Downfall and Torment is a progressive death metal expedition that mixes adrenaline and patience in equal measures and deserves the kind of respect you must show to nature’s most unforgiving landmarks. Nanga Parbat take their name from the ninth highest mountain in the world that led many German and Austrian climbers to their death in the 1920s and 1930s. Like the heroes that scaled these vertical peaks in the Western Himalayas, the Italian quintet pride themselves on their intricate planning and arrangements. This is a record you wish Opeth would make if they returned to the glory of their extreme metal days.
At fifty-two minutes in length, Nanga Parbat’s debut album lacks nothing in ambition and creativity. From the wonderful cascading folk guitar melodies of ‘The Edge of an Endless Waterfall’ to the emotive lead soloing of ‘Breath of the Northern Winds’, this is a record that aims to dazzle with its mastery of instrumentation and incorporation of classical symphonic music. But underneath it all is the visionary technical metal of Death’s Symbolic album and the might of Fleshgod Apocalypse. ‘Through a Lake of Damnation’ sets the scene with a barrage of vintage thrash hooks and distorted vocal rasps. With an extended intro like Megadeth in their prime, Nanga Parbat ensure the listener never forgets that their primary focus is fast and chunky metal. Nowhere do they demonstrate this with more focus than on the excellent ‘Blood, Death and Silence’, with its Opeth splendour and triumphant tenor chorus.
Downfall and Torment is an undertaking that would invite most bands to fail, but Nanga Parbat have an abundance of self-belief. Often, their enthusiasm and naked emotions carry you forward with exhilaration. ‘Tidal Blight’ mixes tribal percussion with violins and launches into a death-thrash fury on a par with the debut record from Ghosts of Atlantis. ‘Demon in the Snow’ is the most orchestral and closest to an avant-garde arrangement. The martial drums and female harmonies work well with the harsh vocals and weeping guitars. If you want classic Death with a liberating chorus, look no further than the anthemic brilliance of ‘Obscure Rains’.
Yet any ambitious expedition presents numerous challenges. A band with a twelve-minute song needs it to be the best composition on the album. Unfortunately, the title track loses momentum after eight minutes despite the technical thrash riffs and gothic choirs. It drives home the point that Downfall and Torment is a record that demands perseverance and endurance at the last peak before you reach the summit. A few more esoteric passages like classic Tiamat would make it an easier venture for the listener.
We’ve already had a handful of magnificent progressive metal albums this year, and this one deserves warm praise for its imagination and poise. Nanga Parbat can be proud of their achievement on this record. This is the sound of a band that can glimpse their future greatness ahead.
Release Date: 23/03/2021
Record Label: Sliptrick Records
Standout tracks: Blood, Death and Silence; Demon in the Snow; Obscure Ruins
Suggested Further Listening: Opeth – Blackwater Park (2001), Death – Symbolic (1995), Ghosts of Atlantis – 184.108.40.206 (2021)