Encyclopaedia Metallum is a great metal resource, but it's a funny beast. "Metalcore" bands like Himsa and Premonitions of War aren't listed, but to my ears they're pretty much metal bands. However, Switzerland's Nucleus Torn makes the cut, even though the vast majority of its debut full-length, Nihil (Prophecy Productions, 2006), is un-metallic. I suppose "folk metal" is a legitimate classification, though there must be some point where the acoustic to electric ratio becomes un-metal.

Taxonomy aside, Nihil is a monumental work. Nucleus Torn is basically a chamber ensemble that incorporates metal at times. Various bands (especially on The End Records) have explored this, but Nucleus Torn's hybrid is the most seamless and organic I've heard. Nihil doesn't have the "here's the avant-garde part, here's the metal part, now here's them mashed together" awkwardness typical with such fusions. Most of the album sticks with violin, cello, flute, piano, etc., swelling into distorted guitars only when necessary. Modern classical, Celtic, and various folk idioms enter the mix, but, again, they're woven in, not grafted on. The male/female singing is delightful, and the track sequencing is seamless. I don't care how "metal" this is. Nihil is simply good music, and metal had better learn from it before it implodes with insularity.

I can't champion this band enough. If you support one underground band this year - that is, not just download it off some torrent (which would be unlikely to have it anyway) - make this one it. This is the past, present, and future of music. I don't care what kind you call it.

Nihil is available from the band's lovely website.

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