A few weeks ago Ancient Hand posed this question on Instagram: “Have any of you had THAT album hit you this year? Y’know that album you hear and know it’s going to be a favorite right away?” Up until now, my answer to that would be “no.” Don’t get me wrong, 2020 has been a fantastic year for new music so far, but there hasn’t been anything that, on first listen, 100% fits the description. That changes with Nullity, the latest from Boston’s Lesser Glow.
Nullity could be labelled atmospheric doom, progressive sludge, or post-metal, all with a hint of hardcore. I think the most succinct, generalized way to describe this album would be Alice in Chains meets YOB. But even if those labels and comparisons don’t interest you in the slightest, this album is still entirely worth your time.
For a doom record, Nullity is surprisingly immediate. One factor that makes this possible is Alec Rodriguez’s incredibly versatile vocals. At any moment he can sound like Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains), Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth, both cleans and growls), Jared Warren (Big Business), or Brann Dailor (Mastodon) – sometimes all in the course of one song. Many of the songs feature haunting harmony passages too, which make themselves apparent toward the front of songs like “Fostering Nullity” and “The Great Filter”. There’s an interesting vocal juxtaposition between neighboring tracks “Versterven” and “I am the Island”. The former track is the only one on the record with 100% harsh vocals, while the latter features the most fragile, vulnerable vocal performance. The most bone-chilling vocals though are on “Toba”, where Rodriguez combines elements from both aforementioned songs. A sincere mantra of “silence is golden” gives way to a ridiculously harrowing outro. His range on Nullity is nearly unparalleled.
The other element that makes this album so immediate is the captivating songwriting. Unlike other doom and post-metal records, the listener doesn’t have to do the legwork of waiting for the trance to kick in. This album sucks you in. It engulfs you. Despite the slow tempos, you’ll be on the edge of your seat for the entire duration. While Nullity is a little under 40 minutes, it feels like hours worth of emotional weight rushing through the listener all in a brief instance.
The band subverts any conventions in song structure, but every twist they throw in still manages to make sense. The song “Alone In The Column” feels like it may be your standard transitional track, but it erupts into something truly terrifying. Drummer Seth Botos delivers his most explosive performance here, as if he spent the first two minutes of the song silently transforming into a Super Saiyan. “Versterven” starts with this driving, menacing riff, then blossoms into an ethereal guitar lead passage, and closes out by coming back to darkness with lurching basslines and swirling tom fills.
Even after the album’s initial immediacy, there’s so much to unpack with subsequent listens. This can come in the form of little things, like the opening chords of “The Great Imitator” where a second guitar foreshadows the chord movements that follow later. But the album’s depth truly unfolds with it’s overarching concept. Nullity lays out the concept that human beings are Earth’s parasites, and it ultimately ends with humanity’s demise. The lyrical themes develop brilliantly over the course of the album’s eight tracks. Poignant lines like “No story left to be told” at the end of “Toba” and “You want the fire but not the flame” in “Fostering this Nullity” will stick with you long after you’ve finished listening.
The production on Nullity is great too. Smoldering guitars, god-like bass tone, and punishing drums make for a hefty listen, but the album is not without its delicate moments too. The softer moments contrast excellently with the heaviest moments, and hold just as much emotional weight. The album’s dynamic range is rivaled only by Rodriguez’s vocal range. The stellar production goes hand-in-hand with the band’s stellar compositions. The album feels it was crafted meticulously, but it never comes off in a manner that’s tedious or pretentious.
Nullity is modern doom at its finest. Well, doom, sludge, post-metal – whatever you want to call it, Nullity is awe-inspiring. It’s very easy for great albums to inspire hopeful creatives, but so few have the finality to make one want to just pack it in altogether. By that I mean there are few albums that say everything that needs to be said. When trying to define those few, I think of albums like Devin Townsend’s Ocean Machine, which perfectly express feelings that I myself could never put into words. Of course it can take a while for those albums to reveal themselves as such, but I feel that Nullity may be one of those all-time greats. While it sucks that a lot of bigger acts have had to delay their album releases this year, I hope this moment gives a chance for albums like Nullity to shine. But let’s be real, there are no albums like Nullity, and none of those bigger albums could top this anyways!
Lesser Glow’s new album Nullity is out this Friday (5/29) via Pelagic Records.
Best Tracks: I mean… all of them
Weakest Tracks: n/a
FFO: Alice in Chains, Cult of Luna, YOB, Conjurer
Overall Score: A+