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Maldives’s Nothnegal: Death Metal In An Endangered Archipelago

Maldives’s Nothnegal: Death Metal In An Endangered Archipelago

Thrash Takes Its Atoll

By Beverly Bryan
January 17, 2012

Nothnegal has been their playing raging, dense death metal amid the swaying coconut palms and ancient fortifications of Malé, Maldives since 2006. Natives of the Southeast Asian island republic’s capital city, guitarists and cousins Hilarl and Fufu form the core of a band whose grim sound is seemingly at odds with its environment of blue lagoons and soft breezes.

But life is precarious in Maldives, the smallest nation in Asia with an average height above sea level of 4′ 11”. The culture that birthed the quintet has survived the millenia by clinging to an archipelago of coral atolls in the Indian Ocean. It’s continued survival depends on the health of the coral reefs, and sea levels staying exactly where they are. Factbook fodder like that brings heavy immediacy to the mighty whirlpool of “Armageddon,” off their forthcoming debut album Decadence. But for Maldivians, rising sea levels are a reality they must face with as much courage as possible.

It could go a ways to explain the strangely melancholic ferocity that is Nothnegal’s signature. Officially, their stock in trade is melodic death metal, with the emphasis mainly on the “death” rather than the “melodic” — see the hard-packed riffs on “Janus” — but there are other elements in play. Decadence is a concept album centered on a saga of war between man and machine — hence the industrial elements upping the mood of tension throughout the LP. Then the spine tingling organ, courtesy of recently absorbed Finnish keyboardist Marco Sneck, adds an occasional proggish flourish. But, most of the time, these guys are out for blood, becalmed passages of plodding dissonance alternating with fugues of deep, rumbling thrash.

The band self-released their 2009 EP Antidote of Realism, recording it in Finland. They’ve opened for Arch Enemy in Maldives, and toured Europe supporting Finntroll, garnering a string of impressed reviews and raised eyebrows along the way. Now, their full-length is emerging on Season of Mist this week (and February 28 in the US.) They have a short tour of India scheduled for February, so Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Pune — keep an eye out for the beast known as Nothnegal.

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