NORD: In the Shadow of the Gods (2020)
“Between prog and EM, Nord has definitely done better things but the solos are numerous and quite solids as well”
1 Apollo 9:24
2 Mars 7:28
3 Diana 8:37
4 The Sons of Apollo 11:50
5 Luna 10:06
6 The Birth of Venus 12:33
7 Eternity 5:01
(DDL 65:02) (V.F.)
It's by an ascending movement from the sequencer that Apollo takes us on this last musical journey of Sztakics István Attila. Minimalist, this movement grows like the tail of a tadpole overcoming the current of water. And the current here is a line of reverberations which calls for a keyboard layer and its hybrid tone, between an organ and a synthesizer, to install a musical low wall which lets through good synth solos. Trying to thwart a stranglehold on the synth, the sequencer makes dribble its keys very methodically which precipitate themselves in a thin opening. Thin enough to make rotate the rhythm with a subtle nuance in its flow which accentuates its cadence, except that the many synth solos are the element which stands out the most from this static rhythm which opens IN THE SHADOW OF THE GODS, the very last album offered on Nord's download platform. Blowing the hot and the cold in a sound envelope that doesn't necessarily do justice to his music, the Romanian musician mixes his feet in his threads with a music production below average. Inspired by a visit to Pompeii and in particular by the painting of Sandro Boticelli; the birth of Venus, IN THE SHADOW OF THE GODS revolves around cosmos as the mythology of the Roman Empire debunked by the author Robert Silverberg in his book Roma Æterna. All of this is very attractive, except that Nord misses his target by always favoring its passions for EM and for progressive rock, the impression of listening to introductions from Manfred Mann's Earth Band remains particularly plausible, with compositions including the frame of the sequencer exploits the same rhythmic stratagems in a sound envelope where I had to change headphones 2 times in order to pass through the meshes of the 65 minutes of his last album.
Layers of mist dispersing like these accelerated scrolling panoramas plunge Mars where it is situated in many imaginations. A line of bass sequences tries to initiate a rhythm which takes off little by little in a figure of cosmic trots where a few hooves, and their very distinct tones, trample on a musical ground. From Berlin School style of EM, Mars migrates to a first phase of progressive electronic rock with a soft and semi-slow rhythm as well as sober percussions fixed to a pattern of the sequencer fairly close to Apollo. The rhythm is slightly catchy, enough to make us roll our necks and pat our feet on the ground. Diana exploits a rhythm structure with oblong currents from the sequencer and its static nervousness. This living and stationary structure accommodates layers of mist, keyboard sighs and synth solos. And if we like synth solos, tell yourself that this album is full of them and there are some very good ones too. Even if its the flow accelerates with the arrival of percussions, Diana protects its vision of cosmic meditation. The structures of the sequencer are always in lyrical and meditative mode throughout IN THE SHADOW OF THE GODS which after all is a relatively quiet album.
The exception is The Sons of Apollo which develops for a disjointed rhythm and where the synth solos are as many charms as the percussions and the hypnotic loops of the keyboard. Very heavenly and meditative, the introduction of Luna transpires from this little deja-entendu which furrows the structures of this album with these lines of reverberations, these effects of vampiric mists coming from the pads of synth-mellotron and these rhythmic snakes of the sequencer which are always in suspension. Dramatic chords give the music a little cinematic impetus, also adjusting the rhythm to a more accentuated level. But nothing overflows. Everything remains static! The Birth of Venus still remains within these limits of meditative EM with good rhythmic forays which are maintained in a vision of progressive psybient. Eternity seems to come from elsewhere! In reality, it seems out of tune in this somewhat muddled decor, both by its sound and its musicality, where the impression of being often in the same place annoys as much as the noises of vacuity that follow the finals of many titles. And yet with Eternity, everything sounds with authenticity and clarity. If the rhythm is still ambient and static, it progresses with musicality like a march of ducklings in a cotton universe with synth solos which are clearly clearer and more precise. In reality, Eternity is overshadowing the other 60 minutes of IN THE SHADOW OF THE GODS by highlighting in a big line a deficiency in sound fields, mixing and even composition. In short, a little accident in the course of Nord's career who definitely has done better than that! I'm giving it 3 stars because of these synth solos. If not....
Sylvain Lupari (March 25th, 2020) *****
Available at Nord Bandcamp