I’ve watched the US black metal underground always with skeptical eyes, maybe because I am just too stubborn for not seceding from my fascination of the Scandinavian and European BM scene, I don’t know. Of course there are bands I really respect musically and artistically: Krieg, Leviathan, Judas Iscariot, Cobalt, Kommandant, Averse Sefira, etc., to name a few. Also,the subject of my review belongs here: Nightbringer, but for the rest – I don’t care that much. Nightbringer hails from Colorado and plays a special blend of black metal music, „Apocalypse Sun (2010)” is the second and „Hierophany of the Open Grave (2011)” is the third full-length of their work.
Belonging to Finnish label Blood Music, now these two magnificent albums were re-released extremely limited on vinyl in 2013 – now totally sold out – but if you acted fast you could add both of them to your collection.
„Apocalypse Sun” opens with a signifying guitar theme and after 1.30 minute mark, the album begins to reveal its devilish face in a storming, ravaging motion. The dominant speed factor is mainly focused on a high level: the excellent, tight drum work is like a flowing dark matter, fits perfectly together with the wicked themes of guitar-player and vocalist Naas Alcameth. His skillful guitar-work has an eerie touch; you can feel that „something is lurking hidden”, the high pitch notes are swirling in sublimity, like an invocation of the very Self. The viperish tounge of vocal shrieks reminds me to Ihsahn of Emperor from the old era. Nightbringer’s approach is quite similar to Emperor’s; except that they don’t use any of the keyboards. All these stylish soundscapes are coming from the teamwork of the stringed instruments and percussion, which show us great song-writing potential. Massive aural paintings. The whole sound of „Apocalypse Sun” is dense and impressive, it almost has an organic feel. Ten occult hymns of majestic and well-thought black metal. A powerful monolith.
Some might say that the third record is the watershed in a band’s life and I say, Nightbringer’ s „Hierophany of the Open Grave” succeeded in its goal. Menacing and chaotic are the first two words appearing in my mind while listening to this album, which is a dark, terrifying world to dive and submerge into. I clearly hear a lot of progression, too. The vocal structures vary from high cathartic screams to a low-toned singing, it’s like a huge storm of destruction coming while you watch it from a distance.
The song-writing is musically more complex than on previous releases and more „colourfuly” created, especially the guitar sound. It’s outstanding. Absolutely sinister in all aspects, sometimes these guitar-themes have a strange dissonant vibe, which reminds me to Deathspell Omega’s trademark riffs, but no need to worry, Nightbringer has and is a different personality. In contrast to their previous stuff, „Hierophany of the Open Grave” has much more slower parts and hypnotic elements embedded in its body and also has nice layers of ambience hidden in it. The Devil is in the details and they know that. The ambient compositions or piano pieces are as well written as the music. (Just a little reminder: Nightbringer members have an obscure, dark ambient project named Temple Of Not, a really promising act, only two releases; an album and a split with Nightbringer, which shows an unknown face of the band. Highly recommended.)
The drum sound on „Hierophany of the Open Grave” is a bit low and mixed into background while the stringed instruments together with the demonic vocals lay in the forefront. Not that annoying at all, it’s just my observation. The whole production is a work of art and craftsmanship, from the first minute to the last. The final track „Old Night” is a decent ending of the album, the closing piano/guitar theme together with the distracted vocals are chilling to the bone.
All in all, this is a great continuation of „Apocalypse Sun” (which I find stronger in some aspects) and as the third full length in Nightbringer’s discography, will not disappoint the listeners. „Hierophany of the Open Grave” is a haunted, yet glorious release.
LUPUS CANIS – MMXV