The new album from Utrecht-based atmospheric black metal artists Nevel, entitled Leven, is one forty-five minute long track. A black metal album with elements of progressive rock and avantgarde noise, this work stands as a testament to the members of Nevel’s dedication to their craft. Galgenvot (guitars, lyrics, bass, vocals) and W. Damiaen (bass, drums, vocals, synth) worked on Nevel for five years. That is, while they weren’t at work on their various other bands, including Verval, who we featured last year on Demo:listen.
“We’ve known each other as friends and musicians for many years,” writes the duo, “and Nevel is a band that consists of just the two of us. With every different set of individuals the dynamics change a lot. In the broadest sense of it, what you do, how you work, the music you write, etc. So this collaboration is therefore different from our other projects, in the way that those differ from each other again.
“Also, we tend to push the boundaries of our sound to a further extreme than we do in our other bands when it comes to having an intense, dense and deeply haunted atmosphere. The tracks are often quite lengthy and the riffs lean a lot on these layered lengthy chord progressions. It’s also one of the few projects that we’re working on together with just the two of us which makes it a unique blend of our personal musical styles.”
According to the duo, the name Nevel “translates to ‘haze,’” but naming their album after their band name spelled backwards was “quite a coincidence.”
“We had the track ready for some time but couldn’t really come up with a title that satisfied the both of us, nor covered the content of the album. When we were sitting by the riverside close to our hometowns we noticed quite randomly that Nevel when spelled backwards, spelled Leven. This was something we thought was really interesting and above all perfectly covered what this album was already about; life.”
The duo continues, expounding in greater detail on the themes behind Leven:
“Lyrically,the text is stylistically speaking inspired by the writing style of Goethe and Nietzsche, it’s very (over?)dramatic and the way the verses are built are partly based on Faust. When it comes to the lyrical content itself, it’s more of a personal struggle. Coming to terms with life’s fundamentally tragic, often seemingly meaningless suffering and hopelessness. About the terrible things life is composed of, but also about the will to fight for something greater despite this. So that hopefully something better may grow out of it’s ashes. To find meaning by bearing through suffering and finally; overcoming it. To be able to embrace life. We’ve also tried to capture this in the artwork, by working with the dark muddiness of the black ink combined with the sharp red to capture that same somewhat paradoxical balance between suffering and the will to live as a sharp contrast against the white nothingness encapsulating it.”
Nevel discuss the influences, both in and out of the realm of metal, that helped to shape Leven:
“There have been many things influencing the creative process of Leven. In part the inspiration for this album was found in bands like Klage, Lunar Aurora, Nachtreich, The Ruins of Beverast, Silencer, the Czech and the German Trist. But there are so [many] bands and we could go on forever mentioning composers of whom we might have derived influences from. The orchestral bits on Leven for example which have a lot of horns and other bombastic elements could resemble something with the impact of the works of Wagner. How far we have succeeded —if at all—in any of this is up to the listener.”
The band go on to explain how they felt compelled to challenge themselves, which is how they decided to write a monolithic, single song sophomore album.
“After Teloorgang, our first album, which was released in 2014, we felt like we really wanted to do something more extreme than we did before. The thing that came to mind was instead of making three separate tracks of fifteen minutes, write one extremely long track, which would end in a great finale and along the way would take you through dissonant ugliness, alternated by parts of harmony and end up in a more atmospheric black metal vibe. We wanted to go full out and make something quite ‘symphonic’ and bombastic in that sense. We’ve been working on it for at least three years straight, which eventually led to this mildly escalated sonic leviathan.
“Once we had decided on making this album and how, we just started riffing away and built the track piece by piece,” the band explains. “When we had the structure figured out we recorded drums and guitars. When that was done we [began] adding and removing more stuff along the way. For the rest the writing process in Nevel [it] really is a 50/50 thing. We both come up with riffs and melodies as we add and remove components, and sometimes change our own and each others’ ideas as we go. At one point, we had written the final piece but couldn’t finish the orchestral arrangement on our own, but we had a good friend Tjeerd Nijhof who helped us figure out the arrangements for all the horn sections. A lot of friends and musicians eventually helped out to finish the album, for which we are really thankful. Lyrically it is often a more solitary job.”
Besides the help from their friends, Leven was produced by Nevel themselves.
“When we started the recordings for Leven, W. Damiaen had just started with Catacomben Studios, so we basically had our own place to produce this monster,” says the band. “Which was quite convenient and necessary. We have spent a lot of hours there and did all of the recording, mixing and mastering ourselves.”
Now, finally, years later, the thing is done. Nevel say: “We think we have succeeded in doing a lot of things that we wanted to do. Speaking of the kind of riffs, the kind of atmosphere and the elements the track consists of. Sadly, five years is also a lot of time for things to change, and that has caused that in the meantime we would’ve liked to do things differently on the record, or better. But all in all, we’re just glad that this five-year roller coaster ride is finally over.”
Leven is available today on digipak CD from Belgian label Babylon Doom Cult Records.
The band adds: “Also, together with Nevel Artisan Ales, we have started our cooperation by offering a special deal for Dutch beer lovers: the album together with the limited beer Doorn for a special price (only available through the band by email). We wanted to do something extra for the album and the Nevel brewery gave us the opportunity to let people taste some fine wild yeasty beers together with this dark adventure. This is also their last batch, so be quick!
“Shout-outs to Jo from Babylon Doomcult Records, for putting his trust in us and giving us the opportunity to release this album. Now we can finally pick up on our lives, haha. And of course a massive thanks to everyone else involved in making this record happen. Also thank you, Dutch and Decibel for this interview.”