Nite – Voices of the Kronian Moon Review

There’s something about blackened vocals over trad stylings that just feels right. Whether it’s Midnight, Demiser, or Bewitcher, the juxtaposition of filthy vocals and NWoBHM leads never fails to shake me out of my stupor in the skull pit.  So I was thrilled when our great ape overlord bestowed this formerly nameless n00b with Nite’s sophomore album, Voices of the Kronian Moon. Darkness Silence Mirror Flame piqued Steel Druhm’s wizened and jaded ears, but the album’s length hard-capped its ceiling.  During the pandemic, have these Californians been taking Nite courses at the Steel School of Editing for Wayward Bands?

Musically, Voices of the Kronian Moon represents—at most—a refinement of Nite’s blackened heavy metal. Which is fine! The veteran chops of these members of Dawnbringer, High Spirits, and Satan’s Wrath have never been in doubt. Darkness Silence Mirror Flame featured a broader palette than much trad metal, with both moody cuts (“Lucifer)” and absolute scorchers (“Chains”). But Nite particularly favors songwriting formulae emphasizing slowed, extended melodic bridges that lure you in before launching the final chorus and outro at tempo (“Liber ex Doctrina,” “Thorns”). It would risk becoming repetitive, but the compositions vary so significantly that the album is never boring. Scott Hoffman’s and Van Labrakis’s guitar playing and killer guitar tones are of particular note. Rather than fall prey to the Maiden Gallop of Diminishing Returns, Hoffman and Labrakis weave riffs from influences across the metal spectrum (e.g. the buzzing, evolving dissonant main riff of “Thorns” would be at home on a modern death record). Even where they do use the gallop (“Edge of the Night”), the leads atop make the result feel far more Thunder and Lightning-era Thin Lizzy than Iron Maiden.

Where Moon diverges sharply from Nite’s debut is its length. This sucker is a whole nine minutes shorter than Darkness Silence Mirror Flame’s 46 minutes, while still having eight tracks. I repeat: NINE. MINUTES. It seems that the AMG Writing Staff are not the only ones taking their marching orders from Steel Druhm. Since their debut—released just at the beginning of the pandemic—the members of Nite have become the quarantine masters of self-editing. Whereas some of Darkness’s best material was buried in a back half that had reviewers checking their watches, Moon’s compositions consistently captivate. The album’s sequencing supports the improved editing. “Acheron” and “Kronian Moon” are stellar would-be singles with their anthemic harmonized opening leads, while “Liber ex Doctrina” and “Heliopolis” are perfectly positioned as mid-album mini-epics. The tinkering with non-trad metal riff stylings in “Thorns” and “The Trident” demand the listener’s attention despite being in comparatively weaker songs to earlier standout tracks.

Unfortunately, I don’t quite have a full-blown case of Moon madness. Despite shaving a shocking nine minutes off the debut, I wonder if Nite could go even further because the album still feels longer than its 37 minutes. Part of the problem—as with the debut—remains Labrakis’s monotonous vocals. I’m not sure that there’s an easy fix here. The band could try to shave the final chorus on certain songs, but that could produce some wonky compositions. They could follow the Morgul Blade route and introduce occasional cleans, but again I really dig the solely blackened aesthetic. Regardless, the consistent vocal delivery between verses and choruses means that the choruses don’t punch quite as hard as the lyrics deserve. I want to be shouting along but instead, I’m left grooving to the–again, fantastic–guitar work.

These remaining issues aside, the quasi-supergroup of underground vets have indeed passed the Steel School of Editing for Wayward Bands with flying colors. Perhaps next up is the Crispy Chorus Conservatory. Awful alliteration aside, the willingness and ability to make such extensive changes since the band’s debut gives me faith that Nite’s third album will be yet another large step forward. In the meantime, Voices of the Kronian Moon is one of my early favorites of 2022.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: March 25th, 2022

« »