Reviewed: March 2019
Released: 2018 – Non Serviam Records
Evangelium Nihil represents something of a triumph over adversity for Russian doom band, Comatose Vigil A.K.
Recorded with the help of David Unsaved from Ennui and John Devos of Mesmur, this current version of the band has taken the necessary measure of adding the initials of founder member A.K. iEzor to their name to distinguish themselves from previous line ups. In fact, at least one ex-member of the band is formally disputing iEzor’s right to continue using the original banner.
Indeed, this newest work seems to have been created in the aftermath of several years of turmoil for the band.
Their initial momentum, that began with the band’s debut album in 2005 (Not A Gleam Of Hope) and carried them through to their acclaimed, second full-length release (Fuimus, Non Sumus) has been marred by line-up changes and ongoing inter-band conflict.
Attempts to continue eventually crumbled in 2013, when Comatose Vigil disbanded under the weight of internal discord. They reunited in 2015 for some live shows but ultimately could not continue as they were.
None of the above has prevented iEzor from his continued attempts to realise his vision. In fact, by 2018 it appears the challenges of maintaining Comatose Vigil A.K. has inspired some of the most crushing work from his band. The recruitment of two new musicians and their subsequent work together is testament to iEzor’s ongoing belief in his music.
The band describes Evangelium Nihil as being slower and heavier than their previous albums. It is built on ponderous, slow tempos, backed by deep growls that push the listener on a descent into the “abyssal depths of a frozen world where one won’t find a gleam of hope.”
It is hard to disagree with the band’s description of this release as its opening track drifts in like an ominous fog. The atmosphere is one of impending doom, which is entirely appropriate, given the palpable weight of the first crushing guitar chords.
From this point on, Comatose Vigil A.K. presents the listener with four funeral-paced tracks – none of which dip below a quarter of an hour of listening time.
For better or worse – take it how you will – this is not an album that offers much in the way of variety. In fact, taken as a whole, this release could be considered as four similar sketches on the same bleak, nihilistic theme. The band have clearly fixed the emphasis on maintaining a consistent, foreboding tone that endures for the entire running time of the album.
The foundations for each song on Evangelium Nihil are set within an augural combination of thick guitars and solid, skull-crushing drums. The guttural vocal delivery enhances the monstrous weight of the music, but crucially, there is another element that establishes the creeping disquiet that is present across this work; and that is the inspired use of samples and synths.
Comatose Vigil A.K. have embellished their expansive crawl with sounds that could have been taken from the most wretched of horror films. Synthesised strings cascade underneath the guitars. The notes perpetually undulate and bend off pitch. In one instance, they break into icy stabs that tip a clear nod to Bernard Herrmann. It’s nightmarish stuff.
Keeping with the cinematic references, fans of John Carpenter will find much to enjoy in the retro aesthetic of the synth work. Similarly, David Lynch’s films comes to mind, such is the unsettling effect this element brings to the band’s sound.
To their credit, the band obviously have an understanding of eerie harmony that shouldn’t be undervalued, and in a scene where slow, downtuned riffs may not quite be enough to stand out from the pack, Comatose Vigil A.K do have something unique about them.
However, this singular approach does make Evangelium Nihil a challenging listen, especially in the latter half, where the samples and soundtrack elements are more subtle. The band place more emphasis on a traditionally heavy presentation with low, demonic vocal parts pushing the material forward at a glacial pace.
The music remains sonically powerful, but there is absolutely no deviation from the funeral-paced tempo and the compositions are built to repeat. During the final two songs I became aware of my attention lapsing more than it did in the creepy, nightmarish first half.
Perhaps this is a record best experienced in completely immersive conditions where you can allow the slow wash of riffs to envelop you. There is certainly something about this collection of songs that lends itself to dark isolation.
Ultimately, Evangelium Nihil is a credible effort, containing some weighty, unsettling music that is worthy of your attention should your preference be for crushingly slow, atmospheric doom music.