One of the last releases of 2018, two-piece metal/classical crossover NUVO from Valmiera, in the Vidzeme region of Latvia unleash their debut album with an atmospheric instrumental intro that builds up well for the sound of the album to come. Fans of metal around the Baltic Sea will know that the growing metal scene in Latvia is not one to be taken lightly, and NUVO seem set to continue this trend as the title track (translated: “Time is in the Blood”) quickly gets underway with some intriguing rhythmic changes and skilful playing by Andris Klāvs (bass) and Jānis Osis (drums).
An entirely instrumental album, it would be useful to have more sleeve notes included with the Bandcamp release, as there is little information to go on for the songs themselves. In particular, the third track “Zobeniem šķindot” is translated as “The jingle of swords” in the English release, when “clash” might have been a more appropriate word to use and it’s unclear if this is deliberate. In terms of the rest of the packaging though: the cover makes for a scenic, if dark, piece of imagery that fits the music well.
As we reach the midway point, the album is clearly one that is designed to be hard-hitting, and surely one that must be great fun to witness played live. Despite the complex rhythms at some points, it gives the listener an easy job to headbang along to, and these two things together make it an interesting listen. A quieter break midway through 'Viņu Tumsa' (“Their darkness”) also makes for good interlude to prevent things beginning to sound entirely like they will all blend into the same, and the introduction “Pilis Brūk” (“Castles are crumbling”) also continues this trend well – even if, again, more information and a translation for the Latvijan-language monologue may make the album more appreciated by foreign audiences. Kudos to the band for doing the monologue in their native Latvijan though, instead of relying solely on English.
A combination of solely drums and bass may sound odd to some metal fans at first when the rest of the typical band lineup is excluded, but it’s one that NUVO consistently make work throughout the 30-minute listen, even when there are other instruments audible at times. The playing throughout is solid, and though some listeners may be more used to straight-up songs than instrumental pieces, the run-time is short enough for it to not begin to sound too samey. It’s not festival-headlining material by any means, but instead material that should be good enough for a solid night of moshing and headbanging in your favourite small venue if they ever make their way to the UK. In the meantime though, British fans will have to make do with a debut album that is a more-than-worthy effort from the Latvijan two-piece.