[This was supposed to run in Houston Press, but it didn’t. So I’m running it here because it’s a great record.]
Originally released as an obscenely-limited-edition CD-R in 2003 (120 copies were pressed by Belgian label Nothingness), Skin Turns To Glass is one of several early, out-of-print recordings by Montreal ambient-doom duo Nadja that has been re-recorded and reissued over the past couple of years. With so many metal-leaning doom and drone artists exploring the power of heavy simplicity, Nadja nonetheless stands out as an exceptional act. With shimmering keyboard washes glinting off the crashing low-end churn, the mood that Nadja evokes is much less that of an emotional holocaust than it is a transcendent majesty. The three main tracks on Skin are relentlessly heavy, gelatinously revealing their structural complexities over the course of 50 continuous minutes. (An untitled bonus track clocks in at nearly a half-hour, and is mostly unrelated sonically to the rest of the disc.) Vocals are buried in a curious way that splits the difference between black metal and shoegazing, leaving the cyclical, low-octave bass-and-guitar dirge to slowly – very slowly – drive the proceedings. As usual, Nadja proves that it’s possible for doom-metal to be beautiful and effective without losing any of its gut-wrenching power.