Thursday, August 8, 2013

Naga - Naga (EP) (2013)

In the modern age of music, one polluted by pitch correction, auto-tune, and recording standards that have become part of the music rather than a vessel for the music, any middle fingered extended in the direction of the norm is welcomed. Take the clinical, almost sterile sound of the latest Black Sabbath album, for example. It is sonic perfection, thanks to the nimble hands, ears and fingers of great producers and engineers. But it lacks the depth of sound that "Paranoid" boasts. The work of The 78 Project takes it a step further, going back to the recording methods of the 1930's to find harmony between medium and music. But in 2013, how do you still achieve that warmth to your music, in the age of the digitally perfect? Naga, a three piece doom metal act from Italy, have found a time machine of sorts. They have shucked the overdubbed clarity in favor of the muddy waters of traditional doom, with guitars and bass forming a solid wall of distorted delight. On their debut EP, a two track self titled affair, they deliver an old school sonic beat down that doesn't need to be fixed, edited, or pitch corrected.

The crushing riffs of "The Path" have a darkness surrounding them that is both enjoyable and slightly terrifying at the same time. But where the track goes after the intro period is even more encouraging, as there are similarities to be heard between this and the Mastodon album "Crack The Skye." By no means is one the carbon copy of the other, but the yelling vocals and sludgy riffs share some common ground. With the productions values stripped down here, the murkiness adds to the mystique, but doesn't cover up the occasional groove. The second half of the track is far more gloomy, with the density of the mix increasing, lightened only by the tapping of cymbals. The low register is represented well, shaking the cages on your speakers with each thunderous bass string. If you've been waiting for all of the beautiful orchestrations and wild solos to kick in, you must have wandered into the wrong place. For all of the painstaking attention to detail that goes into the doom style, "Vitriol" may be the perfect representation of the finished product. While you might not find a mix layered with sweeping guitars and virtuosic vocal performances, you have something far more honest. The track remains straightforward and doom-centric, keeping the mix dark and smoky at the same time. The final minute alone begs to be performed live, with crushing distortion and howling feedback filling a void.

Naga have made a wise decision in the recording of their debut EP; perhaps even bettering themselves and their sound as a result. By keeping it raw, keeping the mix cloudy, they add a dimension to their sound that might have been absent otherwise. It's important to note that this isn't an amateur effort; this wasn't recorded with tin cans and string. But it also wasn't recorded with a play first, fix it later attitude that would have rendered the entire album wasted. They hit the right notes, at the right time, with the right tone. The result; an album that immediately conjures up imagery of a live stage, a light layer of smoke coating it, with three men barely lit, slamming away on their respective instruments. After this twenty minute offering, it wouldn't be unusual to check your local mid-sized venue to see who is hitting the stage that night. But rest assured, unless the bill says Naga, you might not get what it is you were waiting for. If we've learned anything, it's that doom metal needs no bells or whistles. It just needs a place to perform.


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