Noltem: Illusions In The Wake-2021.

Noltem: Atmospheric Black Metal from United States.


Hymn of the WoodDemo2005 
Illusions in the WakeFull-length2021
Max Johnson
Guitars, Bass, Keyboards (2003-present)
See also: ex-Aegrimonia, ex-Wind Through the Trees
John Kerr
Drums, Vocals (2015-present)
See also: PyritheSeidrYahar’gul, ex-Marsh Dweller, ex-Vit
Shalin Shah
Bass (2018-present)
See also: Protolith, ex-In Human Form
2.Illusions in the Wake06:48 
3.Beneath the Dreaming Blue07:49 
6.On Shores of Glass07:00 

One thought on “Noltem: Illusions In The Wake-2021.

  1. gasmask_colostomy, October 15th, 2021
    The gestation period has manifestly been a long one for Noltem and their full-length debut Illusions in the Wake. With the earliest start as Max Johnson’s solo project way back in 2003 and a demo recorded not long after, Noltem saw activity again with an EP release, Mannaz, that introduced John Kerr of Marsh Dweller and paved the way for something more. In 2018, the line-up expanded to a trio, including bassist Shalin Shah from Protolith. Nevertheless, 6 years have elapsed from that EP restart to now, and only a deal with Transcending Obscurity and that beguiling narcotic/hypnotic artwork has shown in advance that the band may be ready to stride forward in earnest. For this next step, the threesome have produced something owing in sound to other North American black metal acts, particularly those of the Cascadian variety and those who imbue their songs with folky atmospheres like Felled, Agalloch, Saor, and Nechochwen, whose Aaron Carey provides one of several guest solos here.

    Noltem certainly have a gift for softening harsh shapes and liquefying hard objects, such as how the hallucinated mountains of the cover become watery in the musical element of the release. The concept of flow applies specifically to the swells of guitar that power the lilting compositions, blastbeats battering more like the spray of surf than the fists of demons, while melodic lines overpower any raw treble in the mix. Certainly the guitar solos smooth the sound even more than Max Johnson and John Kerr’s rhythm playing, feeling as lush as any post-rock or prog accompaniment without breaking the rolling intensity of melodic black metal. Liminal Shroud produced a similarly watery debut last year, and Noltem strengthen associations to the element with song titles like ‘Beneath the Dreaming Blue’, ‘Submerged’, and ‘On Shores of Glass’. All this to say that the typical sojourning trope of outdoorsy black metal remains here, but filtered through a more soothing medium that bobs the listener gently along rather than scraping them across mountains and through the bleak shards of icy winter.

    That may sound like a description of easy listening black metal or perhaps a nice way to say Noltem play black metal with no bite, but Illusions in the Wake doesn’t really aspire to be black metal in any typical sense anyway. Kerr’s howls hide pretty closely in the enveloping guitar textures and the riffing on cuts like the opening ‘Figment’ makes more obvious chord shapes than any explicitly extreme acts. To qualify: Noltem assuredly use some black metal techniques and treasure the same sense of escapist freedom that the genre clings to, yet the more recent developments in post-black metal seem just as pertinent to the floating feel of many passages. In fact, by frequently adjusting the weight of the music, the trio are able to affect emotions threefold; by stripping the sound back to gentle melody or acoustic guitar, by piling on rhythmic and riffing density, and by combining airy lead work with more compact foundations. Fans of atmospheric metal have likely been to those places with Agalloch, with Alcest, and maybe with newer acts like Dreichmere, though Noltem’s aptitude in the field is worthy all the same.

    Therefore, it falls firstly to the style and secondly to the execution to determine whether or not Illusions in the Wake will work for you. Sitting in that specific pocket of highly accessible extreme metal, Noltem present their album both as a hazy trip to engulf the listener and also as a detailed experience to stare deep down into, as can be seen when concentrating on the tangling guitars in ‘Ruse’ or the title track. Perhaps for some the pensive qualities of a song like ‘Beneath the Dreaming Blue’ could take away from the blurred horizons of the more energetic efforts, yet they could equally summon focus and purpose to the busier songwriting elsewhere. For the most part, however, it should be agreed that Noltem have produced a work of complex beauty and harmony that contains the roar of the ocean, the crash of the river, and the sparkling purity of the stream.

    Originally written for The Metal Observer –


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