COSCRADH – Nahanagan Stadial (2022)REVIEW

[…] Lough Nahanagan, a corrupt form of the old name Loch na n-Onchon, the lake of the otters. There was formerly a stone standing in this lake, near the margin, which was in its way quite as easily irritated as the Well of Slieve Bloom but more easily appealed. If any person assaulted it by striking it with a stick or even the smallest cane, it resented the affront by bringing down a heavy shower of rain. But it seems to have resembled certain quick tempered people who are repentant and good-natured after the flash of temper has passed off; for the rain always ceased in a short time and was followed by clear skies…” Patrick Weston Joyce, The Wonders of Ireland

Spearing up and spiked like horns upon skulls, iced over crags are all that remains persistent above the crowded piles of fur-draped skeletons and frost embalmed horrors that’d been mud-drenched, draped by suffocating flows and picked clean of flesh by the swiping hands of coldest Death as the last great cessation arrives. Named for a sixth and most brutal glacio-climatic event (or, sub-stage) pertaining to the late Midlandian stage events wherein rapid periglacial activity (rock and land-scarring from glacial formation) specific to Ireland’s final bout of “ice age” events occurred, ‘Nahanagan Stadial‘ sets a specific point of evocation in a time and place where climate and geologic events co-conspired against all living things, carving the land and mauling every last one of its inhabitants into corpses. Presented as furious acts of the old gods by way of Gàidhlig war metal from quartet Coscradh this debut full-length intends to be as tyrannical and impossible to be predict as the natural apocalyptic disasters depicted. If we can consider successful artistic expression a matter of producing primally screamed keening in response to events which cleaved the Earth itself and doomed all in their wake then I’d have to hand it to these folks for their render of chasmic destruction on an impossible to imagine scale, temporal and physical. Anyone looking for an accessible or normative extreme metal exposure herein, maybe fuck off quick before you inevitably get flogged out by the big-swinging whip of their titanic madness.

The Dublin-adjacent crew’ve been working on their own brand of arcane, obliterative and historicity imbued bestial blackened death metal since forming the original line-up in 2015 and chipping away at a set of songs for their first public release (‘Demo MMXVI‘, 2016) which’d been compared with the early works from Malthusian for the sake of their physical adjacency and the slower-paced pieces and noise experiments they’d included within the warring faction of black/death metal presented. A more official line-up would form for their first EP (‘Of Death and Delirium‘, 2017) and a more distinct point of view had arisen within those songs, though the render had been nuked for the sake of something more noisome and aggressive. Songs like “Hangwoman” give the first sort of lightbulb moment leading up to what they band would lean into beyond this point, including wrathful and exaggerated vocal performances with brutal yet distracted rhythms veering wherever the wind would blow.

Coscradh‘s guitar arrangements were already tending towards the intuitive sense of primitivity a la Blasphemy and Teitanblood being the only true anchor for their thrashing about, now leaning away from the precision primitive death metal of Archgoat and thier ilk towards improvised and irrational performances; An emphasis upon chaotic and live-performed movement seems to have been the way forward from that point, or, at least accentuated on their most recent 7″ (‘Mesradh Machae‘, 2021) which I’d given some brief review of upon release noting that “I’d say this is an EP band for me ’til I’ve seen what they can do on a full-length, hitting the 15-20 minute mark is just right for their sound to get in and out the window quick for the kill.” Having now heard what they can do with a full-length record I think I’m still more-or-less the type who ducks out for a break after every twenty or so minutes, though I had no issue sitting through and enjoying the over the top mania of ‘Nahanagan Stadial‘ and its ~40 minute wrack for a deep handful of listens.

The thrill of banshee screams, torrential blasts in compass-void direction and scrawling leads notable bears a more extended life as key feature here on this debut, wherein the improvised sense of movement these elements all generate remains viably interesting for more than a handful of listens. These may very well be elemental features of war metal’s hallucinatory consciousness but their implementation simply isn’t typical. Dual guitar riff progressions may appear grotesque in their feature, even imprecise to some degree within a casual listen but they do end up lining up with the raw blasted mayhem of the drum performances. The title track “Nahanagan Stadial” does a fine job of lining up the core goals of this irrational, outsized beast of today with their skeletal form found back in 2016 showcasing far advanced performances and rhythmic nuance while still punching away at rhythms which are destructive, uncompromising in their violence.

