Nightmarer – Deformity Adrift Review

I didn’t know what to expect with Deformity Adrift. Although I knew it’s rooted in the inherently unfriendly style of dissonant death metal, I wasn’t sure which breed: perhaps the scathing apathy of Mithridatum, the sun-bleached Altars, the occult mumblings of Mitochondrion, or the twisted technicality of Asystole, to name a few. I shrugged and thought, “I’ve seen it all” and pushed play on Nightmarer. What tormented me about the Berlin/Tampa quartet is that, despite my best efforts to describe it with bands of similar ilk, I cannot put words to its latest foray. It rides the line neatly between the haunting devastation of its influences and a tantalizingly listenable quality that defies the need for abstraction. Nightmarer has created a unique dilemma.

I was first introduced to the act with their 2021 EP Monolith of Corrosion, but Eldritch Elitist waxed poetic about Nightmarer’s 2018 debut Cacophony of Terror, praising its “forward-thinking atmospherics” alongside the main attraction: its ability to cave your face in. In this way, Deformity Adrift is approached with the same aesthetic: devastatingly weighty riffs courtesy of ex-War from a Harlots Mouth’s Simon Hawemann and Conquering Dystopia’s guitar wizard Keith Merrow guided by drummer Paul Seidel of The Ocean and WFAHM and punctuated by the vicious roars of ex-Gigan and Success Will Write Apocalypse Across the Sky vocalist John Collett – rounded out by session bassist Brendan Sloan of Altars and Convulsing. It would be tempting to indulge decadently from the honey of this formidable lineup, but Deformity Adrift achieves a stunning balance: a dissonant death metal core with death/doom and almost djenty weight orbited by hints of black metal and an almost industrial aura. More importantly, balancing immediacy with menace, Nightmarer’s deformity soars.

Clocking in at a tasteful thirty-two minutes, with only two tracks surpassing the five-minute mark, Deformity Adrift hits hard and fast, with just enough experimentation to keep attention glued. Don’t expect Nightmarer to take their sweet time in slowly unwinding Ulcerate-esque technicality or Antediluvian’s facade of blackened grime. “Brutalist Imperator” hits hard and fast, and Deformity Adrift never lets up. As was a major perk in their debut, Nightmarer accomplishes stunning album structure, tight as a drum in its inception and slowly descending into more maddening tricks as the runtime progresses. “Brutalist Imperator” and “Baptismal Tomb” hit like an ugly pile of bricks with megaton riffs and dissonant leads, with Sloan’s formidable bass work noodling throughout the latter, while the curiously regal atmosphere of “Taufbefehl” and the suffocating darkness of “Hammer of Desolation” constitute an evolution of the established sound. Merrow in particular injects a distinctly djenty vibe that never dwells in the stereotypical rhythm abuse or skronky melodies – rather, he and Hawemann weaponize it for maximum heft, accomplishing a swampy and monolithic tone.

Colossal weight translates extremely well for the death/doom-focused tracks. While “Throe of Illicit Withdrawal” and “Suffering Beyond Death” are relatively forgettable in light of the riff-centric tracks, their sprawling riffs and more contemplative tempos do an outstanding job of preparing the listener for the absolutely devastating closer “Obliterated Shrine.” While you could argue its prequels tone the energy down, the closer is a vicious tour-de-force of mammoth tones and cutthroat doom riffs with an edge of disturbing dissonance – a singing triumph of deformity. The two interludes of dissonant plucking and ambiance serve a purpose here as well: “Tooms” moves the first movement of three tracks into the second more experimental trilogy, while “Endstadium” is the last light before the devastating darkness of the closer. Yes, there are moments of filler within Deformity Adrift, mainly within the two aforesaid tracks, but Nightmarer does well in giving them purpose with a dynamic track-list, rather than letting the comparative mediocrity stand alone and apart. However, like any good album that balances evocation with riffs, Deformity Adrift offers the calm and the storm throughout, in an atmospheric dissonant death metal album that wields the doom hammer.

Nightmarer has created something truly special with Deformity Adrift. Unforgivingly dissonant but far more immediate than the cloaked figures of its genre-mates, it balances cutthroat riff and bleak atmosphere for a unique death metal album that ought to challenge the echelon of 2023’s already formidable spread. With a palette of devastation that wastes no time in caving your skull in, it takes what made Cacophony of Terror and Monolith of Corrosion so tantalizing and capitalizes upon them. Deformity Adrift soars.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Vendetta Records | Total Dissonance Worship
Websites: |
Releases worldwide: May 5th, 2023

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