It’s been a hot minute since I even remotely touched anything Katatonia-related. That’s not out of complete and utter disownership of a great band, mind you. I’ve just been bombarded with so much doom and black metal that keeping up with them can be a bit difficult. So when word that former members the Brothers Norrman had not only put out a new October Tide album, but also the second full-length album from their prog-rock outfit Thenighttimeproject, I figured a reacquainting/discovery mission was in order. “Reacquainting” because it’s been a while since I’ve followed what bassist Mattias and guitarist Fredrik Norrman were up to,1 and “discovery mission” because, frankly, I haven’t heard of Thenighttimeproject until review duties were given to me for their newest, Pale Season.
And damn my ignorance, because this album is largely enjoyable. Well, about as enjoyable as a more melancholy A Perfect Circle or a depressive Porcupine Tree can possibly get. Opener “Hound” sets up the stage with beautifully morose guitar arpeggios, somber vocals by Letters From the Colony‘s guitarist/vocalist Alexander Backlund that remind me of a less melodramatic Maynard James Keenan, and drums that don’t exist, giving the song an elongated intro feel than an intro track normally would. Still, I enjoyed the moody atmosphere that the guys were conjuring, and as far as intros go, I’ve heard far worse than this.
That said, during my initial playthrough of Pale Season, it took a while for the album’s charms to snake their way into my listening. This is the very definition of a “grower” album, with the front-half feeling like it’s treading and pacing until album mid-point “Embers” gets thing going in terms of ambiance and clever songcraft. From there, the various dips, turns, and twists keep you in place for the album’s remainder, with penultimate track (and Pale Season highlight) “Signals in the Sky” clinching it with a standout vocal performance by Draconian‘s Heike Langhans. And while the inevitable Katatonia comparisons will probably (sadly) always be there, Thenighttimeproject steps outside themselves just enough to stand apart from the Norrmans’ prior band.
Sadly, the originality isn’t the only thing that stands out on Pale Season. Backlund’s vocals took some major getting used to, as there are times when he doesn’t seem to push himself all that much (such as on “Binary”) or turning one-syllable words into multi-syllable words (like “griii-iip” and “ne-eeeeck” on “Final Light”),2 giving me recollections of Pauly Shore. I say this because, when he does break out of his shell, like the scream during “Rotting Eden,” Backlund displays his versatility and power remarkably. Also, while the length was tolerable, some trimming of minutes and repetitious ideas here and there (again, “Final Light”) could have helped the final product considerably. But Backlund’s production and mixing sounds incredible, giving the guitars and ambient sound effects plenty of breathing space.
In the end, Thenighttimeproject grew on me with each repeated listen, and I find myself humming along to the melodies of “Rotting Eden” and “Signals in the Sky” while walking to and from the breakroom at work. While the melancholy might not be for everyone, those of us who enjoy an honest musical purge will find plenty to love on Pale Season. Just give yourself time and space to truly unearth the many treasures within. Once you do, you might find this one staying with you by year’s end and beyond.
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Debemur Morti Productions
Websites: thenighttimeproject.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/thenighttimeproject
Releases Worldwide: June 28th, 2019