Most of these songs are actually far longer than might seem reasonable, anywhere from ~six minutes up to the nape of twelve, yet Coscradh have clearly put the rehearsal work into fittingly elaborate tumult on display with plenty of turn-on-a-dime changes, stream of consciousness fed irregular intervals, and a frequent sense of collapse brought on by stops and starts in the action, causing neck-jarring fits of pause whenever their focus decides to shift. Whereas the title track succeeds in using this longform approach to set a terrifying cataclysmic scene in all of its glory, the even more extended closer “Feallaire Dóite” feels unnecessarily flabbed-out, and not in the sense that the horror of the piece’s closure goes on for too long (arguably the best part of the piece) but moreso the fact that we’ve heard these howling screams, similar riff progressions and quick-changes often enough up ’til that point that it lands partially redundant as a finale; From my point of view the spine of ‘Nahanagan Stadial‘ does ultimately rest upon the volcanic insight of its middle act, a set of three 5-7 minute pieces which comprise the meat of their narrative, the birth of these magickal places, scars upon the land by the rapturous beatings of the gods.

Without intending any cleverness on my part, the bestial aspect of death metal emphasized throughout this album comes to its first peak just beyond the opener with “Feast of the Epiphany”, a song which introduces itself with a whammy-demolished lead guitar scrawl and a continuous stream of harrowing, agony-strained screams which pair alongside the main vocal performances and with the caterwauling of the leads. The song ends up being centered around the elements crushing the life from the land, or, the creature that’d once walked there in a sort of cyclone of red blood and screaming pain. It is ridiculously over the top, in a good way, as a blast-beaten symphony of painful noise gives way to late Cenozoic creatures cawing their last breaths within caves as the song ends. Bestial death metal has so rarely painted a picture for me that was anything more than bizarrely sexualized fever dreams and literal warfare noise, demon penetration and tanks popping skulls for the most part, but in this case the surrealistic brutality of the form makes great sense in roaming the shaping of the land by cruelest unforgiving nature. A bit of shrieking noise might seem like a small detail, ’til you’ve heard the whole record I guess, but it goes a long way to making Coscradh‘s debut unmistakably their own insightful, well-characterized release as “Plagues of Knowth” more-or-less picks up the hammer that “Feast of Epiphany” momentarily set down.

Around the fifth time I’d landed upon “Cladh Hàlainn” it’d been clear that for my own taste that was where Coscradh had made the argument for their riffs outside of the opener/title track, still a pick-scraping bestial death yank of the noose at every turn (per the rest of the album) but attacking their guitars in a way that appeared physically demanding and, based on its broader faced grooves, most impactful as a performance. The only bit that’d bugged me on that particular song was the fade out, even if it did allow for more of the experimentally applied “noise” which features throughout this album and some of their previous releases. “Cladh Hàlainn” and “Feallaire Dóite” notably both feature lyrics in what I understand to be Scottish Gaelic (‘old Irish’) but only because the former refers to a primarily Scottish heritage site, the only bog burial site to preserve prehistoric aged human corpses within Britain. Anyhow, if you’re prone to sit with lyrics and chip away at their meaning/depiction and process the way I tend to there are all manner of references to ancient extinction events within ‘Nahanagan Stadial‘ that’ll prove rewarding, even if you’ve no patience for translation.

If you’ve always found war metal, bestial death metal, and the more brutal spectrum of surrealistic, brutalized black/death metal completely heinous noise I doubt there was any intent on Coscradh‘s part to convert your noodle-armed ass to the other side. They surely make an insane ruckus here on their long-awaited full-length debut but it comes with intentionally set motion, purposefully violent impact which is well-paired with the very well communicated subject matter alongside a sonic step up from past efforts. As is the case with this sort of destructive, brutally nox type of music some moderation is encouraged unless you are already fully immersed in such punishment but I’d felt this was a substantial release with plenty of bold moves made and properly crazed characterization throughout. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (78/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Nahanagan Stadial
LABEL(S):Invictus Productions
RELEASE DATE:August 5th, 2022

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