No Terror in the Bang – Heal


Normandy six-piece, No Terror in the Bang, take their name from an Alfred Hitchcock film technique where the aim is to make the viewer fear the event leading up to the bang (or explosion) instead of the actual occurrence. Now on their sophomore album and with a stubborn insistence that there can be a cinematic form of metal with tangible features, the group present their latest work with a determination to strengthen the heavy aspects of their music. Into the spotlight steps vocalist, Sofia Bortoluzzi, to perform a role that would fill most singers with dread. But with these demanding requirements comes an opportunity to master them, and she does that with great aplomb on this record.

Is there anything cinematic about this music? Yes, but it’s a specific genre. The horror-suspense pianos in opener, ‘Hostile’, conjure images of a child dripping blood in the snow from a blade in their hand. Things take on a different dynamic when the syncopated nu metal riffing enters after fifteen seconds. Here is the conundrum of Heal. It drags you into a Miramax horror film and then tosses you into an MTV2 video from 2001 as an unwitting crowd participant. Clearly, Bortoluzzi draws from Björk as an influence. Her vocals have a hypnotic effect in the way they saunter like cold air on the breath in an ice rink among conspiratorial teens who want to murder one of their gang for Instagram “likes”. You’d think the guitarists had not heard anything after the nu metal era in the way they structure their riffs.

Follow up, ‘Retch’, is much more forceful in this regard, employing a succession of guitar rhythms from the 1990s post-thrash era with glitch effects in the main groove. The audio engineer does a good job of salvaging the riffs in the mix with the keyboards so prominent. Glimpses of Jinjer pierce through the faster tempos. Imagine Portishead under the boot of cult Japanese band, Dir En Grey, if you want something to stick in your mind. This band have a great appreciation for dynamic variations and tension-and-release techniques. Their own unique sound is within reach, but they need to find a way to get their hands on it and possess it.

Bortoluzzi changes her costume and personality on almost every song on this LP. Say hello to Björk in the Medulla era of glockenspiel-led electronica in ‘Lulled by the Waves’, where beats flutter like a counting clock hand until the drummer ghost-notes a groove for the bass to follow. A bleeding-heart vocal outcry turns into a righteous rage in the chorus. Tatiana from Jinjer and Lena from Infected Rain are the inevitable comparisons. But Bortoluzzi is at her mischievous best as the innocent-looking femme fatale who duped everyone into thinking her intentions were always pure. It’s back to the mid-1990s era of Portishead for an emotive voice of murderous intrigue and flawed beauty in ‘Monster’. Bu this is prog, and nothing stays in the same lane for long. Guitars rear their head at the two-minute mark with a tease of power chords and clean arpeggios and find their purpose like a steady rhythm of revving chainsaw rolls slowed down and lowered by an octave at the mixing desk.

You might feel like you’ve walked into a dark piece of musical theatre with a succubus as the heroine in ‘Palindrome’. The band rely on their singer to keep the listener entertained. They let the keyboards have too much influence on the rhythmic flow of the music in ‘OD’, despite some worthy attempts to integrate a tech metal aspect into their sound. Part two of this song is a nu metal outburst of basic syncopation with vocals that simulate the horrific whelps of intestinal pain. Again, Infected Rain are the nearest comparison to what No Terror in the Band produce in their heavier songs.

Bortoluzzi is in her comfort zone when the band tell her to take the microphone and make something happen over minimalist keyboards. She can sketch a vocal line the way a shoal of salmon can navigate from Scotland to Iceland in the migration season. But the guitars need to be more imaginative rather than percussive, even if the charismatic vocals cover over any weaknesses in this dimension of the music. The way she teases her notes in a sharp vibrato technique in the chorus to, ‘King with No Crown’, is an undoubted highlight of this album. Listen how she finds another gear in the chorus with a wonderful uplift of melody – it invites the guitars to explore more complex patterns in the higher reaches of the fretboard.

No Terror in the Bang produce a great paradox of beauty weighed down by deliberate self-sabotage. They want people outside the metal community to value their art, but they retain the macabre moments that will alienate them. Those of us that like the heavier stuff have a different dilemma – how do we make sense of something that has an abundance of great ideas and a shortage of ways to incorporate them into a coherent form of music?

This band have potential, and Heal is a worthy listening experience, but their next album will define them.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 12/01/2024

Record Label: Klonosphere Records

Standout tracks: Retch, Lulled by the Waves, King with No Crown

Suggested Further Listening: Infected Rain – Ecdysis (2022), Eight Lives Down – Humans (2020), Aghiazma – Carnage (2022)