11 January 2021

ALBUM REVIEW : THE nss58 PROJECT –  ‘DEAD PLANETS’ 

‘Dead Planets’ is the latest offering from composer and artist Nigel Sanders and The nss58 project. It follows on from the 2019 EP ‘Motorbreath’ which was first released under the previous moniker of ‘Black September Falls’. This EP explored concepts of machine uprisings and the end of humankind, whereas ‘Dead Planet’ takes a step further, away from this planet into the cosmos.

The nss58 Project isn’t afraid to throw everything into the melting pot. There is no snobbery about which genres should and shouldn’t be fused, warped or otherwise combined. The creator’s love of all things rock, metal, noise and drone are all valid components that are sent spiraling and spinning through the audio abyss, and an abyss it is, dark striving to consume light.

rock, metal, noise and drone are all valid components that are sent spiraling and spinning through the audio abyss

The album’s journey starts at the center of our little corner of the galaxy with ‘The Sun’. It begins ominously, synthetic ambient drone conjuring up visions of deadly waves of heat and radiation emanating from our star. This is soon augmented by guitar drones and a somber funereal beat while a menacing maelstrom of sculptured sound pervades. It conjures well an image of a sun that can be a bringer of doom as well as life. ‘Dark Fields’ does little to lighten the tone, with sinister drones stripping life away and leaving desolation and trapped phantoms, communicated here through a haze of tones, scattered chopped up sounds and ghostly filter sweeps. I needn’t tell you that the next track continues the dark tone of the release when its title is ‘taring into the Darkness’. A kick drum with a glacial tempo leads the procession across fields of splintering guitar drones before a synth arpeggio drifts in, at odds with the other elements, out of sync and unsettling, which is most likely the point. As the track simmers to a close the tones of the synth phrase are warmed up just a tad, a hope of lighter things to come?

‘Away From Here’ has an altogether more urgent feel, with bubbling and bleeping synths accelerating and leading the way for guitar stabs forming part of a more traditional drum arrangement. This gives the track a definite structure and trajectory, though heading to where and what is unknown. The track ends inversely to the start with the synth motif’s tempo steadily grinding to a halt.

‘Mars’ combines caustic drones, electronica elements and guitar stabs to assure the listener that if there is indeed life on Mars, you probably don’t want to meet it. There is a suggestion of life in the title of ‘The Forest’, though the images conveyed by the sound are still filled with dread, with the main loop sounding like a choir of damned souls, accompanied by shimmering layers of atmospherics. It is the longest track on offer at over eight minutes and as it progresses, deep rumbles and clattering rhythms fill out the sound field further before surrendering to one of the brief moments of respite and beauty on ‘Dead Planets’ 

‘The Machine’ once again provides us with a more structured spine, a tonne of bass, a progressive bass sequence and pensive guitars evoke more feelings of impending doom. Laced as it is with atmosphere, the track feels very much like the score behind the credits of a film where something cataclysmic has happened to the earth’s population. The album closes with the seven and a half minute ‘Beorborchwelm Daegcandel Se Endes’, translating roughly to ‘Dead Sun’ in archaic English. Once again, the soundproof is consumed by atmospheric drones that just begin to hypnotise before a huge sounding sustained guitar chord crashes in, punctuated by the slow beat of a drum. Sustain intertwines with sound and noise explorations while sub bass weighs in. It is an oppressive ending to a dark listening experience, though it offers plenty of interest over its duration in terms of texture and shade. 

‘Dead Planets’ is not an album to cheer you up or to help you let off steam. It is a contemplative affair, allowing the listener to mull over fate and meaning in life and death. The soundscapes presented encompass drone metal and electronic dronescapes, embellished with smatterings of rock, prog and synth experiments. When combined they offer a claustrophobic sonic view of a doomed solar system, conveying both the size and ultimately transient nature of our celestial bodies. A recommended dark ambient release. 

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