Label: Gizeh Records
Nadja are a band that, whilst I’ve long been familiar with their name and general sound, I’ve never really engaged with before. I’m not too sure why; if pushed, I’d say that tackling their large discography is quite intimidating, and I wouldn’t know where to start. That feeling of intimidation is present in The Stone Is Not Hit By The Sun, Nor Carved With A Knife, their latest album. At almost eighty minutes long, and containing three gargantuan tracks, The Stone Is Not… is a real beast of an album. Yet as off-putting as it may initially appear, there’s a certain character to the ambient doom presented on the album that makes it captivating, and very easy to sink in to, blocking out the outside world as you isolate yourself within its depths.
Opening track “The Stone” sets the tone. Glacially slow, it is possessed of a weight and power that borders on the spiritual, most notably in the almost chanted vocals. The way that the duo are content to let each repeated chord and drone run its course ensures each shift or change in sound is granted extra power, and even though there are hints of warmth to the production, the feel of “The Stone” is one of dread, with its colossal nature and spiritual (but not religious) aura tapping in to that lizard part of your brain which remembers the feeling of true horror and awe at being confronted with something greater than yourself. It is at once both crushingly heavy and breath-takingly beautiful, utterly hypnotic yet with an undercurrent of terror.
“The Sun” is a gentler proposition. Fittingly, the warmth of The Stone Is Not… is brought to the fore for this track – the longest on the album, at 35 minutes – and allowed to construct a cocoon of light around the listener, gradually pulling you in as the density of sound and volume grows. It is cleansing, and especially refreshing after the more ominous ending of “The Stone”. There is still a sense of weight and importance though, almost reminiscent of bands such as Neurosis at their best once the volume has really built up. Such is its hypnotic quality that it’s easy to lose track of where you are or how long the song has been playing for, which is quite an achievement – it takes the listener away from whatever environment they are in to some totally different headspace. The riff that starts around the 13:30 mark is also utterly superb, as is the descent in to noise and violence as the song reaches its conclusion, before suddenly giving way to near-silence.
Those minutes of sparsity flow in to closer “A Knife”, which its duration washing over the listener with gentle, sparse drones that walk the line between ambient and dark ambient, their character never quite becoming clear. If the record has held you up until this point – which it most likely has – then it’s a fitting, palate-cleansing end to an emotionally intense album. If it hasn’t, then odds are you never made it this far anyway.
The Stone Is Not… is not an album for all moods or environments, being very much a record that is best suited to long, late-night listening, ideally with headphones. It must be approached in the right frame of mind, otherwise its dense, repetitive nature will not connect. But when it does connect, it does so in glorious, cathartic ways, and its beauty cannot be denied. If the rest of Nadja’s considerable discography is anywhere near as good as this album is, then I’ve been missing out.