It’s logical to consider our existence as a fluke of the random and chaotic nature of the universe, and life as a futile absurdity with imagined purpose. This theory is naturally compatible with Black Metal, and NIHILISM is its Greek philosophical embodiment who, after debuting with the traditional blackened sound of 2019’s Obscurite Noir, has returned with their follow-up effort titled Cataclysme Vers l’Ascendance. This new offering has chaos and existential dread at its demented core, and shows NIHILISM progressing into Avant-Garde territory with an unpredictable combination of elements and arrangements. The result is a visceral and unsettling experience that grimly affirms our inherent nothingness.
“Cataclysme Vers l’Ascendance I” immediately rips through the ether with a barrage of menacing riffs, blast beats, and harmonic melodies. A mid-paced break shifts back into chaos as rabid vocals howl back to the early days of Maniac on MAYHEM’s Deathcrush, and like a maniac, their patterns run across this cacophonous plane with the liberation of a deranged mind as its discordant mutations continue. Further riff contortions precede the atmospheric effects of an eerie breakdown, and the frenzy reemerges to push toward another transition of striking riffs and arpeggiations. These structures continue their progression until a deceptive cavernous pause suggests the song’s end, only to carry out a final dissonant blast before the grinding assault proceeds on “Part II.” The rivaling force of this track also breaks for a slow passage of clean melodies and effects, but brooding chords soon rebuild the momentum into a wall of cold riffing layered with tremolo melodies. This development is interrupted by a whirl of chugging rhythm and sinister arpeggiations, and a foreboding end comes through with a slow groove that further drops into complete melancholic doom.
Desolation further materializes on “Part III” with a slow procession of heavy riffing, fragmented clean melodies, and spacey effects that convey a descent into madness and despair. The chaotic grind rages on after an unsettling intro on “Part IV,” and then dissipates into a dark ambience that continues through to the end, with the exception of a final passage that suggests a clear nod to BEHEMOTH. “Part V” is a nightmarish ambient track full of ominous effects that induce anxiety, horror, and general mental distress. The returning fury of discordant riffs and blast beats on “Part VI” almost brings solace after the preceding track, and it leads into a progression of descending tremolo melodies while the vocals project an unrelenting anguish and rage. Clean vocals also appear as an epic energy develops, and this gives the track a climactic affect before the depressive elements and riffing of “Part VII” close in and succumb to the inevitable.
Obscure song titles and unrevealed lyrics make this an occasion where a deeper examination of the album’s concepts is limited to speculation. The title itself translates to “Cataclysm to Ascension,” and so one possible theme could involve overcoming the universe through its destruction. Obviously, there are many ways to interpret this album, and for now it will be left to the listener to draw their own conclusions.
NIHILISM has channeled the rage and despair of their philosophical persuasion into an engaging blend of grinding Black Metal and dark ambience with Cataclysme Vers l’Ascendance. The chaotic transitions and elements incorporated into this evocative work can be disorienting, but a hidden order within the chaos is revealed through attentiveness and repeat ventures. It’s also a progressive step from their core sound that ultimately worked in their favor, and it will be interesting to see how NIHILISM evolves on the next release, as this shows they aren’t likely to avoid further experimentation in the future. In the meantime, Cataclysme Vers l’Ascendance is a fierce and tormenting expression of our collective emptiness that’s highly recommended.