Band – Nixil
Album – From The Wound Spilled Forth
Country of Origin – USA
Genre – Black Metal
Release Date – August 25, 2023
Label – Prosthetic Records
Author – Hayduke X
I’ve really got to get better about covering this band prior to release. For the second time, I’m covering a Nixil album over a month after release, although this time, I’m only a month late, as opposed to the three and a half months it took me to publish this review of their debut. The reality is that this band is so good, so moving, that in combination with my very full schedule, I’ve struggled to find the time and words to write about them. Down below the Bandcamp player, there is also an interview with two members of the band, so hopefully that makes up for my tardiness a bit.
On From The Wound Spilled Forth Fire, the Maryland-based black metal entity pick up where they left off with All Knots Untied, and then evolve further, or perhaps deconstruct this existence further (see the discussion of Chaos Gnosticism in the interview below…I’m not convinced I fully get it, but it is fascinating). The album again calls forth the best of the French avant garde scene in its layering of riffs, undulating rhythmic decisions, and layering of various vocal attacks, but in a way that is still very much USBM. The album title is apt, as each listen often feels like white hot flames pouring into my psyche.
The Baltimore band is a quintet. Key handles drums with a variety of styles ranging from blasts to rock and roll drums. Interesting fills, syncopation and a sense of ‘jazziness,’ for lack of a better term, make for an interesting rhythmic ride that blends well with the whole, alternately driving and supporting the other instruments. Aurora adds the low rumble of bass in a push-pull with the drums and other instruments, again in a seamless blend. They also provide backing vocals throughout the album, with the entire vocal attack one of my favorite parts of the album (a favorite among favorites, though). Alden also jumps in with backing vocals. Both he and Shane provide the guitar work for the album, with weird off-kilter riffs and rhythm guitar mixed with razor sharp earwork riffs, all devoted to tearing apart the existence we currently inhabit. As mentioned above, I love the vocal attack by this band, and the main cause of that is C., who alternates between a variety of styles, but never wavers in terms of intensity, power, and emotion.
As hinted at in the interview below, I believe Nixil to be one of the key players in a new wave of metal bands in the United States. The entire band works together so well to destroy all that their creativity comes in contact with, metaphorically at least, rending a giant gash in perceived reality. Nixil is utter obliteration, the most beautiful terror, the heaviest enlightenment. Mark this band name down. I predict that they will be important to the US scene for a long time to come.
Interview with C. and Aurora
Hayduke X: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me and congratulations on the release of “From The Wound Spilled Forth Fire.” To start, why don’t you each introduce yourselves, your role in the band, and anything else you’d like to share along those lines.
C.: Hello, my name is C. I am the vocalist/lyricist and one of the visual artists from Nixil.
Aurora: I’m Aurora, I play bass and do backing vocals in Nixil.
HX: Both wearers of multiple hats, I see. Can you give me a brief history of the band, its formation, and so on?
Aurora: We started in late 2019; C. and I had an idea for a band and pretty much immediately hooked up with our guitarist Shane (who I was in a band with prior) and then got connected to our drummer Key through a mutual acquaintance who also jammed with us on guitar for a bit. We worked with yet another different guitarist in writing and self-releasing our first album, All Knots Untied, in early 2021 before finalizing our lineup with Alden. We toured as much as the pandemic would allow through 2022 while working on our second album, From the Wound… which was just released this past August on Prosthetic Records.
C.: We had a relatively specific idea of what we wanted the band to sound like in the beginning (more atmospheric and dissonant) but as we added members the sound organically broke away from that, developing into what it is now.
HX: How would you say that the sound has evolved between the two albums?
Aurora: It’s been really wild to hear folks descriptions of the new record compared to the old; there is definitely some common language (chalk it up to that metal review bingo card maybe) but what we’re hearing most now is stuff like ‘nauseating,’ ‘disorienting,’ ‘psychedelic,’ ‘dark and emotional,’ and ‘dangerous.’ Which tracks for me, those were all senses that came up either as inspiration for or as our own descriptions of riffs as they developed. I feel like From the Wound… has a more immediately aggressive sound than before, and it takes a lot of weird turns whereas All Knots had requisite mood swings, but I don’t feel like the mood or tone varies quite as much from track to track (or even within single tracks). We all have pretty different backgrounds when it comes to writing and playing in bands and I feel like our unique influences come through pretty strongly on this album.
HX: What are the lyrical themes on From the Wound…?
C.: The title From the Wound Spilled Forth Fire evokes the main theme presented in the album, which is finding personal strength and burning spirit through experiences of adversity or trauma. The majority of the lyrics are descriptions of direct experiences I’ve had on my spiritual/magickal path, and hopefully display some of the gnosis I’ve received through that work. The song In Thrall is an active curse against those many morons who believe that systems of oppression are somehow synonymous with liberation in any sense, spiritual, political or otherwise. Fuck the fascists.
