The Finnish black metal band Nil was formed in 2009, and a year later they released their debut demo. As you might've guessed from the track titles, the demo is oriented towards the so-called religious branch of black metal.
After a short bit of powerful sample of a church choir singing we get to the opening eight-minuter "The Illumination." The style and sound of the riffs remind me of some newer Swedish acts; a simpler and more distorted guitar serves as the background, and the lead's taken by a clearer and more high-pitched guitar and its tremolo-shredding. The bass guitar provides a steady pulse, and the primitive and brutal drum work (think about Norway here) creates a nice contrast to the more musical guitars, making the whole picture rawer and (surprisingly) provides an extra bit of originality. The song relies on a fast tempo and shredding for the most part, but remembers to slow down here and there with some more atmospheric plucking riffs, and it even has a slow and atmosphere-based mid part with some rock'n'roll-esque but very fitting guitar solo action. The aforementioned mid-part gives the song a dose of freshness, which helps it in staying interesting until its end; the doomy and dramatic vocal-based part that follows a bit later does wonders for the song as well by keeping it in motion, while retaining its logic and main point. The low male growls and shouts sound commendably devoted and dramatic throughout the fifteen minutes, and thus add a good dose of danger and unpredictability to the songs.
The following seven-minuter is pleasingly more out of control; the riffs rely on sudden twists and rhythmics in addition to their darkened feel, and when added to their fast pace the end creation is arrogant, confident and overall prepared for victory. This one remembers to occasionally slow down as well, but seems more quilty of repetition than its predecessor. The track doesn't feel too lenghty, though, and the stylish and both epic and doomy ending make the demo sound more professional and thought-out. It also makes the demo feel more of an actual release that you'd want to spin again, instead of a disposable demo that was made just for the heck of it. Well done.
The lyrics, which aren't included in the actual release but were luckily included in the promo-letter, deal with abandoning christian and overall human values, as well as self-injuring and other means of dedication and proceeding towards a form of enlightment - or moreso an another form altogether. The lyrics are a pleasing read, and suitably deep but not overwhelming when noting that this is a promotional release. I see no reason for leaving them out of the demo, since it's clear that the band's lyrics are important, even essential in their expression. The visual side is more than bare otherwise, too, so maybe the band was going for a "let the music speak for itself" -type of solution, who knows.
I know it might be a bit shameful and plain cheap for me to resort commenting that the band sounds too Swedish, but facts are facts, and it's clear that Nil's expression still owes quite a bit to their influences despite its otherwise high quality and personal traits. To me, it seemed that some dark and atmospheric parts were imbued in the music simply because they "need" to be there in that form, instead of really unleashing the band's true potential and danger. Whereas the vocals hold unpredictability, the songs and their instrumentation seem to be to pattern-oriented to really create powerful atmospheres and emotions, thus eating some power away from the vocals as well since they don't seem to be in charge of (or even to affect) the music's direction, aside of the few build-ups. The band has skill and a good sense of style, but they are too shy of their ideas - for now, that is. Hopefully their next effort is more commendable in the currently lacking areas as well.