Selbstverständlich… — In positing the essence, implications and existence of “freedom” Dresden, Germany-based atmospheric black metal quartet Nemesis Sopor weigh multiple angles of spiritualist and pragmatic course, ultimately delineating the presence of the ‘Firmament‘ as their thesis of conflict. This unspecified spiritual boundary between mankind and the nature of their own existence, an unknowable point of passage, is the uncertain variable which allows the muse to run-on through the possibilities; Despite the now obviate sophistry that riddles much of Rudolph Steiner‘s well-meaning unscientific legacy Die Philosophie der Freiheit persists as the longest resonant and easily digested answer on an individual level, a tool to identify tangible mindset (rather than setting) pertaining to freedom: Passionate purpose directs free actions, pointedly denying service to the societal maxim. Actions arisen from individualized thought are free, the very core/passion of a person comes from their thoughts. A free person bears no obedience above their ownership of the ‘self’, the pre-requisite being that the concept of the ‘self’ is entirely formed. Though this may very well serve little more than a vague starting point in ones argument for freely-willed actions it may be more pertinent to apply these ideals to the band’s journey thus far, as they’ve now reached a point where it seems the leash has been long chewed off and their shoulders rest squarely in the shape of decisive identity. Expect a high modern standard for atmospheric black metal with dramatic influences from progressive and modern rock infused on this fourth full-length album but, do not expect any answers as to what holds humanity back from attaining the idyll of freedom beyond a resounding, er, implied “knowledge“.
We’ve no formal introduction to Nemesis Sopor between their formation in 2008 and a split LP (‘Rauhnächte‘, 2013) with Berlin-based pagan black metal group Drengskapur where we get a sense of their still somewhat rudimentary shape beyond their (no longer available) 2011 debut full-length, ‘Wurzelloser Geist‘. A couple of re-recorded pieces from that early era indicate general timely atmospheric black metal interest. As we take a closer listen to their growth beyond the void of that likely “not there yet” first full-length the relation to the evolution of bands like pre-‘Unstille‘ Der Weg einer Freiheit and Imperium Dekadenz nearby brings us closer to typical Wolves in the Throne Room-esque (or Cascadian distant) atmospheric black metal out of Germany at the time though not yet as ambitious as the groups mentioned. This was the general conclusion reached within Nemesis Sopor‘s second full-length (‘Glas‘, 2014) although it’d be valid to suggest that post-rock/post-metal influenced black metal has its own footing in the last couple decades of German black metal’s atmospheric language and this cannot be reduced down to a couple of peripheral mentions. Consider that point a step into capability, a point of gained purpose for the group who’d begin to emphasize their independence. This self-directed stance found the band more focused on crafting a more consistent identity per arrangements and imagery from that point. From there guitarist R.S. would take up all vocal duties beyond 2015 as the band approached their second album (‘MMXL‘, 2017), a conceptual work centered around artificial intelligence, which marked the full conclusion of their plain atmospheric black metal construct into something slightly more unique. If there is an interesting gem-like work in there past which reflects a well known niche, that is probably it.
If you’ve any interest in where precedence was built beyond the foundational work of Nemesis Sopor most of that’d come beyond 2018 where the current line-up solidified and an exploratory EP (‘Eis zu Stein‘, 2019) represented a bigger step toward what we hear today on ‘Firmament‘, a progressive/post-music influenced ripple which placed some emphasis on the dulcet tones available to a cinematic, tension-buildering atmospheric black metal style. If this fourth LP manifested exactly that sort of thing I’d have passed it by quickly, those two pieces were pretty but plain for my taste, yet the fidelity of their efforts had reached a high professional standard worth noting. The best precedence set for this freshened creative streak from the quartet came with a four-way split album (‘Quintessenz‘, 2020) which’d showcased a grip of equally impressive German black metal groups (Schattenvald, Rimruna, Dauþuz) alongside Nemesis Sopor‘s own focus on more eccentric, involved rhythm guitar work. This moment was a few releases in the making but most potent at that point, a fluid yet aggressive progressive rock influenced approach (think along the lines of Ultha‘s latest) which now takes a few strides deeper on ‘Firmament‘.
