Bristol four-piece, Naut, are one of the newest signings to Season of Mist and one of the most intriguing. The French extreme music label has always supported artists in dark genres outside of metal, whether that be The Devil’s Trade, Black Orchid Empire, or legendary acts like Christian Death. The sensual post-punk of the latter might be the best reference point for Naut’s artistic approach. With two EPs and a double A-side to their name, the band have garnered attention from Kerrang! and Distorted Sound and shared stages with groups as diverse as Discharge and Orange Goblin. Their debut album might look to the 1980s for its aesthetic identity, but the production and finesse are twenty-first century in outlook.
It’s important to articulate the unique musical identity of post-punk to understand this LP. The genre thrives on throbbing bass guitar lines, sharp drumbeats, melodramatic vocals, and melodic guitar progressions that eschew music theory and reject the rock ‘n’ roll perversions of The Sex Pistols. Though Naut draw their inspiration from the esoteric theatre pop of Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus, you can also hear modern rock distortion on album opener, ‘Dissent’. It’s the type of song Gregor Mackintosh and Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost spent most the late 1990s and early 2000s trying to perfect when they moved the band away from metal and into the controversial arena of major label rock. In the hands of Naut, it sounds much more dynamic and surer of itself thanks to Gavin Laubscher’s low-range neurotic voice and huskier throat techniques. Laura Taylor’s coagulating keyboards towards the end help the song metamorphose from a spiky number to an ethereal one. You’ve heard it before, but how often does it sound as animated as this?
Catchy guitar lines built on unorthodox chord shapes predominate in ‘All the Days’ and ‘Gold & Death’. You can identify the foundations of the songwriting in both compositions. Andi Effe’s pick-heavy basslines rumble at the front of the mix while the guitars find a comfortable solitude in higher frequencies. The former laments that “All days fall into one,” yet the drums dazzle with a double-handed hi-hat rhythm. Joy Division’s careful construction of rhythm and mood flash through the latter with the embryonic keyboard sequences of The Human League shrouding the music in a vapour cloud of anguish. Those of you deprived of the chance to enjoy London’s famous Batcave nightclub of the 1980s might find a substitute experience here.
But what is it about this music that merits attention when the likes of earlier revivalists like Editors and Interpol fails to connect with the heart and head of the post-punk nostalgist? It helps that Naut are not earnest undergraduates who pivot their music to the tastes of the NME. They show no hesitation when it comes to embracing the more theatrical side of their emotions. Gothic rock has always had a playful and ironic angle that many people overlook, and it’s here in spirit on the likes of ‘8 in 3’, with its nod to the energy and hustle of The Damned. The punk rock adrenaline in the chorus would benefit from more muscle in the amps, but this track is the most ambitious cut on the album. Programmed drums accent the guitar chords like club-wielding seal hunters. Tempos accelerate and abate in quick succession from hook to verse.
Thirty-nine minutes is just right for the length of this record, and only one of the eight cuts presents the problem of being forgettable. This accolade goes to the Sex Pistols-meets-Sisters of Mercy gyration of ‘Nightfall’, which sounds more like a pastiche than a contemporary piece of music. It’s not bad, but it’s predictable, unlike the punch of closing track, ‘Watchers’. This one ends in the confidence of a ritual chorus and reminds you that Naut can fill a goth dancefloor as well as they can conjure images of a glowing fog under the spell of a full moon.
Welcome to the season of mist.
Release Date: 24/02/2023
Record Label: Season of Mist
Standout tracks: Dissent, Damocles, 8 in 3
Suggested Further Listening: Christian Death – Atrocities (1986), Sisters of Mercy – Vision Thing (1990), Paradise Lost – One Second (1997)