian angel, or a witch of the woods at dusk. Moments in which reassuring light bounces and flickers through the intervals between trees, while the atmosphere feels close and thick. A presence reinforced, in no small part, by the keyboard samplings of Masaaki Masao. This sense of presence is felt throughout ‘Ligeia’, especially on songs such as the powerful, “Tempest” and the stripped back “Adrift.” Eye of Nix also never rely on being fast and loud as a crutch. As “Adrift” shows the band in a state of nature, musically stripped back and comfortable in the quiet. Trading their doom metal undertones for something more revealing in its tenuity, you can’t help but feel a brisk whiff of fearlessness in the air.
While honoring tradition, Eye of Nix are not content to merely replicate the forms of their extreme metal majesties.‘Ligeia’ is an album born of ugly truths and intense dynamics. Thematically it explores the lure and lore of addiction, trepidation, illusion and obsession. It provokes a range of emotions, both comforting and unsettling. Musically, it dances across the spectrum as it incorporates progressive, melancholic arrangements with a consistent recurrence of fervent brutality. While they may not be completely reinventing the wheel of extreme metal, in 2020, Eye of Nix are on their way to becoming one of the most interesting names in the sub-genre.