Album Review – Maahlas / Nightmare Years (2014)

A grim mix of Black, Death and Progressive Metal, tailored for people who enjoy complex and intense music.


MAAHLAS - Nightmare Years cover artWhen you tell someone there’s a band that plays Progressive Melodic Death Black Metal, you’ll probably have to spend a lot of time explaining exactly what you mean by putting together so many different subgenres of heavy music, unless of course you’re talking to a fan of Gojira, Death, Meshuggah, Dimmu Borgir and many other “complex” dark bands. That’s how Norwegian band Maahlas can be categorized based on their debut release, the heavy and eccentric concept album Nightmare Years.

Formed in 2013 in the beautiful city of Oslo, Norway by multi-instrumentalist Cuneyt Caglayan, also known as Cuno, Mahhlas seem to be one of those bands that enjoy surfing through different music styles (most of the time during the same song), relying heavily on their refined techniques to create a unique atmosphere and conduct the storyline behind Nightmare Years without being boring or arrogant. Quite the contrary, the way the band is capable of telling a story changing from smoother progressive music to violent Black Metal is really outstanding and one of the biggest strengths of this album.

And what a violent way to start with the very atmospheric and dark Sun of the Summerian, a Symphonic Black Metal tune similar to what’s played by bands such as Dimmu Borgir, but with more hardcore vocals and a very interesting progressive part right before reigniting the sonic massacre. Besides, despite being only a session musician working for Maahlas, drummer Łukasz Krzesiewicz is a fuckin’ beast and delivers an incredible performance with his set. A False World, a more obscure track with great vocals by Levent Ultanur, progressive synths and philosophical lyrics (“Doubt in your eyes, in your stances and your reasoning. / Weak in your seminal thoughts primed to misuse trust.”), and Morning Light, more progressive and melodic than the previous tracks, remind me of the Blackened Death Metal currently played by Behemoth plus all the progressiveness from Dream Theater; while An Ancestral Memory focus on dark Black Metal riffs, synths and drums to provide it a very symphonic atmosphere. Moreover, those guys truly enjoy adding some interesting breaks to the rhythm to freshen up their music, as you’ll notice not only in this song but in the entire album.

maahlasThen we have the excellent At the Edge of Life: this is dark progressive music at its finest, and although slower than most of the other songs, it’s a lot heavier thanks to some awesome guitar lines. After the acoustic eerie track Gliese 667 / Æra, Maahlas offer us the title-track Nightmare Years, which summarizes everything the band is, with vocals getting a little bit more demonic and huge doses of contemporary Black Metal, and The Great Divide, where Łukasz smashes his drums while Cuno delivers some great guitar riffs.  I remember a few songs named “The Great Divide” that were all ballads and I was even ready for a smooth track, but this is not the case here, as the band once again promotes an infernal music feast.

The last part of Nightmare Years does not disappoint at all, maintaining the excellent level of the whole album: Birth of Sentience is another brutal assault focused on modern Black Metal, with its last part being more direct and traditional; while Of Hypocrisy, Hate and Fall, the longest track of all, starts with a beautiful intro before turning into a dark music extravaganza, with highlights to its very interesting lyrics (“Prowling agony, blinding day. I meditate yet have a terror attack. / I see Gliese, God! So alike. / I’m alone to act, a straw man, I’ve got to let go. / I´m controlled by time.”). It’s perhaps the most progressive of all tracks, with lots of elements from bands such as Tool and Insomnium, and if you’re a drummer I suggest you watch the drum tracking for this song. And finally, Simulacrum of Reality, another technical and detailed track, closes the album in a very complex and obscure way.

The album art by Turkish / German artist Aybars Altay, representing at once the fall of Home Sapiens and the evolution of the Homo Sentient, is a great complement to this mysterious music journey, which you can purchase on iTunes and many other locations. If you’re a fan of grim music with a strong technical and meaningful background, simply embrace Nightmare Years. You will love it.

Best moments of the album: Sun of the Summerian, At the Edge of Life and Nightmare Years.

Worst moments of the album: Morning Light and Birth of Sentience.

Released in 2014 Independent

Track listing
1. Sun of the Summerian 4:31
2. A False World 5:10
3. Morning Light 4:11
4. An Ancestral Memory 5:01
5. At the Edge of Life 4:30
6. Gliese 667 / Æra 1:44
7. Nightmare Years 4:03
8. The Great Divide 3:41
9. Birth of Sentience 4:39
10. Of Hypocrisy, Hate and Fall 7:08
11. Simulacrum of Reality 4:23

Band members*
Levent Ultanur – story, lyrics and vocals
Cuneyt Caglayan – music, guitars, bass, synth and all production
Robin Berg Pettersen – guitar
Christian Svendsen – drums

Guest musicians
Łukasz Krzesiewicz – drums (session musician)
Atle Johansen – vocals on “An Ancestral Memory”