Eye of Nix – Moros
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There’s a slew of female-fronted bands these days and some of them are quite good, but many of the bands seem to be stuck in the mindset that they have to sound a certain way—primarily bluesy rock and doom. That has its place, but I can only listen to so much of it, and certain limits are hit when either the voice doesn’t have the force needed to completely steer the song or there’s just too much simmer and not enough steam.
I love female voices in heavy music, especially ones that really know how to use their pipes, but the female singers that are classically trained tend to gravitate towards the Nightwish-y bands, and that’s never been my thing.
Seattle’s Eye of Nix is the answer to both of these issues. Singer Joy Von Spain studied voice and considered a career as a concert pianist but now she feels like she “dodged a bullet” as she became more focused on composition. “I did study voice off and on, performing Early Music or new dissonant works by both other student composers and myself,” Von Spain said to Invisible Oranges via email. “I really got off on singing the brutally straight-tone or atonal shit no one else wanted to touch.”
Nix’s eclectic sound is owed to the group’s multi-faceted lineup—drummer Justin Straw, guitarist Nicholas Martinez, bassist Gerald Hansen, and noise artist Masaaki Masao have backgrounds in several varieties of dark-though-not-metal music. Straw also belongs to avant-crust duo Same-Sex Dictator, and Martinez shares time with Michael Ray & The Plastic Sheets (dark country). Von Spain sings French, German and English language cabaret classics in Vin Voleur. Also, Masao and Von Spain collaborate in doom metal/death industrial group Mongrel Gods—in that group she drums and sings though she has also played some guitar and keyboards. She’s also in a drag-glam band called T. Rox.
The group first congealed when Von Spain became involved with synthesizers, as well as live improvisation with analog and digital electronics. “When Masaaki Masao and I met in 2007, we began a project called 100 Pieces that led to incorporating the voice, harsh noise, and percussion into our sets,” Von Spain says. “Collaborations with butoh artist Vanessa Skantze over the last six or seven years also provide a platform to explore many vocal techniques, including the operatic style.”
Although Eye of Nix formally became an entity in 2012, their debut album, Moros, engineered by Brandon Fitzsimons (Bell Witch, Anhedonist, Haunted Horses) was only just released on vinyl by Eugene, Oregon, record label Belief Mower.
As befitting a band with such eclectic backgrounds, Moros is all over the place sonically—not a moment is wasted and there’s no room for an iota of boredom. Von Spain’s operatic vocal tendencies make it epic, the psychedelia embedded in it makes it hypnotic, and the blackness and sludge creates a harsh abrasiveness. Von Spain has the vocal power and control to soar, shriek, roar and growl and she does all that and more. Together, the musical landscape and her vocal extremities are a terrifying yet can’t-stop-listening experience.
“It's disappointing to hear a phrase that didn't reach its apex because the vocalist ran out of air, or the drummer didn't know double kick, or there was no wall noise on the palette to obliterate you,” Von Spain said. “But, I find it a bore to hear all instruments together at top volume for 40 minutes with a vocalist who never shuts up. Tension and release is our focus. Transitions conjure visions of chemical bonds and nebulae rather than magazine collages in my mind.”
Nix, or Nyx, is the perfect name for this band. She is the Greek goddess, the daughter of chaos, who personified the night and was only glimpsed, not seen. She alone, with no partner, is said to have birthed Moros (Doom—get it?) as well as Ker (Fate), Thanatos (Death), Hypnos (Sleep), the Keres (female death spirits), the Oneiroi (Dreams), Momus (Blame), Oizys (Woe), the Hesperides (Twilight), the Morai (the Fates), Nemesis (Retribution), Apate (Deceit), Philotes (Friendship), Geras (Old Age) and Eris (Strife). That’s a powerful lineage she brought into being, not to mention plenty of fuel for further album titles.
“It's mysterious that we wrestle sound waves and shout,” Von Spain said. “It seems that Nix (or Nyx) would have similarly marveled as light, the Fates, strife and all their weird siblings tumbled out of her body. It's a vacuous universe in the mind… filled with horrors that can stream out at any moment of their own accord.” That’s what happens on this album—the intensity demands attention. As a listener, you not only have to listen, you want to.
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The band recently collaborated with filmmaker Michael Ray Sheets and Vanessa Skantze to create a video for the song “Elysium Elusive,” which is visible here. (NSFW due to nudity and blood.)
Eye of Nix is currently touring the West Coast:
May 7 Eugene, Oregon – Wandering Goat
May 8 Portland, Oregon – Highwater Mark
May 9 Tacoma, Washington – New Frontier
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