Nightfall // Astron Black and the Thirty Tyrants
Rating: 4.0/5.0 —Like the house band at an asylum; it gets strange.
Label: Metal Blade
Websites: nightfallstar.com | myspace.com/nightfallgr
Release Dates: Out Now Worldwide! (August, 31st)
Now here’s a bird of a different color and what an odd duck it is! Astron Black and the Thirty Tyrants (a grand title) is the eighth platter from long running Greek black/death/doom/gothic/kitchensink act Nightfall. Along with their better known contemporaries Rotting Christ and Septic Flesh, these Spartans have evolved, devolved and transmogrified into different animals over their long existence and their current incarnation is very interesting indeed. Although they defy easy categorization, the focus lies somewhere between black and gothic metal but with traces of everything else tossed in with reckless abandon. The end product is at times confusing, pretty damn cool and not really like anything else out there right now.
After a short, tension building intro, the title track roars out and introduces you to the weird world of Nightfall. It’s a world where clean, chanting and blackened death vocals merge with guitars that veer wildly from black metal tremolo picking to epic doom riffery, old In Flames virtuosity and stadium rock showboating. As all this is unspooling you get keyboards alternating from symphonic to space age and touching everything in between. Now toss in a strong emphasis on melody and coat it all with a slick goth-metal sheen and you have one crazy and bumpy ride! The tracks that follow are all equally diverse and chaotic but somehow, it all hangs together and works. At various moments on Astron Black I was reminded of Moonspell’s Wolfheart opus (especially the vocals of Efthimis Karadimas) and Rotting Christ’s A Dead Poem era, but this is much more unhinged and all over the place. Likewise, the discerning ear may find traces of Darkseed, Cemetary and old Amorphis, but only for fleeting moments, as Nightfall lurches off in another direction or three.
Despite the chaotic style, each song on Astron Black fits with the others and everything has a strange but impressive cohesion. What is even more surprising is how immediate a lot of this material is. Songs like “Ambassador of Mass,” “The Criterion” and “Aesbeia” suck you right in and rattle around in your head before you realize it. There are many memorable riffs and catchy vocal patterns across the album and with repeated spins, many more interesting details reveal themselves.
Some moments very worth investigating include the strange dichotomy between black metal riffing and spacey keyboards on the title track, the simple but cool-as-hell chorus on “Ambassador of Mass,” the well done gothic vocals on “The Criterion” and the nifty guitar work exhibited throughout “Proxima Centawri.”
Nightfall has managed to craft a unique, compelling and ultimately quite rewarding musical voyage that shouldn’t make as much sense as it does. Although at times it sounds like the musical duct tape holding it all together will surely give way, it never does. Now, some people at Angry Metal Guy Worldwide spend a lot of time extolling the virtues of originality and the evils of retro/nostalgia. Well, here is one of the rare, original bands that is doing their own thing and letting the chips fall where they may. That should be respected, especially when the result is as cool as this. Brace yourself for some musical turbulence and come meet Astron Black and his thirty friends.