HX: That leads directly into my next question. As I understand it, at least with the first album, the lyrics were not political. However, the band has been clearly and vocally antifascist in public statements. Why do you feel that’s important to do?
C.: We have always and will always remain apolitical. We do not acknowledge the validity of politics or political systems. All systems are systems of oppression and inherently corrupt. No flag, party, or national symbol can determine our right to exist in whatever way we please (as long as it does not directly interfere with another’s existence in the same fashion). Our lives are not up for a vote. Fascism is insidious and ignorant and has become more and more acceptable and popular in the last few years. Even the question “Why do you feel that’s important” has become a disturbingly acceptable question, where the answer should be glaringly obvious. Some of us are queer, some are of racial minority. We would be on the rail cars if we did not fight. So we say antifascism is not a political statement at all, but one of self defense.
HX: Thank you for that clear statement and I certainly stand in solidarity with what you’re saying. What role do you think music does or should play in moving those ideas forward?
Aurora: The term ‘apolitical’ in black metal in particular has become something of a cryptofascist dogwhistle; like C. said, we don’t discuss politics in our lyrics, but given the state of the scene/country/world, it feels irresponsible to not elaborate a little bit as to what that means to us. Decrying fascism is not hard, nor does it take away from any of the intensity or darkness or psychospiritual challenge inherent in black metal. I’m not going to say what anyone should or shouldn’t do with their art per se, but it is a platform and a method of energy/emotional transmission and it feels ridiculous to me that anyone would leave it vague as to where they stand on this issue…unless that vagueness is intentional, in which case thanks for letting me know that I want nothing the fuck to do with you. Music is a vessel for catharsis and I personally want our music to create and hold a space for folks to sink into that process, whatever that means to them; calling ourselves antifascist by no means takes away the ferocity of this music. Our teeth are just bared in a different direction, and dripping with different blood.
HX: What’s your songwriting process as a band?
Aurora: Entirely collaborative. Usually someone brings a riff and it evolves as we jam on it; we’ve tried writing based on an idea or theme but the music always takes on a life of its own.
HX: That makes sense based on the sound. To me, both albums sound very organic. Do the lyrics come last then?
Aurora: I’ll take that as a compliment haha
HX: It’s absolutely meant that way.
C.: The lyrics also happen organically, but most often after the skeleton of the song is intact. In a few instances I have written the lyrics totally separately from the writing of the song and they just come together in a synchronous way.
HX: Tell me about the art and aesthetic of Nixil in your album art, merchandise, etc. Who is involved in design? How does it represent the music?
C.: I do a majority of the designing of logos, sigils, merch designs and the cover art for both of our albums. Our drummer Key also contributes illustrations for shirt designs and album layout art, and our guitarist Shane does all of our photography, videography and digital layout design. The art that I create is meant to visually represent key factors in our message and lyrics and is often codified symbolism of my spiritual work. This is also true of our videos in sometimes more, sometimes less overt ways.
HX: Fascinating. I love when the art is thoughtfully and purposefully connected to the music. From the Wound… it’s being released by Prosthetic Records. How did you connect with them? How do you feel you fit with their roster?
Aurora: We had the pleasure of meeting up with folks from Prosthetic while on tour last year and established a relationship from there. Their roster is super eclectic and I think we all appreciate that; they’ve launched a lot of bands that we all respect and for me personally it’s quite a trip to share a label with some of my favorite active artists (I am a huge fan of Schammasch, in particular; the new Body Void is also pretty incredible). We only wanted to work with a label that does not engage with NSBM/otherwise sketchy bands and have been constantly reassured that we are in good hands with Prosthetic in that regard; really dig the open representation of queer folks and BIPOC folks and femmes in their bands as well. Much prefer to connect ideologically and work with folks who respect the uniqueness of our music than sign to a strictly black metal label that has no issue with fascists.
HX: What are your musical and non-musical influences and inspirations for your work with Nixil?
C.: We can’t say directly what music inspires Nixil. We try to avoid direct acknowledgment of external musical influences, instead writing for ourselves and what we feel the music needs to express. That being said, we all have extremely diverse musical backgrounds, from doom to classic thrash, atmospheric black metal, psych rock, melodeath, ritual dark ambient….. the list can go on. Non-musically, at least from my perspective, the inspiration for Nixil is my work and practice as a Chaos Gnostic and the experiences I have through that work. The goal of Nixil is to be an open door for the other side, to allow the intrusion of the shadow side that dissolves the illusions of this reality and pushes us toward ultimate physical and spiritual liberation.
HX: Can you share with me briefly what it means to be a Chaos Gnostic?
