Nomadic Reign – Fables of the Lost Lands


Hertfordshire, England is home to a thriving sludge metal scene with the likes of Everest Queen, Preatorian, King Marm and Dreadbeggar leading the way. The county’s doom metal movement is just as healthy thanks to the steady output of Gévaudan, The Graven Sign and Denali. Now it’s the turn of Nomadic Reign to step out of the shadows, featuring ex-Jackal’s Backbone guitarist, Sam Farrington, and Jim Males of industrial black-metal duo, Zebadiah Crowe. The quartet started as a studio side project to indulge their love of the mighty riff, but will their debut album satiate the underground faithful, or will it leave them languishing in obscurity?

It goes without saying that the pulsating guitar tone and crushing amp distortion received most of the studio attention on this record. This is doom metal with a fuzzy layer of overdrive and the pizzazz of Black Sabbath. Yet opener, ‘Chapter I: Fables of the Lost Lands’, starts more like Paradise Lost’s ‘The Painless’ with ringing chords, mid-tempo drumbeats and a spoken-word sermon to create a mood that lies somewhere between mysticism and defeatism. It’s a surprise start to the record, yet it lays the groundwork for the excellent, ‘Anthem for the Sinners’. Now this is a song that slithers through the speakers with the tone of early Carcass and the finesse of High on Fire. The chances are you’re too busy punching the air and bobbing your head up and down to notice the low-volume vocals and programmed drums.

You already know by ‘Heretic Martyr’ that Sam Farrington and Andy Edwards have an endless supply of muddy doom metal licks up their sleeves. Unfortunately, this track lacks a dynamic voice to propel it to the standard of Cathedral or Candlemass. Singer, Jim Males, relies on the authenticity of a single-tracked vocal, but a dual recording would be much more effective here. The same problem haunts ‘The Ballad of Captain Ed’, which may contain the finest doom metal riff of 2022 if we’re to judge it using the benchmark of Tony Iommi’s morbid middle eight in ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’. No problem exists with the vocal phrasing, but the change of key at 01:20 seconds exposes Males’ inability to jump to a higher semitone. It gives this song more of a demo feel than a finished track, yet you can grasp its full potential if you imagine Pallbearer’s Brett Campbell behind the mic stand.

These issues are more like reservations rather than insurmountable limitations. Let’s be honest: sludge and doom metal are all about the power of the riff, and vocals often play second fiddle. Nomadic Reign exist to entice you into their dark orbit of filthy guitar noise and hypnotic tempos. ‘Glory and Sin’ will deliver you from the swamp and into the marshlands, while ‘Kingdom Closed’ starts like vintage Celtic Frost in their To Mega Therion era with subtle keyboards and a dirge of minor chords ready to pull you towards the abyss. The latter’s slow scrape of palm-muted guitars will make compressions in your chest if you breathe in with too much force.

Perhaps closing track, ‘The Witches (On Gallows Hill)’, hints at the future evolution of Nomadic Reign. They would do well to bring live drummer, Andrew Bisgrove, into the studio to beef up their sound, yet the use of esoteric keyboards gives this one more of a gothic doom feel, like the Paradise Lost records from the Peaceville era. Their contemporaries in Gévaudan could also signpost the way if they want to look beyond the mesmerism of the riff and into darker portals.

Though two years in the making, Fables of the Lost Lands suffers from sub-standard production. The songs are strong enough to reveal their intent, and you’ll find plenty to satisfy your doom metal cravings, but you want Orange Goblin, and they give you Orangina. Nomadic Reign are still in flux and learning as they go along, yet you know they’ll move on from this record in better shape and with a greater understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. 

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 25/02/2022

Record Label: Self Released

Standout tracks: Anthem for the Sinners, Glory and Sin, Kingdom Closed

Suggested Further Listening: High on Fire – Death is Communion (2007), Black Sabbath – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (1973), Supershine – Supershine (2000)