Kjaddai/Vooram/Njiqahdda Split CD

three way split

Kjaddai. Vooram. Njiqahdda. Three bands. Only one name most mortals dare attempt to speak, lest they pronounce incorrectly. In a way, it’s fitting. These bands make music that is mysterious and hard to describe, yet they can capture your imagination in a way that few other artists working within the general framework of extreme metal or anything “blackened” will. This split CD features four tracks from each artist, offering a glimpse of some of the talent that lies within the Nji-community in a presentation that is more seamless and fluid than your average split, let alone a split between three artists whose primary bond is in friendship rather than sonic kinship. Anyway, let’s begin.

The first tracks are provided by Kjaddai, a Seattle-based project rooted equally in synthesized ambiance and black metal’s haze. Distorted and distant vocals are ushered in by a spiraling blanket of digital sounds that make way for an opening of captivating mid-paced black metal, with a density created by keys instead of fuzzed out guitars. Not that there aren’t guitars here, but the stringed instrumentation seems to be more of a knife that cuts through the synth fog rather than the dominant instrument. In fact, beyond opening track “Hvaetet Eth’Asirr,” Kjaddai’s contributions are almost exclusively ambient and soothing. I feel a similarity between the remaining three Kjaddai tracks and some of the more peaceful soundtracks from Playstation games, with textures that are almost perfectly created for drifting into a state of relaxation and bliss. Even the momentary breaks from softer sounds in a couple places are more trance-inducing than they are aggressive. This will be the first many listeners hear from Kjaddai, and it’s a fantastic place to begin.

Next up is the mysteriously disjointed madness of Vooram. While soothing and peaceful may be words to describe Kjaddai, Vooram’s fondness for starting and stopping at seemingly unplanned intervals keeps me on my toes the entire time their four tracks are playing. In a way, this feels like a cross-section of the artist’s own interests. Vooram goes anywhere it pleases. While the jumps from odd tremolo picking to oddly timed Sleepytime Gorilla Museum-inspired stomps and imaginative bass work threw me off on the first couple of listens, this has grown on me nicely. Those without patience and an open mind/ear need not apply here, as this is something that really shines as a display of musical enthusiasm and passion rather than a display of technical proficiency or atmosphere (not that they’re lacking in any way). What I find particularly interesting is how seamlessly Vooram’s final track “Uraotoko” segues into Njiqahdda’s first contribution, almost as if it were planned.

As mentioned, Njiqahdda practically sneaks in on Vooram’s heels, closing things off nicely.  I’m always happy to see a more established artist like Njiqahdda working with newer names, as it shows a commitment to a sense of community instead of just going with bands whose names alone would be selling points. Here we see Njiqahdda expanding upon their progressive leanings, away from black metal’s haze and into ethereal beauty that relies more on skilled instrumentation and a sense of sonic balance than it does aggression. I’ll admit that while I enjoy this band’s music, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with their many releases, so it’s hard for me to ascertain exactly where this fits into their massive catalog, but I feel that the beauty and absence of harsher vocals here places this in a more reflective place than some of their other works with which I am familiar. Instead, the band allows enough space for the music to meander wherever it may need, with subdued tones creating a greater scope in the listener’s mind. For me, this is perfect music for my morning cup of coffee, as Njiqahdda feels as if they are constantly moving upward with this release.

All things considered, this is a true victory for all three bands involved. I’m left with a smile on my face and a sense of calm by the end of Njiqahdda’s offering, having journeyed through calm and storm alike along the way. The album is streaming below in case you’re not entirely certain you’re ready for it, although I highly recommend purchasing a copy while they’re still available, as the art is gorgeous and the artists deserve your support.

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