More often than not, the origins of a band’s chosen moniker usually have the foundation of a symbolic meaning or intriguing and/or humorous story behind its relevance. For instance, it has been stated that Burzum mastermind, Varg Vikernes took the name for his legendary project from the word for “darkness” in the Black Speech of Mordor (a language devised by Lord of the Rings creator J.R.R. Tolkein), although Vikernes believes the word to define “light” in the eyes of Pagans as opposed to the Christian interpretation of “darkness.” Meanwhile, I clearly remember once reading a statement from Anthrax, upon the emergence of their namesake in post 9/11 news articles, which implied that the band chose their name not because of the harmful effects the disease poses on living creatures, but merely for the fact that the thrashers thought it sounded cool and probably didn‘t even know what the legit anthrax was in all actuality. Then again, there are most definitely those bands that choose names so mysterious and/or weird in comparison to their overall sound and message, that the listener can’t help but wonder, “What were these guys thinking?” Which brings us now to a certain gruesome black metal quintet from Bled, Slovenia who for whatever reason, call themselves Nephrolith. Sure, the word sounds like pure evil when it rolls off the tongue. It does indeed seem like a name a black metal band would sink their teeth into. The thing is, in medical dictionaries, the word “nephrolith” translates basically to mean…kidney stones.
It is with that concept in mind that I believe this possible meaning behind the band’s name falls short of doing justice to their menacing brand of break-neck blasphemy. On the cover of the latest Nephrolith full-length, the independently-released Xullux, we see what appears to be an undead Mother Mary, in all of her decaying glory. With that observation, I think it’s safe to say…the hooks are in.
With Xullux, Nephrolith have essentially let the wolves loose on us all. And by “wolves”, I mean twelve numbers seething with violent, old-school minded black metal that shows these guys aren’t afraid to add their own little twist on the genre’s gloom-soaked traditions. Balancing unbridled, raspy-voiced rage with an effective sense of melody, Xullux is a solid effort through and through. The record’s intro, “Alpha”, comes close to setting a morbidly somber mood worthy of the soundtrack to a church-burning vampire onslaught just before the whirlwind riffs of “Spiritual Departure” explode full-throttle. The majority of Xullux follows suit in the same fashion with the likes of “Purification Of Culprit”, “The Tale Of The Conquering Dusk”, “Xullux“ and “Nocturnal Perception” (the latter two being definite highlights) all blasting along faster than the hounds of hell. When melody is mentioned in the same sentence as Nephrolith, it should be noted that this band is in a completely different league than those among their peers with melodic inclinations. The solos are of a decidedly non-black metal persuasion in most cases, which earns Nephrolith a few points for both pulling it off nicely and setting themselves apart from the others. Also adding unexpected flavor to the band’s black ritual is the presence of “Intermezzo” and the outro, “Omega”. With a backdrop of crackling fire, both feature a solemn guitar quality that almost unifies them as one song in two parts that get the job done just the same.
All in all, the record proves that a band can be named after a bodily ailment and still very much have the teeth and talons necessary to rip us all to shreds. With Xullux, Nephrolith have made it quite evident that the aggression of their art massively exceeds the threat of their apparent namesake. Black metal is alive and well in Slovenia, and Nephrolith are waving the banner high!