Album Title: 
Covid Diaries
Release Date: 
Friday, May 15, 2020
Review Type: 

[review for ‘an older’ release, but once again: so what?! It is never too late to focus on intriguing Aural Art, even after a couple of years after an actual release date]

How does he do this? I know that there are a few musicians who are crazily active and productive, and it often works confusing to me. The very same goes for the Hungarian human being Gábor Tóth, being active under several monikers, like GuilThee, In Vacuo or Nagaarum. The latter might be his most productive outfit, with several hands full of releases in just one decade, I guess. I wrote a couple of reviews before (some of the links: see below), in case of interest. As said, I do not know how people manage to write and record such amount of material, especially when keeping it decent and interesting. Gábor aka Nagaarum somehow seems to be able to continue with finesse and grandeur, being blessed with some overdose on craftsmanship, creativity and productivity.

This guy, by the way, also runs the label NGC Prod (co-releasing this album together with UK’s finest Aesthetic Death) and the Dungeon Synth-focused sub-label Kajdum’s Tower (reviews for releases on this new outlet will follow soon, amongst which Gábor’s own project Aranea Telam, by the way) – this purely informatively…

During the harsh period of corona-inspired pandemics, many artists felt the urge to write down their experiences, canalized into a sonic content. Gábor ‘Nagaarum’ sort of did the very same during the first wave of this viral assault, even-though he wasn’t supposed to record new material at that moment. The pandemium, however, sort of ‘inspired’ him to write down his sort-of prophetic vision on a global sickness. Under the working title Covid Diaries, Nagaarum did release six newly written compositions, initially published one-by-one digitally. The artist did write and record about everything himself, partly helped out, once again, by some Betty V. - who did co-produce this recording, and who performed the female voices - and Roland Szabó, performing the spoken words / narrations, and who took care of the English translation. Roland co-operated with Nagaarum in the past as well, by the way. The physical result is a very nice three-folded digipack with psychedelic artwork (once more courtesy of Nagaarum himself; there were no colors, everything was red), released in an edition of 300 copies.

I know that the whole covid-episode seems to fade away, slowly, but it’s not over yet. This album can be seen as a means to go through this crazy era; and it might help you to forget about what’s going on, for the mental effects caused by this aural experience might take your soul to places where no viruses will distract you.

A warning will not be otiose, however, before going deeper into the whole adventure. Nagaarum have never had the intention to perform ‘regular’ ‘Music’ whatsoever. None of the former recordings can be called ‘mainstream’ or ‘easy-listening’. Of course, it isn’t the case right here either. On the contrary; Covid Diaries goes even further, deeper, higher, than ever before. All six anthems represented on this album are of the eclectic, surreal kind. And all of them do differ a lot from each-other. At first, it might seem strange, even incoherent and unstructured. Yet then again, this must have been done on purpose – I am sure about it, to be honest – and therefor that psychedelic approach is remarkable and acceptable.

Because of that bizarre difference in between all six elegies on Covid Diaries, I feel sort of obliged to investigate some individual thoughts on each of them. You’ll notice that there might be a manifest cohesion in between all of them, and a coherence throughout the whole of the album.

This album starts with Prelude For 2020 (05:48), which opens with a very claustrophobic, ominous introduction, soon joined by a narration, i.e. the warm voice of Roland. It’s a confronting message, but it’s the truth too. Our vain superiority in dread of losing rank quails before the invisible threat slowly drawing near. Shared vulnerability puts visors on our masks; that we might have to reinvent ourselves is what we fear. It’s a confrontation with mankind’s ignorance, our empty-brained consumerism, and our superior ideas of being invincible, immortal. SARS-CoV-2 was like a wake-up call, but after three years, I am afraid that the human kind did learn nothing; but that’s another discussion; back to this song… So, after that spoken introduction, martial drum-patterns and eerie synth-waves join and expand, eventually evolving into a psychotropic form of Stoner-injected Doom, including elements from Shoegaze, Black Metal and Sludge, and incorporating ‘clean’ chants and eerie keyboards. Heavy, low-tuned strings and rumbling percussions get joined by different vocal timbres (higher-mentioned clean passages and spoken narratives), with melody and psychedelica working well together in an organic balance. Do not underestimate the importance of the down-earthed bass-parts, the sometimes jazzy-like drum-patterns, and the cosmic synth-lines…

The second track is totally different from the opener. The First Ingredient (06:07) is a rather Space Ambient-laden piece, based on gloomy keyboards, those warm narrative voices, and several additional noises and field recordings. It has something astral and confusing, both lyrically and sonically, but at the same time the song creates wonder and surprise, despite the uncertainty of what the message might learn us about the future. Still follow me?...

Superstitious Remedy (04:45) finds inspiration in Avantgarde / Post-Doom dimensions, with a mechanic, even industrialized instrumentation, and once again a cool variety of vocals: spoken words, harsh yells, anthemic choirs, you know. Remarkable elements and the machine-driven drums, the low-tuned industrial strings, yet also additions like operatic (female) vocals and the orchestral bombast that veils the whole experience. It’s a bleak and black symphony of anger and despair, of disbelief and superstition, of fear and resignation.

Next up is the short piece Competitors (03:14), which is like a mystic mixture of Kraut, Electronica, Space Ambience, Progressive Industro-whatever, with hazy strings and substantial electronics, seductive yet dangerous female vocals (spoken, whispered and tantalizing) and much more subtly added elements and fine details. Just remember: she’ll kill you!

I Am Special (so am I, by the way, haha) (07:16) brings a mesmerizing form of Industrial and Doom Metal, with a varied scala of vocal timbres, low-tuned strings, hypnotic percussion patterns, eclectic breaks, sludgy and ambient additions, progressive excerpts, floating guitar solo-work, and a huge amount of cloudy, misty waves of sound beneath, behind and around the whole sonic travel.

Covid Diaries ends with the longest compositions out of six, being Liquid Tomorrow (what a unique title), which clocks almost a quarter of an hour (14:47, more exactly). Because of its length, it’s a very varying one too, like being divided into several chapters that organically flow over into the next one. The first part is like a tale, with oral poetry (in Hungarian) and sweet brain-teasing sounds at the background. After two minutes and something, things suddenly evolve into much harsher proportions, when everything turns into regions of intoxicating Industrial / Sludge / Doom / Black / Post Metal. In all modesty, but I feel a touch of early Khold / Thorns / you know elegance. Blackened screams, hoarse clamors, harsh yells, even operatic-inspired female voices are incorporated within a machine-like instrumentation, with repetitive percussions and strings, inebriating structures and confronting designs. Monolithic and orchestral passages interact perfectly well with hypnotic atmospheres and droning soundwaves, injecting the main essence with details from Shoegaze, Post-Rock, you know, towards the end. The final part (read: the last three minutes), then again, bring quite morbid and asphyxiating Doom / Sludge majesty, including evocative, captivating female vocal portrayal, pounding drum-deconstruction, overwhelming strings, and so much more.

Or: Covid Diaries is a collection of creative sound-work, drawn from different angles and approaches, born out of ideas and philosophies escaped because of the influence of a pandemia, and its effect on an open-minded musician from Hungarian soil. The result is as bizarre as it is unbiased, passionate, pristine, and liberal. This album is not – and I repeat: it is NOT – an easy-listening experience. Nor is it a recommendation for the huge masses. Yet some free-minded humans amongst us might be captivated / captured. Give it a couple of listens and you might adore getting drowned into this mud of sonic stringency. It is worth being subdued by this raw experience…