You hear about a heavy band from Norway and you immediately picture snow covered vistas, proud corpse painted warriors in blood stained forests, triumphantly posing in their finest LARP gear. Don’t get us wrong, we LOVE black metal, but we love having our expectations defied even more. Norse newcomers NAG may pay lip service to Castles and Vikings in their lyrics, but their approach is refreshingly down to earth. They WILL crush their enemies and see them driven before them, but it won’t involve any fake blood, prop armor or plastic swords, just their relentlessly crusty, punky, grind laden hardcore attack.
NAG’s noise punk bonafides kick in immediately on opener “Mute” with a thumping kick drum over dissonant speed picking, vocalist Arnfinn Nag blasts in with a delivery similar to Converge leader Jacob Bannon’s breathier, more spoken word-ish variation, while a runaway train storms past behind him that sounds like if Trap Them and Nails had a very pissed off baby.
Your typical dissonant d-beat worship is always a good time but NAG think outside the box with eyebrow raising additions like the Holy Diver-esque riff and Napalm Death style chants on “Soon” and tongue in cheek appropriations of metal clichés on the aforementioned “The Last Viking” and “Back To The Castle”, but also know when it’s time to just go in for the fucking kill, as on motor mouthed tirade “Master”.
The band’s clever subjugation of well-worn hardcore tropes keep not only heads banging and fists pumping throughout the LP’s 13 track run time, but the sarcastic, sociopolitical ramifications of the subject matter call to mind the very spirit of punk at its relevant best, without overwhelmingly, preaching-ly pushing any one agenda. Again, shades of Napalm Death. As heavy genre demarcation becomes more and more of a thing of the past, not just among members of formerly disparate scenes but in the very imaginations of the musicians themselves, we can expect more bands like NAG to come forward and exemplify the very best of what aggressive music, both as a primal release and a cognizant rallying cry, has to offer. Punk, metal, hardcore, crust, grind, call it whatever you need too, all I need to call it is fucking fun, and I can’t wait to hear more of it.