In 2017, I can safely say that I’ve had my fill of black metal. I mean, you can only rehash icy cold Norwegian riffs or French angular awkward atonality so many times before it becomes old hat. And in North America, things are a bit different. When you mention American black metal to anyone, you’ll either get Agallochian followers of differing quality, or guys who write manifestos and tell you what is or isn’t true black metal while doing bad Bone Thugs-n-Harmony impressions. But Nightbringer? They’re a bit different. While their fellow country mates are pushing the black metal boundaries by barely being black metal, these Colorodoans don’t stray too far from the left hand path, carving a niche for themselves with their ferocious riffing and atonal string-skipping acrobatics. And on their fifth full-length, Terra Damnata, they don’t let off the gas one bit.

That seething viciousness makes itself known once opener “As Wolves Among Ruins” blasts forth from my headset. For those uninitiated with Nightbringer, picture the sharp, angular weirdness of Deathspell Omega mixed with the grandiosity of Emperor. But instead of that mixture being a classically-inspired homage to the Horned One, Nightbringer instead use the riffing and melodies to instill a sense of esoteric chaos and uncertainty. Guitarists Naas Alcameth, VJS, and Ophis create these cascading melodies that lean towards the soundtrack of a dungeon in a classic NES game possessed by Satan than your typical black metal trappings. And yet, it all works. Combine that with absolutely frenetic drumming by Menthor, and alternating screams by Alcameth, Ophis, and fellow vocalist ar-Ra’d al-Iblis, and you have the makings of something truly bizarre and yet attention-holding.

This intensity and weirdness holds up well during Terra Damnata‘s first half. “Misrule” sounds both majestic and chaotic, with its icy tremolo melody soaring above Menthor’s driving blastbeats. “Of the Key and Crossed Bones” slows the tempo down a hair, building an eerie atmosphere with well-crafted keyboard melodies and foreboding basslines. Yes, audible bass in black metal! But the biggest highlight of the album belongs to “Let Silence Be His Sacred Name.” Beginning with a piano melody that screams Paradise Lost post-metal-revival, it rips heads just seconds later with some of the most vicious riffing the band has penned to date. Then, it slows down to a doom-ish crawl peppered with those fast-picked melodies that draw you in before returning to blast mode, sucking you into an awesome atmospheric vortex of cacophonous beauty.


The production on Terra Damnata commendably remains largely listenable, despite the chaos on display. While the bass doesn’t stand out, the simple fact that it’s even audible in the first place is nothing short of amazing. The guitars, especially when going for tremolo, take the stage with authority. Even then, though, the riffing and the layers upon layers of tremolo melodies don’t smother the drums or vocals. The album does suffer a bit towards the second half, as a feeling of deja-vu begins to settle, with the exception of both “Let Silence Be His Sacred Name” and instrumental “The Lamp of Inverse Light,” which stand out due to the differences in both tempo and the delivery methods of the atmospheres contained within them.

Yet, despite the familiarity, I keep coming back to Terra Damnata for my fix of primal, atmospheric black metal. I don’t know if this will make my year-end list or not, but it did reinvigorate my waning love of the genre. It also prompted me to check out more of their back catalog to see what I’ve been missing over the last decade. Black metal needs more head-fuckery. Black metal needs more bands like Nightbringer.

 


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: nightbringer.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/NightbringerOfficial
Releases Worldwide: April 14th, 2017

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  • Jeff Manteiga

    Don’t know what it is about this band, but I can’t latch on to anything I’m hearing. Couldn’t get into their last album either. All seems a bit formless, without anything to really sink the ol’ incisors into. Can’t remember anything I just heard over the last 6 minutes.

    • rumour_control

      Agreed. Lack of cohesion to their congealed chaos.

      • basenjibrian

        But to me you could say that about many, if not most, avant garde black metal projects? Even DSO. Nightbringer succeeds because the atmosphere pulls it together. Plus the sense that one is participating in some kind of weird and unpleasant ritual. Which may intrigue you or may not. :)

        • rumour_control

          Definitely intrigues me. Point well-taken. I enjoy DSO’s version of atmosphere just a tad more. Perhaps, I am too weird and unpleasant, eh?

          • Too trve, perhaps :) Nightbringer is a fair share more gentle than Deathspell Omega.

          • rumour_control

            Indeed. Will full whirl the whole wheel.

          • basenjibrian

            LOL. I do love DSO, don’t get me wrong. And I even read their lyrics.

          • rumour_control

            Me, too. Intense. What else is there on their gatefolds? ;-)

          • basenjibrian

            The album cover for this new one is now my screen saver. At work!
            (I need to order a DSO tee shirt, too. The falling Satan or the crossed bones designs
            Such a fanboy, and I am mild mannered aging geezer government bureaucrat!)

