I like everything about Nhor. I like the pagan-pastoral vision, the unhurried compositions that braid black metal together with gently sombre acoustic passages; I like the album covers and the increasingly elaborate products that accompany its releases (the latest comes with incense sticks and an incense holder handmade by Nhor himself). But, while the last album Within The Darkness Between The Stars was pure shoegazing black metal – or perhaps stargazing is a better word – Momenta Quintae Essentiae has moved the whole project to a different extreme. The Herefordshire, England one-man outfit delivers some of the sparsest, most gentle acoustic music I’ve heard since I last unpacked my Cafe Del Mar CDs.
The impact of Momenta is not unlike the effect of watching snow fall, autumn leaves being shaken gently from the trees or raindrops collecting and running down into ever growing channels. And, if your first reaction is: ‘who’s got time to do that these days?’ I would agree. So Nhor’s latest effort requires shifting down several gears – there is no amplified guitar, no drums and definitely no bass. But, for anyone who fills their earlobes with metal for many of their waking hours, the latest Nhor provides the perfect antidote: 40 minutes of pure, tranquil contemplation.
Momenta Quintae Essentiae is a bewitching piece of music that is as evocative as any raging chaos. A journey into the slowly unfolding natural world that reminds me a bit of Spectral Lore’s foray into similar territory on the Quivering Lights split from last year. It’s like classical music stripped down to a more basic post-industrial folk formula that manages to use its sparse scattering of melody to strike a very specific emotional key. Lingering piano notes played in the higher ranges that is not so much relaxing as it is gently dripping with melancholy and the offer of memories locked in time. The individual notes hang against a background of silence like they’ve been played on crystal keys.
The song titles are all in Latin but, when translated, all convert into typical, if slightly abbreviated, Nhor imagery – the opening track ‘Lunar Oritur’ means ‘The Moon Rises’ while final track Ante Primam Lucem translates to ‘Before Daybreak’. This is music written in awe of the natural word and to inspire its appreciation.
Nhor’s Momenta Quintae Essentiae is an understated and quintessentially English journey into the heart of nature. It’s also a difficult one to wholeheartedly recommend because it’s clearly not going to be for everyone. Fans of Lamb of God and Five Finger Death Punch may want to find something else to do with their spare cash. But anyone who’s found themselves longing for an album that pours the extreme acoustic end of the black metal spectrum into an entire album may find themselves the perfect accompaniment to those darkening winter afternoons and freezing, star-lit nights.
(7.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)