When I first got this promo, proclaiming Nuclear Winter as the second-ever metal band to hail from Zimbabwe, I got excited and wanted to dig into the history of metal in Africa since it’s such an underrepresented continent with this style of music. I love delving into more obscure regional scenes since metal is so wholly dominated by North America and Western/Northern Europe, with small pockets here and there like Brazil and Japan making up the lion’s share of metal bands across the globe. But then I looked into Nuclear Winter itself and realized it’s a one-man project of some honky named Gary. So really, all I did was reaffirm my suspicion that metal is the absolute whitest genre of music in existence.
So, geographic novelty aside, what does Nuclear Winter bring to the table? Well, not much, honestly. Night Shift reminds me of what I recall Mechina sounding like, that being vaguely djenty melodeath with an automatic “industrial” tag perpetually attached despite sounding nothing like Throbbing Gristle. Really, industrial is the wrong word for this kind of music; a more accurate descriptor would be “mechanical.” That’s not to say it’s entirely soulless or anything, but it does sound computerized in a way. The percussion, in particular, feels inhuman despite playing patterns that are perfectly capable of being recreated by human hands and feet. The steely guitar tone and cybernetic drumming lead the music deep into the uncanny valley, where the music sounds like it was written by humans but not necessarily performed by them. With drums that sound like skipping gears and riffs that were written by an algorithm fed hundreds of Arch Enemy songs, Night Shift lacks a human element, and as a result, most of these songs hold no emotional weight whatsoever.
There are bright spots here and there. “The Western Gate” rides on a very speedy groove that calls to mind the rhythm tracks beneath a Jeff Loomis song (though obviously without his skilled shredding atop it), and I like the aggressive hooks of “Fragments of Grandeur,” but the whole album is pretty samey. If you’ve heard one track, you’ve heard all of them. Each and every track besides “Years Lent” falls within a twenty-second window around four minutes long. Each one is some form of groovy melodeath without the signature Iron Maiden melodies so integral to the style. Each one has sputtering machine-gun double bass. Each one has tradeoff vocals between a harsh style that sounds like At the Gates and a clean style that sounds like every mid aughties metalcore band, et cetera. And it all coalesces into this faceless mass of sound that struggles mightily to get its claws in the listener. There really isn’t anything else to say about Nuclear Winter, so I’ll just cut it off here. Sorry Gary, this is just a very “medium” album, considering it’s neither rare nor well done.
Night Shift was released independently on October 30th, 2019, and can be picked up on Nuclear Winter’s Bandcamp.