  • Thatguy

    We could all do with a good dose of head-fuckery from time to time. This sounds good and the band photo passes the Thatguy Bandphotometer test – creepy, silly, intriguing. Like the music.

    • Carlos Marrickvillian

      The ones where they’re in a desert wearing capes are betterer.

  • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

    This record is so fucking killer! The guitars sound like razor blades.

    I’m assuming the manifesto/BONE Thugs crack is about Liturgy. I’m not sure what specifically you are referring to, but I can tell you that BONE’s Faces of Death is more metal than anything Liturgy ever coughed up and barfed onto the rug.

    • Jeff Manteiga

      Well said on Liturdgy.

    • Grymm

      I like BTnH. Liturgy, not so much.

      And I was specifically referring to “Vitriol”, which is just bad.

  • Westpaceagle

    I can dig it. Great review! Honestly I was wishing the Inferno brought a little more viciousness or at least riffage to their banquet. Still conflicted over that release. Nightbringer, however, gets a solid fvck yeah

    • I enjoyed the Inferno release, but it was quite soaring and shapeless. Difficult to get a firm grip of.

  • Allow me to copy-paste my own comment from Andy Synn’s review over at NCS. Good thing I didn’t think of copyrighting it.

    The Norwegian originators deserve credit where credit is due, but lets give the devil his due as well. The Hellenic scene, which grew out of the first wave in parallel to the tnbm scene, has ever since cast its own shadow, and I feel that Nightbringer owe more to that branch.

    Also, I really enjoy this album. It’s kind of an evening/early morning album, when you’re a bit absentminded and just allow yourself to drift away. Preferably with a headset. Misrule is not the best song as such.

    • Michael Shover

      I love the drifting. Especially with Akhlys

  • Drew Music

    This is fantastic, I had almost recovered from Kwintessens and was starting to worry I might be getting sane again. Dodged a bullet there.

    • James Ingold

      There’s no recovery from Kwintessens.

      • Drew Music

        I wouldn’t have it any other way. I still can’t stop gushing/bragging to erbody and they mama how I snagged up one of the last black vinyl pressings, there were only 8 left by the time the stars and my wallet alligned and I carpe’d the fuck out of the diem.

  • SegaGenitals

    “…cascading melodies that lean towards the soundtrack of a dungeon in a classic NES game possessed by Satan…” Need! Need!

  • PanzerFistDominatrix

    Imma bout to hit da club rocking all my chains on… now snap that promo pic!

  • Francesco Bordoni

    I was sold at “Guitarists Naas Alcameth, VJS, and Ophis create these cascading melodies that lean towards the soundtrack of a dungeon in a classic NES game possessed by Satan than your typical black metal trappings.”

  • A Feed From Cloud Mountain

    It’s not really for me, but more Americans performing black metal is definitely welcome.

  • Reese Burns

    I’m someone who really can never get enough black metal. I do agree with some of your thoughts on the American scene though. I’m not sure how “black metal” some of the newest USBM bands are. That being said, this album is brilliant. Personally I’d go with a 4.0/5.0, but I’ve not spent as much time with it as you probably have.

    • Drew Music

      I second every word here. USBM is usually tough for me to take seriously as it is, and I don’t particularly love seeing my favorite sub-genre being cloned and beaten to death by my countrymen. This, however, is brilliant, as you said.

  • Tom Swinnen

    Listened to the 3 songs available on Spotify and holy hell, this is some excellent stuff. Made me want to bang my head quite instantly. Been missing that in Black Metal of late.

  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    That album cover makes me weak in the knees.

  • By-tor

    Never heard of these guys prior to this. Embedded track is fucking awesome. Definitely looking forward to the entire release. You almost lost me with USBM and “atmosphere” in the same review though. Very few things deflate a hard on faster than combining those two words.

    • You wot m8?

      Why? A considerable amount of North American-produced black metal is atmosphere focused…

      • By-tor

        I haven’t found any atmospheric BM of much interest, regardless of country of origin, and I could say the same about USBM in general.

  • Daniel Ritson

    In sections of their last record, the lead tone was precisely that found on Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, to the point where it made me giggle. Lest anyone mistake that for criticsm, no – this band rules. This is one of my most anticipated releases of 2017.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    I’m into it.

  • AgonMcDuck

    Damn, there’s also a new Bestia Arcana. Naas Alcameth has been busy.

    Looks like I’ve got a lot of atonal black metal to keep me busy. Hehe.

  • Patrick Bertlein

    This actually sounds more like Limbonic Art than anything else.

  • Michael Shover

    I love this band and Akhlys both. I was hoping they both would draw closer together in a masterful way. They have to me.

  • Elton Chagas

    Well… this is Season of Mist. What else would we expect?