“Detritus” leads us into this fragmentation and rebuilding of the self with a ~13 minute epic where we find guitar arrangements more clearly tasking each player with greater finesse and vocal arrangements which bring brilliant use of variety for the sake of expression. This is very much a step beyond what “Demiurg” had brought to Nemesis Sopor‘s sound on ‘Quintessenz‘, finding every aspect of their approach refined. Though I am not one for whispered vocals and such the sheer amount of ground covered by this piece makes for an appropriately charged, dramatic entrance. “Argus” carries us beyond that point with a more characteristic slow-burning atmospheric black metal piece, tentative in its pacing and introspective in its tone this is where we find the most natural “easiest” evolution of the band, a slow-waltzing almost pagan black striding piece which tumbles along as it generates spectacle rather than pointed aggression. There is a fantastic guitar hook buried in the piece ~4:04 minutes in which resonate more and more with each listen as a clear spike of interest, a small bit but a detail not entirely lost in the modernisms abundant otherwise.
The best, die wurst. — The major highlight of the album, my favorite piece on the album overall, “Apsis” is a finest example of the psychedelic, Ulcerate-esque (see also: recent Suffering Hour) sturm of ‘Firmament‘ and its captivating leads. The bluster of atmospheric black metal still drives the melodic language of the band into big, breathy post-black informed moments but this hook-handed and ominous feeling is unique in Nemesis Sopor‘s discography thus far and for my own taste it reaches a point of mastery within this song. If you’ve some doubt of where the piece is going I’d say hone in on the action around ~4:50 minutes in where the chord bends and spectacular drumming whirl together for spectacle which is not limited to the self-polluting atmoblack biosphere exclusively and this comes without reliance on dissonant chord shapes to produce a raw yet inspired stream of rhythmic interest. Sidled right next to such a major highlight comes the least interesting song of the lot, “Paresis”. Its lesser-than tuneful leads and weightless statement overall just does nothing to sustain the mood, deflating the feeling of sublime passage as we step beyond Side A. Thankfully this is the only point where ‘Firmament‘ faltered into a moment of stupor and lost its dramatic momentum.
“Monument” keeps with the natural verve of the action on ‘Firmament‘ and provides the centerpiece for Side B, a beauteous yet intelligently stated blend of atmospheric intimacy and melodic black metal drive which is a good fit for Nemesis Sopor‘s greater trip on this album, and for fans of the AOP Records sort of sound. A considerable point of swelling enthusiasm which crucially builds momentum towards the thoughtful conclusion of the full listen. Though I’d expected “Wall” to, eh, present more of an obstacle or at least a feeling of defeat as the album closed its door there is a clash of strong guitar technique and frustrated vocal timbre which leaves us on shaken foundations or a headspace of contempt. It’d been a more difficult to read point of interest per my experience but at the very least we’ve some new guitar sounds to generate atmospheric interest and gird the already progressive/psychedelic mystère of the record with some additional depth in its final moments.
Considered as a whole experience ‘Firmament‘ is relatively stumble free in its head-tapping exploration of modern black metal atmosphere and the ills and virtues surrounding thought on freedom, taking a spiritual-philosophical route towards a record which grants the listener a profound surreal and exploratory feeling. Despite being a fully independent entity Nemesis Sopor present this finest yet work with great confidence, fine art direction, and a gloriously considered sequence of events. Not only is this impressive even after combing through it all repeatedly it also bodes well for the ever-improving ‘self’ forged between these four folks as a sustained corpus. Though the finicky fandom will likely boil down to folks deeply interested in nowadays Deutsche black metal and its avant-atmospheric realms of pure feeling this is an experience apart, something far enough from the usual or expected values of this headspace that it stuck in mind. Memorable longform pieces helped considerably, too, as I found myself at peak immersion with this album within ~two hour sessions, lapping up every detail as their broader-stroked meditations fully sunk in. The one caveat is that the lyrics are in German and I’ve not yet properly discerned their profundity beyond suggested themes/explanations. Otherwise, an enjoyable listening experience. A high recommendation.
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