Album Review: Nero Di Marte Derives Locomotive Power on Derivae

  • Kip Wingerschmidt

Building off their excellent 2012 debut, Italian atmospheric tech-metallers Nero Di Marte sophomore album Derivae is another stellar collection. Much like New Zealanders Ulcerate and French brethren Eryn Non Dae, Nero Di Marte purveys a sub-subgenre that straddles the line between techy prog (in part due to the phenomenally powerful and tight drumming of Marco Bolognini) and experimental post-metal, with plenty of ambient elements to boot. The resulting melange may leave listeners searching for a song’s structure, but rest assured, Derivae is a grower not a shower with ample rewards for those who stick long enough to discover the glory of Nero Di Marte.

First track “L’Eclisse” (sung in Italian, perhaps to remind you of the band’s roots — most of the album is in Engrish) is a example of the aforementioned meandering structure, but traces of the group’s power and range surface throughout. And the breakdown that encompasses the last quarter of the song packs the power of a possessed locomotive. Once second song “Clouded Allure” kicks in with its supremely thick, groovy, heavy Meshuggah/Gojira-ish yet relentlessly focused riffage, it’s apparent that this album is going to be a real trip and a half.

Fiery third track “Pulsar” showcases the beautiful, tortured singing of vocalist/guitarist Sean Worrell, which at times recalls the throaty timbre of Loic Rossetti from The Ocean. But Worrell can depart earnest vulnerability to get aggressive, sometimes getting deep and low yet often building into screams that sit in a similar mid-range register to the vocalist from Benea Reach‘s. Even when subdued or just plain speaking, Worrell’s common denominator is humanness, an oft-overlooked necessity.

As with many “progressive” bands, a division between the “heavy” and “melodic” sections is largely marked by changes to vocal parts, but this band blends moods seamlessly. Several ethereal guitar/vocal breaks throughout the album represent Nero Di Marte’s winning stranglehold on dynamics; as with the most winning music in this sonic arena, heavy passages become so much heavier when juxtaposed with lighter ones. For example, the delicate, deliberate intro to “Dite” helps to set the stage for heaviness better than just dropping said heaviness unaccompanied.

“Simulacra” brings back Worrell’s throaty singing in the beguiling intro before building into a labyrinth of twisty riffs and chord progressions that ebb and flow against the more introspective sections. Like much of Derivae, this song’s simple guitar lines hook into your brain amidst a flurry of insanely intelligent and precise drumming.

At just under an hour, Derivae is a meaty album chock-full of fury and heart. Nero Di Marte’s sense of dynamics and timely mellowness help the band pack a stronger punch. By its end, Derivae‘s listeners probably feel a little worn out — likely for its lengthy songs — none fall under six minutes, most are over eight minutes — or the emotional investment required to connect with it. But Nero Di Marte always know when to open up the clouds for a brief glimpse of moonlight peeking through.

Nero Di Marte’s Derivae is out October 28. Listen to awesome jams from it here, here, and here. Pre-order here

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