Noxagt's 2003 debut, Turning It Down Since 2001, was such a kinetic orgy of shrieking noise that it's difficult to imagine what turning it up could possibly entail: Their restraint is another band's 11. But this instrumental combo seems to enjoy confounding people's expectations: Their saturated timbres and pummeling rhythms get them labeled as avant-metal (the band's first two albums were produced by Billy Anderson, knob-tweaker for High on Fire, Sleep, and Neurosis), but they've got one foot in noise-rock as well (they're signed to Load Records, home of sometime touring mates Lightning Bolt; Noxagt last came to town for 2003's Freedom From fest.)
At first I didn't even realize they were guitarless: Nils Erga's viola doesn't sound much like any earthly object, let alone a musical instrument. Erga left the band before their recent self-titled album, replaced by the Caspar Brotzmann-esque baritone guitarist Anders Hana (veteran of Jaga Jazzist and the Scandinavian "nu-jazz" scene.) Drummer Kjetil Brandsdal and bassist Jan Christian Lauritzen roll with the Norwegian improv scene as well, which probably helped ensure that the change toward a more conventional rock setup didn't result in the acquiring of any Uriah Heep tendencies. Their jazz/improv roots drive the John Zorn/Sonny Sharrock feel of "Wall's End" (which has a great bass sound, like someone pounding the steel tethers of a suspension bridge with a piledriver), and they pull off some math-moves on the Motörhead-like "Coefficient Ascender" without chalkboard-whiz self-consciousness. "The Impious One," the 12-minute closer, is a real cognitive feat: a lurching, asymmetrical seizure dance that's also completely hypnotic.
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