The Nocturnes – Aokigahara Album Review

In Japan, Aokigahara is a forest at the base of Mount Fuji. Both a tourist destination of natural bounty and one of the top suicide sites in the world, it is simultaneously so lush it has been nicknamed Sea Of Trees and so mythologically curious that it has become associated with demonic presences. Exemplifying the region’s conflicting connotations is The Nocturne’s latest album. Aokigahara stirs up feelings from vague spaces — akin, perhaps, to what the morbidly curious feel when stumbling unexpectedly upon death. In circumstances when one can gain enough distance to view decay in its true artistic form, one can find in death the same sense of elation one finds in anything strange and novel.

With a singular reverbed inhalation from vocalist Emma Ruth Rundle, Aokigahara oozes dreamily into existence. It follows with the haunting line, “Life steals up my breath” — but contrary to instinct, the mortality captured by these lyrics is not sad. Sonically speaking, it might even be construed as hopeful. With ethereal textures framing the aery vocals, blacks and whites blur into hues of grey, evading definite emotions, like manifestations of dark dreams while one lies in the radiance of morning light.

Listen to “The Road”DOWNLOAD MP3

Listen to “Love”DOWNLOAD MP3

As expected from a band that includes two members from post-rock veterans Red Sparowes, The Nocturnes’ instrumentation is well-seasoned and dynamic. What makes their sound truly mesmerizing, though, is its inclusion of folk and shoegaze influences and the interweaving vocals of Rundle, guitarist Paris Patt, and guitarist Julian Rifkin. These components crystallize perfectly, particularly in the album’s first half, and are exemplified by the album’s strongest track, “The Road.” Despite ebbing and flowing from affirmations to negations and back, “The Road” maintains a wondrous sense of balance. Rundle and Patt seem to embody mournful ghosts reaching out to one another in the afterlife, the arrangements and melodies contributing a monastic quality of timelessness and eternal knowledge.

Aokigahara is a record focused on death and malaise, but it is also a comforting companion. By taking into account the bigger picture, The Nocturnes seem to perceive difficult themes from a vantage point outside of themselves, from a space that accepts and understands all.

Written by
Vee Hua 華婷婷

Vee Hua 華婷婷 (they/them) is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer with semi-nomadic tendencies. Much of their work unifies their metaphysical interests with their belief that art can positively transform the self and society. They are the Editor-in-Chief of REDEFINE, Interim Managing Editor of South Seattle Emerald, and Co-Chair of the Seattle Arts Commission. They also previously served as the Executive Director of the interdisciplinary community hub, Northwest Film Forum, where they played a key role in making the space more welcoming and accessible for diverse audiences.

Vee has two narrative short films. Searching Skies (2017) touches on Syrian refugee resettlement in the United States; with it, they helped co-organize The Seventh Art Stand, a national film and civil rights discussion series against Islamophobia. Reckless Spirits (2022) is a metaphysical, multi-lingual POC buddy comedy for a bleak new era, in anticipation of a feature-length project.

Vee is passionate about cultural space, the environment, and finding ways to covertly and overtly disrupt oppressive structures. They also regularly share observational human stories through their storytelling newsletter, RAMBLIN’ WITH VEE!, and are pursuing a Master’s in Tribal Resource and Environmental Stewardship under the Native American Studies Department at the University of Minnesota.

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[…] like a comforting, all-knowing, sympathetic companion. One of my favorites of the year. VIVIAN THE NOCTURNES – AOKIGAHARA ALBUM REVIEW DOWNLOAD […]

11 years ago

Nocturn (no-c-turn) no, never- c, re – turn, turn
To never return, a belief that comes to fruition of their own will. Their spirit is placed in a void, a complete blackness of black, where a desire of the tiniest light never found. Quite, is not even heard, a silence you call feel as the blackness that even you know even voids you. No screams can be heard, just a knowing that you will NEVER come back to ANYTHING.

Written by Vee Hua 華婷婷
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