Noltem – Illusions in the Wake (2021) – Review

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Some of the RMR crew like to visit exhibitions. Nothing sleazy nor infested with demonic distortions or styles for nerds only. Just plain art displayed in more or less astonishing splendor.

And sometimes you stand in front of one of these paintings and you wonder why you like the piece. Nothing on the offering really talks to you at first. Yet, something kinda speaks to your inner self. It’s a communication of sorts that you cannot control, and you actually don’t want to. A pleasant discourse that takes place despite yourself.

The same happens sometimes with records. You fire them up – and something docks onto your frontal lobe. It’s as if the art – in this case, the music – opened a gate or two into your brain. And now, you’re hooked but you still don’t understand why.

Noltem here must have been on a cruise too long. Because their theme/story muses on Illusions in the Wake. A string of thoughts that already become apparent in this somewhat psychedelic explosion of colors on the album cover. All of that comes on a slightly doomy yet inherently powerful and in-your-face brand of Atmospheric Black Metal. A style that reminded me of Falls of Raurochs the most, with some of the earthiness of Felled added for good measure. Even if the latter operate on land more than anything.

Now, if you think that you’ll be faced with an overly heavy offering that will sit in your stomach like two double whoppers with bacon and cheese, come again. Noltem here artfully weaved that pattern of the wake without losing that airy touch. A hint of serene lightness that will make the apparent complexity of the arrangement look easy.

And the production truly blew me away. Quite often, your piece of atmoblack that comes with your morning coffee feels strained. Many a band out there kinda loses control over their creative urges and floods their fans with loads of ethereal wailings, a megaton of samples, and all those miscellaneous shiny objects that should go together with the harsh and heavy. Should. Because in many cases, the end result somehow feels like one of them golems awkwardly stitched together by some drunken magician.

In contrast, Illusions in the Wake here made my day. Noltem‘s astounding and highly potent riffing and sturdy tremolos sail smoothly on a strong wind of soaring melodies. Albeit that the band may lean a tad too far into Melodic Metal for my liking. The RMR deck crew fancied the relatively frequent solos that a couple of artists apparently guested for as well. Yet, it’s the flow and coherence that this record brings to the turntable that truly floored me.

The story kinda smoothly floats along the wake it so aptly describes. The gruff vocals effortlessly roam about massive soundscapes. The samples of all sorts of subtle marine sounds flawlessly weave themselves into that wavy fabric of the record. And that is a first ever after hundreds of reviews that appeared on this ‘zine already. Often, those sounds don’t integrate too well and become more of a hindrance than a blessing. Yet here, they’re just part of the theme. And in a way that you’ll understand where things may be heading next.

Ultimately though, Illusions in the Wake provides a unique piece of Atmospheric Black Metal. One that comes with an almost flawless production, subtle hints of doom and damnation, and a mix that mercilessly chisels all those watery thoughts into the metallic surface it depicts. Now, here would be the moment where RMR would compliment the band on their long career and stellar discography. After all, they have been around since the early ’00s, right? That’s until we found out that this is Noltem‘s debut full-length record.

And that turns the record into an even more astounding piece of work. One of the best Atmospheric Black Metal albums of 2021 without a doubt. Let’s just hope the band won’t make us wait another 6 years for their next offering.

Fingers crossed.

Record Rating: 8/10 | LabelTranscending Obscurity | Web: Facebook (band)
Release Date: 15 October 2021

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