Nightfall – At Night We Prey Review

Well look who’s back from the dead! Greek act Nightfall originally came into being around the same time as countrymen Rotting Christ and Septicflesh and played a similar style of blackened death metal. Their sound evolved a great deal over the following years, touching on doom, melodeath, Gothic metal and variations thereof. After a dead period between 2004 and 2010, the band released the oddball Astron Black and the Thirty Tyrants, which I found quirky and entertaining, and 2013’s riff-driven Cassiopeia which I loved. Then they went silent again. Seven years later Nightfall return with a heavily reformed lineup and a new direction. With only vocalist/bassist Efthimis Karadimas left from the Cassiopeia era, this is a new entity, and fueled by content based around Karadimas’ struggles with depression, 10th album At Night We Prey is a heavier, darker affair. It borrows more than a few pages from the Irreligious chapter of the Book of Moonspell, and the mellower moments of both Septicflesh and Rotting Christ, yet the band’s intrinsic strangeness still comes through loud and clear.

After the requisite moody intro, “Killing Moon” showcases a heavier take on the band’s death/black/doom/Goth fusion, sometimes approaching levels of fury reminiscent of prime Kreator with a bombast similar to Septicflesh. Blastbeats, thrashing riffs and heavier-than-usual death vocals make for a surprising and forceful salutation from the long-absent band. “Darkness Forever” keeps the heaviness going on a straight up death metal chestnut that sounds a lot like Vader. Of course the band is too weird to stay in that modality long so the song morphs from piledriving death thrash into Middle Eastern-themed epic doom. Hey, it works, so who’s complaining? From there the album gets weirder and more diverse. “Witches” runs from blackened death metal into segments that would fit seamlessly on Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. “Giants of Anger” is a mid-paced grinder with eerie female vocals and a vague Dark Tranquillity influence in the riffs while the overall mood reminds me of Samael’s almighty Ceremony of Opposites. See a pattern developing here? Me either.

Nightfall keeps switching things up just enough from song to song to keep you guessing. I hear Tiamat and Insomnium in some songs, Moonspell and Septicflesh in others, but the formula, or non-formula works for them. I love the simplistic but hooky riffing on the weirdly anthemic “Temenos,” and “Martyrs of the Cult of the Dead (Agita)” uses vintage White Zombie aesthetics to create a tune nearly catchy enough to warrant radio play. There aren’t any bad songs, though things do tail off slightly towards the end quality-wise. What impresses me most is that the band took 7 years off, changed their approach, completely overhauled the lineup and still delivered an entertaining experience close enough to Cassiopeia to recognize them, but distinct enough to feel fresh and vital. The songwriting requires special attention, often taking basic song structures and imbuing them with an aura of mystery, mysticism and grandeur. At 46 minutes, the album is easy to enjoy in one go and manages to feel cohesive despite the disparate influences.

Efthimis Karadimas’ vocals are a comforting focal point. His death growls are similar to Septicflesh’s Spiros Antoniou, and he manages to bend and twist his delivery to fit the odd moods the songs meander through. Guitarist Michalis Galiatsos returns to the band after a 17 year absence and along with Kostas Kyriakopoulos lays down a fairly impressive collection of riffs and melodies, weaving a lot of different sound tapestries as the band goes off on musical side quests. While many of the riffs are fairly simplistic in nature, they possess a strange hypnotic quality that keeps you listening. Fotis Benardo of Septicflesh comes over to join the fun and does a solid job on the kit, injecting a good deal of urgency and aggression into the back line.

Surprise, surprise, Nightfall’s latest is weird as hell but entertaining. It feels like an album torn from the 1990s yet somehow manages to feel modern at the same time. It gets better with every spin and much like Cassiopeia, there’s something addicting about it that’s hard to describe or shake. Strange stuff, good stuff, night stuff. Let us prey.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Releases Worldwide: March 5th, 2021

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