Very recently I got in touch with Wim ‘Snoodaert’, whom I knew from bands like Kludde, Morrigu or Welcome To Holyland, amongst others. This guy (whose artistic name ‘snoodaert’ is an archaic medieval word for ‘villain’ in old-Flemish) assured me that he started a new outfit (about two years ago) that would trespass all boundaries of normality. Well, let’s say that he did not exaggerate.
Before focusing on the sonic content of this four-track release, first a small introduction and some additional information. Snoodaert is the main member behind this project, who wrote the whole thing, and who performed the guitar lines, synths plus drum programming. He took care as well on the mix (together with [his brother?] Jim Callebaut at the Skieft Studio) and watched over the layout too. For this first recording under the Nachtmaer-moniker, he worked together with several session / guest musician; some currently or previously involved with Kludde, like bass player Basstaerd. Each lengthy track out of four comes with a guest vocalist (I’ll come back to this later), and the actual release was done by the young (and self-created) label Thenra Collectivum. And oh yes, the mastering duties were taken care of by Jérémie ‘Phorgath’ Bézier (you know, Enthroned, Emptiness and the likes) at his Blackout Studio.
Nachtmaer exists ‘with the purpose of telling different stories, involving the mythological creature called Mære …’, conceptually focusing on things like the subconsciousness, nightmares and horrific visionary topics, you know, veiled in a mist of mythology and hallucination, through stories of dismal nocturnal creatures. The remarkable cover art already reveals a lot: a truly stunning and splendid visual work by tattoo- and design-artist Wesley Dewanckel, who did work with bands like Unmensch, Entartung, Slithering Decay or Theudho before (and FYI: he took care of this band’s logo as well). It connects to the album’s title as well, for ‘van de mare bereden zijn’ is an ancient Flemish expression that means something like being overwhelmed while sleeping through horrifying nightmares; you know, that kind of malicious dreams that make you wake up suddenly, screaming, bathing in sweat, with a heartbeat fast and uncontrollable, yet overwhelmed by paralysis and even claustrophobia. The ‘mære’ is that evil creature that hunts / haunts in one’s dream, the succubus / incubus.
As said, the four tracks are (impressively) lengthy, varying from seven to over thirteen minutes. I am not going to dissect them from A to Z, but a few words about each single of them isn’t but fair, seen the high-qualitative result. These four hymns appear on the ‘regular’ CD-version (200 copies as digipack), on the very limited (30 copies) DVD-format (with some fine additional items as bonus!), as well as on the tape-edition (50 copies, two tracks on each side). I do not know whether vinyl copies are in the making.
The album starts with Marevlechten (braids of the mare), which opens with a long introduction of droning strings, hypnotic and intoxicating, eventually joined by subtle drum-patterns. After about two minutes, everything accelerates, when bass-lines, additional drum-salvos and wretched screams join, and the tempo increases. Yet still then, the mesmerizing character remains (cf. that captivating riffage). It takes another minute and something before everything suddenly, and smoothly, slows down, injecting the whole with chimerical tremolo leads and the deep, guttural voice of Kludde’s Cerulean (Gorik from Toorn). Marevlechten has a very typifying sound, caused by those leading guitar riffs especially (acting like the spine of this eleven-minutes long hymn), yet it is filled with well-thought changes in tempo (truly ingeniously implemented), with the astute addition of modest and almost unnoticeable, yet deeply important synth-lines (unconsciously adding a mysterious and eerie atmosphere!), with the use of some Post-Black-alike structures (also noticeable in the sound, by the way; I’ll come back to this later), and with those forceful grunts by guest-vocalist Cerulean.
Mijn Vlucht Door De Nacht (‘my flight through the night’) too brings a monolithic collection of string-based energy as basement, enriched by cool drum-work (sometimes hard to believe that it has been programmed the whole of the time, for sometimes the patterns have an organic flair) and by hoarse, nefarious screams. The latter, the vile throat, is courtesy of Acharantis (of Soul Dissolution / L’Hiver En Deuil-fame). An evil bark by this vocalist actually sets the tone for this composition, for it opens this track with a sardonic grin. This piece is little more grooving and, with some fantasy, modestly thrashing too, and surreptitiously spiced once again by atmospheric keyboard-lines. Here too, the well-thought balance of slower and accelerating passages works well, perfecting the equilibrium of semi-emotional narration and wrathful anger.
The third track is the shortest out of four (clocking seven minutes), and it has been used as promotional video-teaser too (link: see below). I Am The Nightmare (indeed, in English) comes with the sweet voice of Ronarg, whom you might know from e.g. Ars Veneficium and Antzaat. The interplay in between slow and fast is even more pronounced in this track, with purely doomed excerpts at the one hand, and merciful blast-eruptions at the other. These pyroclastic fragments breathe a sulfuric sense of perdition and havoc, while the slow pieces exhale hypnosis, ruin and void. A surplus are the additional leads throughout this track, atop of the droning intensity behind this wall of aural obscurity. I Am The Nightmare reminds me most of the Second Wave, especially the Norwegian elitist magnificence of the early Nineties.
De Drievoudschart (13:26) continues the very same path of its three predecessors, by weaving an impenetrable web of mesmerizing grimness. Melody, epicism and atmosphere are even more conspicuous than before, with those beautiful and hypnotic yet, at the same time, pernicious string-based melodies (once again in a sublime collaboration with these fine synths). Repetition in this case works remarkable well. It comes with the vocals by another former Kludde-member, Uglúk (nowadays involved with the more progressive-oriented formation Dissolve Patterns), who roars and howls like a rabid beast. There is a huge energy in this track (at least up until a certain moment, seen the outro; see further), and the sumptuous leads are as egregious in sound and execution, as they are mind-blowing. Monumental melodies and a vast rhythm-section, including the varied vocals (there’s a nice spoken part too) and the dreamlike synths, and in combination with the well-balanced tempo-changes, are canalized into an intrepid anthem; a highlight amongst highlights. The last third of this lengthy composition, by the way, acts like a grandiose climax, totally in contrast with the rest of the album seen from stylistic point of listen, yet perfectly fitting when focusing on the obscure spheres that characterize this debut-album. This moony outro is like an ethereal, transcending, almost meditative and introspective form of delicate Dark Ambient-injected Winter Synth Music; at first enlightening yet, somehow, gloomy and nebulous. May I call it ‘beautiful’ too?...
A last word about the production and mix / mastering. I did mention the people behind the studio assistance (see above), but I cannot but express my adoration for the aural result. Van De Mare Bereen has such ‘full’, solid, even saturated sound, never leaving room for hollowness or emptiness. Besides, the mix is perfectly done, with a nicely-balanced responsibility for all collaborators: all strings, percussions, keyboards, and voices. Therefor, the album sounds organic through its black-blooded veins – an additional surplus on top of the magisterial song-writing and skilled performance.
2022 did not come to its end yet, but I do have a winner, already, for my 2023’s AOTY-list (too proactive, maybe?)!