Album: Nihil Est – Double EP
There is an evil so great that every man, woman and child must acknowledge it. It is the creeping darkness that grows, brooding in the distant recesses of our minds. It is the snake we dare not feed—the voice in our heads we refrain from responding to, for fear of losing the things that make us most human. We dare not speak it’s name lest we summon it into being—even if, at the core of our collective essence, we know it’s too late.
It’s name is Belial—and it is upon us, thirsting for every ounce of happiness we keep inside of us.
The Siege Records debut and monstrous double-release by the UK’s newest and most annihilating technical deathcore outfit, Nihil Est is the sound of pure, bleak suffering. Dismal to the core and devastatingly heavy throughout, every note Belial play is carefully written and arranged to inflict nothing more than pure suffering. From the bloodthirsty licks of “In Extremis” to the spacy, sinister atmosphere of “In Origin” and “Eon,” Belial bear a beast’s name for good reason—as they do nothing as well as they tear flesh from bone.
You can find Belial’s Nihil Est at the crossroads of grim, bleak and depressive atmosphere and absurd, raunchy and—simply put—driven aggression. Immense, anthemic openers like “In Extremis” showcase this as well as any other song on the album, opening with deep, dark percussion that quickly builds on itself, like a snowball made of nails, broken glass and used needles, until it becomes an unstoppable monolith of murderous aggression. In that fashion, Belial carry on, growing more and more evil with every song that pierces the listener’s skull. “Odium” is another poignant example of Belial’s absurd skill with instrumental variety and drawing from a sprawling variety of influences. With relatively sparse vocal segments, much of “Odium” and its draw comes from the fretwork that defines it. While it—and the entirety of Nihil Est—are crafted atop a foundation of fluid, groovy drumming that blends technicality and speed better than any MixMaster or Ninja Blender ever could, it’s the guitar that is truly captivating. With a solo that sounds heavily prog-tinted and almost-djenty segments of catchy-yet-crushing low-tuned grooves, Belial almost have the listener fooled into thinking they stumbled across an unreleased Nexilva B-side—until the galactic, glorious atmosphere and dizzying, looping guitars ditch their act and go directly for the listener’s throat, bleeding them dry. This is a trend that isn’t inherently new to Belial, but what is new is just how smoothly and excellently the band have become at transitioning from atmospheric segments to aggressive ones—taking a “heavy/soft” dynamic and turning it on its ear, making it a “heavy/heavier” style.
With soul-sucking, mind-melting, darker-than-the-darkest-black combinations of despair-laden atmosphere and aggression pouring from every ounce of the band’s instrumental stylings, Belial might seem as though they earn their name without even thinking about the band’s vocal element—but if you think the band’s penchant for punishing heaviness sounds evil, then you have another thing coming. Nihil Est‘s vocal dynamic doesn’t just sound like the bellows of Satan himself, but it practically is the voice of The Prince of Darkness. Songs like “Odium” make a sparing display of vocal brilliance, but what moments of vocals there are soaked with loathing and hatred. “Heroin Holidays” or the introductory “In Extremis” see a more straightforward and sinister vocal approach—with grisly, gutwrenching roars soaring over every low groove, spicing things up with occasional shrieks and yells that cut through the listener’s unexpecting head like a bullet at point-blank range. Much like the grooves that serve as their foundation, Belial’s vocals are catchy without compromising weight or dense, devastating power—making the breakdowns and climactic moments of dread-drenched, abyssal bitterness hit like a wrecking ball, but bounce like they were coated in rubber.
It’s hard to pick one word—or even one sentence—that can summarize the journey Belial take the listener on throughout the duration of Nihil Est. On one hand, the first half of the double-release is new and exhilarating; material not-yet heard that is sure to send the listener’s fear-induced adrenal response into overdrive. However, just as the listener begins to grow accustomed to the fear induced by songs like “Odium” or “Eon,” the re-release of the band’s debut EP kicks in—launching them back into a new experience yet again, as it works with the first tracks in a context that adds greater depth to the climactic portions of every song. Moments like the jarring apex to “Wen” or “Parasite” seem to have even more momentum behind them, now that there is close to 30 minutes of material backing them up (and this isn’t even truly considering the haunting and unusual experience found within the instrumental cuts of these tracks). Belial embody evil—maybe that’s the best way to put it—but they do it in a way that is far from direct or overt. They are subtle, sneaky and sinister…which is what makes them so uniquely eviscerating.
For Fans Of: Oceano, Black Tongue, Martyr Defiled, Nexilva, Bound by Exile
By: Connor Welsh