A closed system that’d loop unpredictably until quietly homogeneous in atmosphere yet requires a reconcilable byproduct of its forge to persist as phenomena. Heated and bent by machined violence, thickening the air with steam and smoke from scorched implements and smothered fires, lies a thousand castaway scraps that cannot be ignored for the sake of systemic integrity. Famously, cold can be introduced in an effort to shatter into a thousand forgivable pieces a new medium to hone, plate, or even imbibe. Without a new catalytic driver, in this case a creative hand, any closed circuit of thermodynamic craft amounts to a suffocation of brown and grey neutrality; The natural order of apathy only appears as this wretched whitening of shit into dust when all hands are off and only the most opportunistic enzymatic presence persists. How adaptable ones solutions for life are when tested under duress surely links directly, in this closed system, to the array of their experiences; A mass of interests and experience might appear fickle to the rat-racing, inflexible specialist but sustainable survival will always stem from enrichment rather than opportunism. There I’d posit the strength of these myriad forms forged in the hands of Portland, Oregon blackened death/doom metal duo Nightfell who’d persist with this third gift of amorphous sustenance, the impassioned ‘A Sanity Deranged’.
If you’ve been more adventurous than the norm even just within heavy music these last twenty or thirty years with any sense of taste I’d say you’ll be able to pick up on the naked enthusiasm for several specific bands, sounds, and styles within the general doom-paced beatings of Nightfell. It’d make great sense to initially consider the metallic crust punk artist going ‘metal’ if only by way of Todd Burdette‘s (Tragedy, Severed Head of State, ex-Deathreat) easily recognized and influential guitar work; Yet it’d be too quick a judgement to place Nightfell next to bands like Agrimonia or Morne because contributions from Tim Call (Aldebaran, Sempiternal Dusk, Mournful Congregation) absolutely steer the pace and power of each release towards the intended extreme doom metal arena with an emphasis on the more atmospheric forms of traditional death metal. You should expect to hear ‘…For Vitory’ era Bolt Thrower riffs, the moodiness of Dusk (or Ceremonium), and a fair dose of mid-to-slow paced black metal guitar riffs that begin to characterize Nightfell‘s sound more with each release. The mind-wringing opener “No Life Leaves Here” serves to showcase all of these traits while additionally serving as introduction to a certain viking-era Bathory-esque trait towards the end of the song. As an opener it is a thrilling incorporation of ideas that avoids alienating any ingrained death/doom metal expectations.
What has changed since the release of ‘Darkness Evermore’ (2015)? In terms of sound design the move to Earhammer Studios finds a hairier mid-range and a generally crispier guitar tone adding to the thickening atmospheric progression of Nightfell‘s three album run so far. The fat has been cut by about five minutes since that prior record, which I’d say is still fairly underrated, making for more succinct songs that average about six or seven minutes instead of nine or ten. The deeper threads of early Paradise Lost influenced death/doom (and a hint of Amebix‘ ‘Sonic Mass’, even) are pronounced and perhaps even more restless than prior, making for more varied songwriting that often feels on its own wavelength, spaced-out but serious as all hell about whatever cosmic dread they’re feeling. There are several lead guitar moments on ‘A Sanity Deranged’ that link together ideas from Martyrdöd (well, Tragedy eh) and mid-90’s Bolt Thrower in such a way that develop into a ‘voice’ that carries through the record characterizing the album beyond earlier efforts. ‘A Sanity Deranged’ surely won’t appear catchy upon introduction yet each successive listen will reveal details that are distinctly Nightfell‘s own.
A feeling of grandeur, a raw sonic majesty almost supersedes the agony of ‘A Sanity Deranged’ to the point that it does begin to toss-and-turn between the thresholds of pain and pleasure unto one great surrealistic aching. The most imposing piece of the lot, “(As Now) We Must Succumb”, calls upon tank-like riff and mournful leads alike in representation of this ecstatic darkness. I’d venture a guess that this’ll become an acquired taste for many as the grand pulse of mid-paced death metal crosses in and out of blackened crust leads within an atmospheric fog fit for haunted cathedrals or. The Nightfell listening experience is relatively new to me, having discovered their second album about two years ago after misspelling “Nightfall” in a search for Greek black metal and it’d turn out to be exactly my kind of extreme (by not too extreme) doom metal gig that never blows too hard into one direction when it comes to the sub-genres dabbled within. ‘A Sanity Deranged’ is a refinement, a tuning of creative strengths, and a more succinctly captured iteration of the remarkable vision shared by the duo. It comes highly recommended. For preview purposes I’d suggest “The Swallowing of Flies” is probably the best piece to set the tone for the full album but the lifer death-doomed will inhale “(As Now) We Must Succumb” as if they’d been submerged for hours.
Hanging in death’s suspension. 4.25/5.0
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