Album Title: Vital Alchemy
Label: Rockshots Records
Date of Release: 21 May 2021
When a band boasts members of Oceans Of Slumber or Vesperian Sorrow amongst others, I feel duty-bound to check it out. That band in question is Nahaya, a quintet formed back in 2013 by guitarist Ryan Peters alongside Oceans Of Slumber bassist Semir Özerkan. Their aim was to create music that fused American groove metal, Gothenburg-style melodic death metal, and some authentic Middle Eastern influences. Having released a couple of EPs over their career to date, as well as touring as extensively as possible around their native Texas, 2021 sees Nahaya releasing their first full-length album upon the world, ‘Vital Alchemy’.
Well, the press release refers to ‘Vital Alchemy’ as an album. With just seven tracks and a run-time of 25 or so minutes, I’m not of the same opinion. For my money, and many others I suspect, this release will fit more comfortably in EP territory. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, I just think that a little management of expectations is in order here because the experience is a fairly brief one.
Nevertheless, its status aside, I have to say that ‘Vital Alchemy’ is quite an enjoyable release. For those of us who enjoy some heavy metal with melody, variety, and extreme trappings, you could do an awful lot worse. More importantly, it throws a light on a band that, until recently, has been a well-kept secret. With the recent signing to Rockshots Records and this new release, I suspect that the name Nahaya will spread further and wider across the globe, whetting the appetite for future output.
To complete the background information, Özerkan and Peters aside, the quintet is rounded out by guitarist Daniel Abbott, drummer Zachary Herber, and vocalist Carl Elfin Ford.
The opening minute-long intro is classic melodic death territory, as it’s an acoustic piece, backed by some atmospheric synths. It displays the prowess of the guitarist, I presume Ryan Peters, both in terms of technical ability and songwriting, as it’s a really nice opening with shades of both Dissection and early In Flames to be heard. However, in an instant, it is cast aside by ‘Deific Mask’ that explodes from the speakers with an atmospheric blackened death opening before settling into an up-tempo melodeath riff. The vocals from Ford are of a mid-register growl until the chorus which ups the ante in terms of melody, alongside clean singing. The hooks are hard to resist, there’s a lovely groovy section around the midpoint within which, the drumming is particularly forceful. There’s the ubiquitous lead solo or two as well and overall, it’s a positive start to proceedings.
The title track continues with the heaviness, a bruising opening riff and a pummelling rhythm section at its heart. I detect a greater thrash element to this song, especially in the riffs, whilst the melodic sensibilities are slightly less pronounced, creating a darker feel and ensuring that it is more of a slow-burner, complete with more pronounced Middle Eastern accents towards the end, particularly in the vocal department.
‘Incubator’ is a slower track from the off, with intriguing slide-guitar-like notes used to highlight the melodic intent alongside clean vocals. There are bursts of speed to be heard as the song lurches from all-out thrash, to melodeath complete with pinched harmonics, to more radio friendly environs within the chorus, despite the barely contained blastbeats. There is no doubting the intent and the passion that the quintet put into the final product, with barely a let up in the attack throughout the record. However, I’m not so much of a fan of the ‘gang’ style shouted vocals within ‘Kali Yuga’, or the chorus vocals of ‘Midnight Fidelio’. But I do rather like the brooding intro to the closing track ‘Aghori Fires’, as it has more of a blackened, sinister vibe, as well as a hint of those aforementioned Middle Eastern influences.
If truth be told, I’m not entirely convinced that the band quite know what their true identity actually is as yet. There are plenty of subtle influences at play despite the brief nature of ‘Vital Alchemy’, but it leads to a feeling of a slight lack of identity. I’m sure that this will come in time as Nahaya find their feet with future releases, but for now, it remains a slight issue. I also would have loved to hear more in the way of those Middle Eastern elements because I can’t help but feel slightly short-changed in that regard. Admittedly, I am listening to this album shortly after hearing the latest Subterranean Masquerade album, so this may have coloured my judgement in this regard. But more of this aspect would have been nice. In summary then, ‘Vital Alchemy’ shows real promise, but I hope for more from future releases.
The Score of Much Metal: 75%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: