Review: Naam - Ballad Of The Starchild
Ever since hearing Naam's fantastic self titled debut album, I've been hungry for more. Putting a psychedelic twist on two classic Nirvana songs was a nice thing to tide fans over, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who's been dying to hear more original material from the band. Three years after the debut full length, Naam are back in full force, this time adding John Weingarten to their roster, who handles organ and synth duties. Although the band throws some new twists at us, this is still undeniably Naam.
The biggest twist is apparent in the first song. "Sentry of Skies" is a mellow, largely acoustic tune. Psychedelic electric guitar circles in the background while an acoustic guitar is strummed and a surprisingly orthodox vocal performance is delivered. This song vaguely reminds me of "A Pillow of Winds" by Pink Floyd, who are undoubtedly an influence. The interludes are also notable, they carve out unique atmospheres and also provide space to breathe. "History's Son" is particularly interesting, being a mix of sitar and exotic percussion. The outro to this album, "Exit Theme", is very mellow; almost ambient. It provides the listener a chance to cool down. These mellower songs provide a nice balance to the overcast doom-influenced slabs of dark psychedelia.
"Lands Unkown" and "The Starchild" are the meat of this EP. They are not a far cry from the songs of the debut album. They may not be quite as heavy, but they are by no means watered down. The biggest difference would probably be the riffs - they are a rare specimen on this one. While the self titled album was certainly not a release that centred around the riffs, there where still quite a lot of them. But on this one, Naam rely mostly on melody, with the riffs that do exist being placed subtly in the background. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but your average meat-and-potato riffs are in short supply. The keyboard is indispensable to these two songs, occasionally taking over the guitarists role.
While the quality songwriting is integral to Naam's sound, so it the timbres they are able to achieve. The tones they produce are so organic; so authentic sounding. The natural tones achieved with the exotic percussion found on "History's Son" is a prime example of how the production makes the EP sound special. If the quality of tone was not present, the song would not feel as real or authentic; it just wouldn't be so convincing. It is obvious that Naam are very careful about selecting which timbres they will use; they only use ones that have organic authentic tones, which makes for a cohesive listen even when most of the songs don't sound the same.
I had no doubts that this criminally underrated psychedelic doom metal band would remain an innovative force. With a perfect balance of atmosphere and high quality songwriting, it really is a shame that these guys aren't getting more attention. While this doesn't outdo the debut album, it still is a release that shouldn't be overlooked, as EPs often are. This is varied, interesting and never boring. Naam has quickly become one of my favourite underground bands, and this EP is a shining example of why that is.