Having witnessed at close hand a small part of the Malaysian metal scene recently, it was plain to see that bands and compositions over there are collaborative efforts rather than being the sole inspiration of one dominant individual. One of the founder members of NonserviaM, Leon Low, said the same thing when I interviewed him earlier this year, pointing out that the passions of its individual band members cover death, thrash, groove, symphonic and avant-garde metal. NonserviaM are essentially a melodic death metal band. This EP is a physical re-issue of a 2016 digital release, is a follow-up to the 2012 EP “Ordinance of Reason” and the 2014 album “A Spectral Ascension”. Parts of “A Spectral Ascension” could justify NonserviaM being tagged as the Malaysian Dark Tranquillity.
I never get the point of a symphonic intro on an EP, especially when it seems to have no bearing on the rest of the work, so let’s forget about “I”. The show gets truly on the road with “Primeval”. The dynamic and surging riff reminds me strongly of Mors Principium Est. The keyboardist provides a neat twist, and with the deathly vocals, “Primeval” is dark and dangerous. The solo is good and integrates well, thus avoiding the self-aggrandising “hey, I’m a solo” tendency of some bands and works nicely into the generic melodic death formula. The breaks and inserts are nicely managed. All in all “Primeval” is a lively interactive song. “Disdain” has different emphasis and even has a symphonic black metal element to it. The drums trigger and the dark atmosphere is well controlled. With the acceleration, so too the excitement builds up, and now NonserviaM take us into epic territory. The mood and atmosphere change during its course but the song flows. Technicality abounds but so does the melody. “Disdain” is fluid and structurally solid.
I had made the observation previously that “Exile” to me sounds like Dark Tranquillity’s “The Treason Wall” revisited. I maintain that view. Vocalist Leon is a more deathly version of Mikael Stanne in fairness, but the instrumental structure is pure Dark Tranquillity. It is well done and “Exile” pulls us in with its driving qualities. The keyboard adds mystique, and once again the solos are integral and well timed. “Exile” is also catchy.
Now this is where I had a problem. “Servitude” is one song I don’t get. It’s kind of a hybrid between a death and a melodic metal track, with a strange growled hardcore chorus. Consultation of the flowery and word-heavy lyrics didn’t help my predicament. Suffice to say they are about bad things. This mysterious song stops to make way for a sinister spoken section. If there was any impact, it is lost as Leon merely succeeds in sounding like an alien character from Dr Who. Then it’s back to Gothenburgy melodic death metal. There are lots of potential ideas here on “Servitude” and I appreciated the sense of adventure but it didn’t come together. Even after I thought it had finished, it ends with 50 seconds of secret track, or was this the outro? Even after repeated listens, you mystified me with this one, chaps. My conclusion is that “Servitude” is too complicated for its own good.
I did have prior concerns that this might just be a Malaysian outbase for the Gothenburg sound, but I can now safely dispel that fear. Leaving aside “Servitude”, whose constituent parts could have been de-constructed to better effect in my view, there are lots of good qualities in this EP. This is a decent collection of engaging and well-structured songs. My friend Jakob of Mercenary used to talk about his band’s trademark sound. For continuity, this is what I believe NonserviaM needs to work upon, along with a co-ordinated track structure for their next album. “Archetype Obscure” is a set of individual songs but it is clear that this is a band with creative musical ideas. I just think those ideas need to be clearer and simpler.
(7/10 Andrew Doherty)