The tentacled brain behind The Key to Nchuandzel has long teased me about the existence of the N’gasta! Kvata! Kvakis! album, withholding me the privilege of being able to listen to it, peer into its essence, become shattered by its gaze… Fortunately, the time of reckoning is here and the Key is unleashed, for all to be enraptured.
In twenty minutes and five tracks, The Key to Nchuandzel bewilders and astonishes incessantly with its improbable but characteristic black metal. Black metal? That’s the idea I had at first, but I’m far from being certain anymore. Grindcore, harsh noise, and experimental jazz all seem equally adequate to describe this creative (mis)adventure. The whole expedition is a fruitful garden of the mind’s wildest, most unforeknowable seeds. The only flaw to which I can point is the quality of the drum’s sound library. With an acoustic drumkit or a better program, this would have been too good to be true. Obviously, I’m not in the secret of the Gods, so there is a possibility that this sound was consciously selected for its mechanical, synthetic attributes. Who knows? Either way, it’s a very small issue for such an amazing album.
Let’s step aside from the music for a little while and try to decipher the uncomely names garnishing the band’s name and titles. First off, “Nchuand-Zel” is a location in The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. The key to Nchuand-Zel can be pickpocketed from the character Aicantar, which dwells in his laboratory near Nchuand-Zel. In my opinion, this is one of the coolest locations in Skyrim, with all the ancient automatons and traps everywhere. While N’gasta! Kvata! Kvakis! contains three tracks containing eight emblems, Skyrim’s Nchuand-Zel contains none. Track 2, “Under Saarthal”, most likely refers to the Nordic tomb of the same name, in the same video game, and ancient capital city of Skyrim. “Under Saarthal” is, in fact, a quest for the Mages’ guild. The other non-emblematic song speaks of “Ruins of Kemel-Ze”, a book present in many Elder Scrolls games, describing with great detail an expedition into Dwarven ruins.
Could N’gasta! Kvata! Kvakis! be called a concept album based on the Elder Scrolls? You bet! The album title itself is a book in the video game series written by a powerful necromancer in a strange script, but, after decryption, it’s only a text fragment speaking of a local (as in real-life local) newspaper. That is a rather surprising development, one which I did not anticipate when I started writing this review.
Oh, I should point out that, with every download of the album, you get episode 1-13 of 1990’s Japanese Moomin anime: “The Last Dragon on Earth”. Is it a clever, obscure hint at the dragon on Skyrim’s logo?
In conclusion now, The Key to Nchuandzel is an outstanding and very peculiar improvisation-based band, the acoustic emanations of which put them near grindcore, noise, experimental jazz, and black metal. The album is free, via the recently-birthed Potentially Kinetic Records (which is already off to a great start), so please go ahead and dive right in!