There’s a scrappiness to Medz Yeghern that’s endearing. That’s not to say that the duo of Nhialic have produced a bad record, but that it has a certain underground charm to it, which you sense is very much born of a desire not to let limited resources get in the way of the music. The international duo (residing in Sudan and Armenia) approach black metal in a way that is distinctly indebted to the 90’s Scandinavian scene – to the extent that you could almost believe it was a lost demo from some unknown band of the era only now coming to light – but with a rawness of sound and approach that adds character. Even if it’s hard not to shake the feeling that you’ve heard most of what Medz Yeghern has to offer before, it does so in a way and with such conviction that complaints about unoriginality only miss the point. Nhialic wanted to make an old-school black metal record, and that’s just what they’ve done.
There are some points which helps Medz Yeghern stand out from other such records, though. Most notable is the lyrical inspiration behind several tracks – literature and art may be common inspirations within black metal, but an American thriller first published in the 1940s (as on Waltz into Darkness) isn’t among the typical lyrical fare for black metal. Likewise, the record title comes from an Armenia term for the Armenia genocide. Whilst most of the lyrics are rendered indecipherable by the rasped vocals and raw production – which has a tendency to place the drums and occasional keyboard lines at the front of the sound, above the vocals and guitars – having this context does help change how the record is viewed.
There is a strange element to Medz Yeghern that is hard to exactly identify, too, that works to the record’s disadvantage. There is a difference in sound across each song that stops it entirely feeling like a unified whole. Not so much in terms of composition – each song is working from a similar starting point, and have enough variety to be distinct whilst still sounding like the same band and record – but in terms of production and feel. It’s almost like each song was recorded using different settings, which gives Medz Yeghern a slight demo or compilation feel. It’s not something that significantly undermines what Nhialic have achieved with the record, but it does stop it feeling as strong as you suspect it otherwise would do.
This element aside though, Medz Yeghern is an interesting take on second-wave inspired black metal. There’s enough here to suggest that cult underground status could be within Nhialic’s reach, with a lot of promise that isn’t quite fulfilled here, but is so close that it certainly makes the band one worth keeping an eye on.
Medz Yeghern is out now via Medievh3ll Records and the band can be contacted here.
Words: Stuart Wain