Estuarine’s Metallic Madness Crystallizes on “Nyarlathotep” (Review)
Though you’d assume that Estuarine's self-description as "nomadic" would refer to their lifestyle, it's also a decidedly accurate encapsulation of the music contained within their new album Nyarlathotep. These eight tracks are fluid, unrestrained and impossible to pin down, burning through grind, black metal, techdeath, and mathcore, often within the space of a single sub-one minute long song. They move with an unpredictable urgency that goes beyond the "nomadic" metaphor and becomes more "on the run," bouncing between stops like there’s a dark past looming just behind.
More literally, the "nomadic" tag refers to Hydrus, the anonymous musician and sole member of Estuarine project, originally from Tampa, Florida. Their previous release Sic Erat Scriptum was a much more expansive collection of progressive grindcore/technical black metal (it's probably best, from now on, to avoid tagging Estuarine with any specific genres) that, although more drawn-out and spacious, was no less compositionally frantic or provocative. On Nyarlathotep, Hydrus has distilled the essence of their previous albums' manic tendencies into ten minutes of idiosyncratic, technical insanity; an EP/album hybrid monstrosity that’s practically guaranteed to turn off all but the most committed of listeners.
In terms of Nyarlathotep’s sound, Hydrus channels a highly technical, precise and sinewy form of manic intensity that, while urgent and seemingly chaotic, boasts a crazed internal logic that reveals itself when taken as a complete piece of music. These eight tracks operate almost as one symbiotic creature, not so much ‘flowing’ as stretching and morphing into one another. There’s a fleshy squelch to the way the bass and guitars interlock on tracks like “Prophecy Denial” that moves like tendrils assimilating an unfortunate host. Given Nyarlathotep’s Lovecraftian theme (the album is loosely based around Lovecraft’s tale of the titular demon) this sense of alien formality makes thematic sense, as if Estuarine’s music has itself become some unfathomable, otherworldly being.
Nyarlathotep possesses a genuine sense of psychedelic strangeness. Nothing operates as it’s musically "supposed to." The tracks all flow into one another, rendering them practically inseparable, while the mix of the instruments is often pitched at unorthodox levels (check out the fluctuating levels that open the confounding “Hooves Of Oblivion”). Most bizarrely, a permanent fog of ambient sound behind the conventional instruments adds an additional layer of obfuscation to the music. This gives the songs a profound sense of unease, as if there’s something there inching closer just out of vision. Then, a track like “Broken Subordinates” will end and for a brief second or two it becomes visible; an eerie noise like a swirling wind through a cavernous tomb.
A wild journey through an unknown universe, Nyarlathotep exists according to its own laws of musical spatiotemporality. However, despite its decidedly provocative nature, it makes for an oddly compelling ride, providing you have a strong head and a willingness to meet Hydrus halfway. Their "nomadic" musical style is head-spinningly bizarre, and, though it may ultimately be too bold and too alien to find itself a wide fanbase, Estuarine surely has no such concern for questions of acceptance or palatability. With Nyarlathotep they’ve executed something pretty special, according to their own strange, idiosyncratic vision.