In this age of hyper-criticism and warp-speed opinions, no band claiming to hold onto the genre badge of post-punk or goth rock can be judged on their own terms without immediately being compared to the greats, and in this regard many tend to be drop-kicked into the “poseur” bin without their own material given a simple chance to stand on its own. Many pay tribute and others shamelessly rip-off, but a few try to eke out an original sound that still shows the sonic specter that started so much. Enter a band hailing from Bristol going by the name NAUT.
Their EP, ‘Raise The Lights’ (released on 8 June 2018), starts off ambitiously enough with “Disintegration”, a light then heavy smattering of instruments (keyboards, bass and guitars) which launches into an earnest doom rock effort that takes you back to the yonder years of the mid ‘80s. You have an immediate sense that this is a band that adores its influences and pays tribute to each with a hearty, yet clunky play-about.
The second track “I’m Here” carries a more upbeat springy, bass-heavy sound that makes one think of Echo & the Bunnymen, with just a hint of New Model Army. There is no shame in hiding how cheerful this song is in announcing itself but the atmosphere around the bass itself is a statement on its own. It surprises you in how you don’t know which direction it will take.
In third place is the titular track “Raise The Lights”, which straddles a light intro of wandering guitars and haunting vocals before heavy drums break the drone. This track shows more promise as it gives you the clearest vocal performance and keyboards that remind you of a certain Leeds band with a nun reference in their name. However, as quickly as it starts, so does it mysteriously end, leaving a sense of wonder what could have happened if it had continued.
“Frames” is a glittering drum-driven song with a weightier feel that doesn’t disguise that the band members enjoy heavier music, but still remains synth-danceable for the first half of the song. The second half picks up the pace and becomes a gallop, but then descents into a guitar wail at the end, giving space for the final and penultimate track.
“XVI” chases the end of the EP and has a higher tempo than “I’m Here” with a greater keyboard harmony and sensation that concludes what can be arguably a decent attempt at experimental post-punk.
One particular aspect about the band that stands out is how they bear a resemblance to German band Merciful Nuns, right down to the vocal style and lyrics pertaining to esoteric subjects.
Whilst on the topic of vocals: they’re barely audible through the wall of sound that the band produces – not a bad point but makes it a shame that the voices are not given a body to complete the package. The vocals – when audible – switch between a baritone croon of Andrew Eldritch (Sisters of Mercy) to otherworldly voiceless mysticism such as Artaud Seth (The Garden of Delight, Merciful Nuns) and Carl McCoy (Fields of the Nephilim, The Nefilim).
The tracks tend to be irregular with their beats and the blend of elements comes across as unwieldy; there is something raw in a familiar sense but with the optimistic possibility that can be polished.
Don’t take the above review as the mutterings of an “elitist” or some iron-clad opinionated fossil who yearns for the heyday of gothic rock when it was first ushered into the musical stratosphere;
It is no simple act trying to measure a band’s sound against what is considered the gold-standard for a particular genre whilst examining a band on its own terms; either act is a willful admission of a short-sighted wrangle in a shallow pool. Here is a band that may be worth its weight, provided it undergoes some polish and finds ground to plant its feet on.
‘Raise The Lights’ Track Listing:
1. Disintegration [4:56]
2. I’m Here [5:04]
3. Raise The Lights [2:47]
4. Frames [6:24]
5. XVI [4:21]
- NAUT – ‘Raise The Lights’ EP - 6/106/10