Don‘t we all know the certain kind of intrigue that a well-chosen cover artwork can provoke? It happens to most of us every once in a while, right? Sometimes these can be really great discoveries because the music can keep up with the artwork, sometimes these records turn out for the worst. Nova Lvx by new French Black Metal outfit Ǥứŕū surely falls into the first category!
Francisco de Goya is one of the most famous Spanish painters of all times and that the band chose a part of his work La Romeria de San Isidro (A Pilgrimage to San Isidro) is surely in no way a coincidence. The part they chose for the cover of their debut is a little off-center but in some way programmatic, as their part is the one with a few of the pilgrims shown and one holding (playing?) a guitar. In Goya’s original (the picture was even painted on a wall in his house back in the early 1800s), we can see a long line of pilgrims moving from the central background all the way to the left side of the picture – one may think of it like a religious version of NOFX’s The Longest Line. Even further striking about the picture and the record is that one can feel as is the procession is coming closer – not just visually but also via the opening. There is this little feedback underneath the opening, semi-acoustic guitar melody before some ominous slightly guttural vocals approach before all hell breaks loose after roughly 1:45 minutes. It feels as if the strangely disfigured guitar player is coming at us – not to us, but at us.
The music on these four tracks and nearly 35 minutes is a little less evangelic or religious – we will not encounter any Gregorian chants, but rather a Primordial-like mixture of slightly Pagan and Black Metal. There are these big parts, especially some of the vocals by lyricist Jerry which are then sometimes exchanged for some hellish growls from the darkness (or from the undiscovered end of the line which ends where? In hell?). Nevertheless, the big, opening dual vocals are what reminds me of Primordial. They are able to blend them into a bastard whirlwind of blastbeats and riff-tornadoes. The drums are doing their best to chugga-chugga-keep up with the rest and succeed in doing so, sometimes even twisting the tracks themselves around the next dark corner, where one of the devilish pilgrims might just be waiting for us.
How clearly intertwined the cover and the songs are, can easily be seen by the second track ”Pilgrim on the path of tears”: Yes, it might be a classic topic for Black Metal, but the somewhat patient and Doomy approach combined with some near Melo-Death gutterals makes for a really nice listening experience. To make it clear: Even though bands like the aforementioned Primordial or also Shining might not be something for everyone, but one cannot deny the pull-effect that a dual-vocal-melody can have when done well. When the two vocal melodies are clearly different from each other and are seemingly having an argument, trying to outshine each other, trying to overpower the other. Maybe with lyrics and ideas, maybe with power and skills.
No matter from which angle you look at the detail of Goya’s painting or with which setup you listen to Ǥứŕū’s Nova Lvx one thing quickly becomes clear: The French guys are doing a great job combining a visual element with their music. And now please, do NOT buy a digital or CD version of the record, go for the vinyl edition, this artwork needs to be looked at in at least 12-inch-format! Great debut!