Written by John Angel
NaKhArA – The Procession
Prog death metal from Rambouillet, France
Released February 7, 2021
Sometimes a music publication can overlook a release from a smaller artist that kicks just as much ass as those from bigger acts. Lord knows I’ve read about it countless times in columns on underground music. As the fine folks at Heavy Blog is Heavy point out, we’re living through a golden age of underground music and there is an absolute flood of new releases at all times. I’m still new to writing music reviews for Noob Heavy (six weeks strong!) but I already find the number of communications soliciting reviews for upcoming releases a bit overwhelming. And I only see the releases for 4-5 subgenres! So it’s perfectly understandable that some gems from smaller and/or newer acts get overlooked in the deluge of press kits and review requests. That being said I want to right one such oversight today with this review for The Procession by NaKhArA.
NaKhArA is the brainchild of Pitbulls in the Nursery guitarist Saïmon, aka Simon Thevenet, and is a one person project as far as I can tell. Released on February 7, 2021, The Procession is NaKhArA’s debut record and features a diverse pallet of death metal that delivers on prog-y genre bending, avante-garde flourishes, and sheer groove. Saïmon also utilizes instruments not usually found in the metal sound world such as sitar and nylon string guitar throughout the album.
But before we get to those fancy instruments and generic flourishes, let me just say that The Procession is absolutely dripping with groove and stank face moments. You know, those moments that bring you a little too much attention when you listen to them in the grocery store. The title track is a perfect example of how brutally groovy NaKhArA can be. We race off with a blast beat-laden, tech death intro before landing on a chugging groove that all but reaches through the speakers and forcibly moves your head to the beat. An expansive section that somehow grooves even harder alternates with the chugging facepunch from earlier and the whole track just oozes tasty rhythmic feel. The Procession is littered with sections of wonderful groove and face scrunching brutality. One of my favorite of these moments is the intro to “No Justice No Peace”. It’s a riff lifted straight from the early 2000’s New Wave of American Heavy Metal playbook and would fit right in on any Shadows Fall or Chimera record. Saïmon isn’t just a one trick groove pony, he’s got grooves for days!
After getting about 15 seconds into “All These Voices” I realized that I had no idea if any given section on the record would lead into the brutal groove I’m so clearly fond of or a wacky, off-the-wall section that makes you dramatically double take, further complicating your relationship with fellow supermarket patrons. The track starts with a heavy groove (you don’t say) before dropping into a folky oompah section straight from Bavaria. It has a real System of a Down vibe, juxtaposing folk music with the standard brutal affair that is a typical death metal track and I, for one, love it.
Alright, now we can talk about the sitar. I don’t remember listening to a metal/hard rock album that so thoroughly incorporates nonstandard instruments throughout its entire runtime. “7th Sense – Creative Destruction” is a perfect example of this. Leading off the track (after a sample of two men speaking French) is yet more chugging groove-age featuring the sitar as a primary melodic instrument. The sitar remains the constant melodic companion to the typical, rhythmic textures of death metal for the first 2:50 or so of the track and then we hear the dulcet tones of nylon strings. Everything halts and makes room for a beautiful passage of two nylon string guitars calling to mind lamenting flamenco music. Supporting this passage are claps that further reinforce the notion of a flamenco dance style. At 4:45 the chugging groove fest resumes and wouldn’t you know it, the sitar is front and center for the remainder of the track.
I’m not even close to telling you about all the fun moments on this record. There’s accordion in the aforementioned oompah sections, tasteful guitar solos, hauntingly beautiful sections with clean guitar tones and clean vocals, samples galore, and a fucking vocoder! (Vocoder is an underutilized tool in metal imho) The Procession is just under 38 minutes in length and I’ve found something new on almost every listen. And I haven’t even mentioned the wonderful politics implied by the track titled “No Justice No Peace”. The chorus to that tune is a banger and an instant singalong. I found myself standing in the checkout line mouthing that one in an exaggerated manner. I just hope everyone staring at me could lip read. I would’ve loved to take a dive into the lyrics on that track and the rest of the record but I can’t find them anywhere. Here’s a hot tip kids, publish your lyrics, there are fields in Bandcamp for that and we all know you already wrote them down.
The Procession is a fantastic record and I sincerely hope there is more from NaKhArA in the future. I will definitely be giving the two Pitbulls in the Nursery albums a spin because I like this project so much. If you like your death metal with plenty of genre-bending and avant-garde flourishes you need to listen to this record. The future of death metal surely looks bright in France!