Released: 2014, Prosthetic Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Bologna-based Nero Di Marte offer a stark contrast to the fleet, frilly power metal and orchestrated death metal ostentation that have come to typify the “sound” of Italian metal in recent years. Theirs is more of post-rock/hardcore and progressive stew bathed in an industrial-strength metal clangor – turbulent and noisy to be sure, but also grim, murky and vast.
The quartet takes its name from an iron oxide that produces an intense black pigment that can permanently coat or transform other colors when it comes in in contact with them. Their music has a similar, though more dramatic effect - kind of like an oil spill. It slathers everything in its path in a viscous veneer that won’t wash away easily and does its damage over time.
Blending the shifting dynamics of Neurosis or Ulcerate and the teeth-clench emotional intensity of Quicksand or Deftones with the steely harshness of Gojira or, especially, Godflesh, Nero Di Marte craft a sprawling wall of sound on their third album (their debut was recorded under far more banal moniker Murder Therapy) that rolls over you in unrelenting waves. Erratic, shrill, shimmer-and-shriek guitar patterns, undulating drums and quaking bass drone form the basis of nearly everything on Derivae and it just keeps coming and coming.
Each song is an epic unto itself here, with the two shortest cracking the six-minute mark and everything else clocking in at eight minutes or more. “L'Eclisse” opens things innocently enough, with the relative quiet of some creaking guitar strains and Sean Worrell's wounded groaning. But the volume and tension soon begin to bubble and boil until it ends in a dissonant crescendo of charging riffs, Marco Bolognini double-bass salvos and Worrell's cathartic wail.
“Pulsar” takes these same relative pieces and reconfigures the order, opening in a thunder of instrumentation then giving way to ethereal, often Spartan vocal passages – I'd hasten to call them verses or stanzas, since there aren't much in the way of typical song structures here – before the thunder rolls again and the cycle begins anew. “Simulacra” is something of mirror image, with Worrell hollering over the metallic din and the instrumental sections being relatively more serene until, again, a mighty crescendo at the end.
“Dite” is a bit less involved, lumbering along at an almost mechanized pace as Andrea Burgio's bass heaves underneath, a la the aforementioned Godflesh. “Clouded Allure” earlier on is a bit busier, with Bolognini all over his kit, but its bottom end still rattles the bones.
For all of the expansive sturm und drang here, the 10-plus minute closer, “Those Who Leave,” comes as an almost ambient shocker, teasing at a bombastic finale, then pulling the plug. But given the big finishes on several other tracks, the band show their moxie by doing the unexpected instead of merely delivering the inevitable or obligatory at the album's end. And you can't really fault them for that.