So, this escalated quickly.
It started by just playing the album once. Just the one time. Letting the music drift by. My usual reviewing technique is to listen to it a couple of times at home, and then use my lengthy commute to and from work over the next week or so to let it soak in. That didn’t happen with “Opus Tierra”, the second album by Florida-based Nixa. No, instead, I played this at home. A lot. Then on the commute. Then while I was in the bath. Then…well, I played it everywhere I could. Truth be told, I even played it at work when I had the office to myself.
To say “Opus Tierra” is infectious is a bit like saying that booze is a bit moreish. I can’t remember listening to a doom album that was so damn catchy straight out of the blocks. The thing is, the album isn’t constructed of straight forward riffs or the usual groove-laden approach that can sometimes hook you into a doom track. No, this is a collection of songs that appeal just because of the damned quality and emotional connection that the album has. From the epic opening title track through to the final chords of the last and seventh song on here, “Restless Seer”, sheer quality comes buzzing out of your stereo of choice.
Huge waves, constructed from the immense sound of super-fuzzed out, slow to mid-paced guitar and bass work come crashing down around your head. The drums, here abused by Mike Rodriguez, but channelling the likes of classic Bill Ward, walk that very fine line between primal power and deft skill. I was actually really impressed by the vocals of Valentin Mellstrom. Here his vocals have a very unique sound – plenty of sorrow and despair in his clean vocals, but also with an almost Joy Division meets latter period Anathema delivery (you have to hear it to believe it). On inspection, turns out I’d reviewed him in another band (Devils Whorehouse), where he’d done a great Danzig impression, but using his own style here just suits the absolutely massive sounding doom all that better. Special praise too to Raul Valentine who plays both the guitar and the bass, and does an amazing job of both.
There are sections of this album that actually did make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The pummelling mid-section of “Destroyer”, for example – all loss-soaked reverb and counter-point guitar work – feels so damned redemptive and sorrowful that it can’t help but move the listener. It doesn’t hurt of course that the production here is vast. The sheer power of the music is given space to breath in a slightly dimmed, fuzzy barrage of filthy buzzing bass and shattering six-string work. Incredibly, after the best part of two weeks of incredibly heavy rotation, this album is still getting an outing daily.
The only regrets I have? Firstly, that I hadn’t caught Nixa before now – and – being from Florida, I wonder how likely it is going to be that I ever get to watch them live. For the most part then, I’ll have to be grateful for the ability to listen to this sublime entry in the comfort of my own home.
(9/10 Chris Davison)