Written By: Hell³
One release that got badly overlooked in 2014 was the debut of Portland’s Nightfell. Buried below the avalanche of notable productions that got out after its release on early February, few dug it out at the end of the year to give it a place on their lists. As a brooding piece of lightly D-beat infused Doom/Death, it’s a cunning mix of the lengthy musical background of both members. Back after little more than a year, they switched labels going from Southern Lord to 20 Buck Spin and just unloaded another crushing shipping container filled with engaging riffs and melodies named Darkness Evermore.
The drum kit is the domain of Tim Call, who has been part of notable Profound Lore bands Aldebaran and The Howling Wind, among others. With the former being a funeral doom staple, and the latter deeply entrenched into black metal chasms, his work would hardly ever be classified as one-dimensional or flat. Tom Burdette, responsible for the guitar and bass on Nightfell, has equally impressive credentials. He’s known for hardcore acts Tragedy, Warcry, and the short-lived but highly influential crust band His Hero is Gone. By now you’re probably rolling your eyes at the thought of yet another obscure sludge band wasting the time you’d better use replaying Repentless. But to pigeonhole this band is a huge mistake.
Now, track-by-track reviews are highly frowned upon here, but with only six songs constituting 42 minutes of music, with four of those minutes being a couple of interludes, it’s hard not to rave about the four remaining songs and their remarkable quality. Opener “At last” throws a bit of a curveball making the listener think they may be headed into lead-lined doom territory, building over a mournful guitar melody backed by cello, reminiscent of Pallbearer’s output. But then the throaty growl of Burdette and meaty guitar tone show lush progressive death riffing in a late-Morbus Chron style. The protracted song lengths may cause some apprehension, but the rhythmic and melodic structures are constantly shaken up by Call and Burdette. You get Mayhem-like tremulous guitars and galloping beats mixed around the solid riffing and engaging hooks that also have a strong melo-death feel on the fantastic “Cleansing.” Call doesn’t pull punches and mingles D-beats with blast-beats on “Rebirth,” while Burdette breaks it in half with an atmospheric build-up so dense it could make any Cascadian band from their native Portland blush. Closer “Collapse” provides another twist to the formula by having a Celtic, Primordial tint, with martial beat included, once again showcasing the duo’s great songwriting abilities.
There are very few nitpicks with Darkness Evermore. One would be the length. I support the idea of leaving the listener wanting for more, but without the interludes this release is barely above EP length. If the interludes were developed into proper songs it would be way more satisfying. Still, the overall record manages to set up an arching plot that can be inferred by looking at the track titles, without ever falling into concept album trappings. The second nitpick would be the production. It’s a clear step above their debut with the mix more balanced and punchy, but it’s still mastered a bit loud. That said, it’s still quite enjoyable and not very fatiguing, ensuring a lot of replay value. It definitely makes one hope the upcoming vinyl release features a more dynamic mastering.
Even if you’re not familiar with Nightfell’s previous work or the duo’s other projects, Darkness Evermore is more than enough to send you scrambling for more music from this gruesome twosome. This is one of the more notable blackened death/doom releases of the year, as narrow as that scope may be, and I encourage you to check out last year’s The Living Ever Mourn if you haven’t already.