C.: Chaos Gnosticism is an offshoot of traditional Gnostic Mysticism which views creation and the creative impulse/demiurgic ego of the universe as the true source of all oppression, and that the real pure and desirable essence is non being. We seek the return to nothingness and chaos, from whence even the demiurge came prior to forgetting its own nature and convincing itself it was supreme. Existence is the reflection of one impulse’s obsessive narcissism and will to experience itself. We therefore must eradicate these impulses from within ourselves in order to be liberated.
HX: Thanks for boiling that down for me. I can understand how that could be included lyrically, but how does the practice of Chaos Gnosticism play out in a creative endeavor, like a band?
C.: My personal intent behind Nixil is using it as another way to explore the concepts, and to distill down the experiences and bring them into understanding. There are also many songs which are written as devotional offerings to entities that I work with, who are teachers along those obscure and unlit paths. Others still are meant to open the space of experience and allow those energies into the world. Any person’s experience of those energies at any given time is completely subjective and may be challenging, or it may be welcomed, but each time a person is touched they are changed, and that’s important. So while there may be an apparent paradox in the intent of bringing about anti creation through a creative endeavor, it is actually harmonious. In our earthly form we must use creativity to destroy.
HX: I think I see. I know the band toured for the first record. How does this play out live? And more generally, how is touring as a band? What is a live Nixil performance like?
Aurora: Like C. said, the way each individual person engages with these concepts and energies is unique and subjective so I feel like it’s hard to give a fixed answer about how it manifests live. I can say that all of us in the band have expressed our live performances as being cathartic and transcendent for us which seems to translate to the audience as well. We frequently hear from folks that they have “otherworldly” or “spiritual” experiences during our set, that they don’t know exactly what took over, but that it felt like they were in the presence of an overwhelming other and were impacted in a way that they’d not felt before. We often say that we are a live band above all – it’s one of the reasons why we record live rather than single tracked – so playing out and touring is tremendously important for us. I’m fiercely proud of our recordings but definitely feel like the music needs to be experienced in person for it to really come through.
HX: What are your touring plans for this album so far? Any chance Michigan is on the list again?
Aurora: We’ve done a few weekenders this year to support the release, our next trip is up through the NE:
Sept 29 Youngstown, OH @ Westside Bowl
Sept 30 Philly @ Kung Fu Necktie
Oct 1 Worcester, MA @ Ralph’s Rock Diner
Oct 2 Wallingford, CT @ Cherry Street Station
Oct 3 Windsor, VT @ Windsor Exchange
Oct 4 Portland, ME @ Geno’s
Oct 5 Providence, RI @ Dusk
Oct 6 Queens, NY @ El Bunker del Diablo
We’ve got a much longer tour in the works for the early spring but can’t share details yet. We loved playing Michigan last year. Y’all have a wild scene up in Lansing!
HX: I’m still kicking myself for missing that show, but something came up. I’ll be sure to be there next time the band is back up here. I see Nixil as one of a handful of young bands (young as a band) in the US who are really worth watching. The next generation of excellence among US metal bands, so to speak. Do you have any recommendations of younger, less known bands we should be paying attention to?
Aurora: We’ve gotten to play with some super incredible bands over the past couple of years, def a bunch to look out for. We’re doing a few dates with our friends in Imipolex (Portland, ME) who play a really unique and brilliantly technical sort of blackened death; we did a few dates earlier in the year and are always looking for a chance to play with the folks in Riparian (Pittsburgh) who also play technical death metal but with a really rad sort of trippy psychedelic edge. Uzkost (also from Pittsburgh), Paezor (Greensboro, NC), Urocyon (Asheville, NC), Mehenet (NOLA)…Nuclear Tomb are a fellow Baltimore band that always blow my damn mind with their wild incredible “weirdo thrash”…
Oh fuck, we just played with this band Sertraline from Rochester, NY whose album has been on repeat in my car since we got back from that trip; they’re post-black and genuinely emotionally devastating.
I could go on haha
Actually one more: Cendiate from NYC. They’re a two piece and they’re fucking incredible and super talented death metal musicians (and rad humans too)
Thanks for asking that question, the underground is alive and thriving even if the fucking social media algorithm doesn’t let folks find it.
HX: Do either of you have final thoughts you want to add? Anything important I missed?
C.: I think that’s about it. Aurora covered every underground band I could think of.
Aurora: Nothing else for me – just hope folks check out our new record and come say hi if they see us out on the road. Really appreciate you taking the time to do this with us, especially with your busy work schedule!
HX: It’s my pleasure. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.
Biography: Hayduke X has been writing for MoshPitNation since June of 2016. He is also a contributor to The Metal Wanderlust. Prior to joining the MoshPitNation team, Hayduke published reviews on his own blog Rage and Frustration. In addition, he has DJ’ed an online metal radio show of the same name as his blog, written for TOmetal.com, done interviews for Metal Rules, and collaborated with The Art of B Productions to create video interviews with a wide variety of bands.