Review Summary: Naas Alcameth and CO. return with . . . essentially more of the same, absurdity and kvltness in no small measure.
As complex and “kvlt” as they like to portray themselves, Nightbringer are just about as orthodox as underground black metal comes these days. Underneath the chaotic technicality and obscure occult trappings their latest outing, Terra Damnata
, is startlingly traditional. At heart it’s really just a series of grandiose keys, blazing riffs, and frenetic drumming, obligatory shrieks ov satan glazed over the top. The greatest claim to uniqueness that I can find is that they’re a distinctly European inspired, yet American reared outfit in a sea of USBM acts. Sure it helps them stand out from the native pack, but you can trace a lot of their sound back to some of the well known forces of the Norwegian second wave, Emperor being one of the most recognizable. Oh hell, I’ll cut them a little slack. I can give them some mad props for stringing along a bit of that ritualized weirdness I love about bands like Serpent Noir, but it’s nowhere near their level of execution or self-aware, pretention fueled honesty. And it’s hard not to feel like Naas Alcameth and company peaked already on Ego Dominus Tuus
(hell, I’d go so far as to say Naas peaked with his most recent side project Akhlys, a better and more dynamic Nightbringer that Nightbringer), but there’s more than enough frantic energy and gleeful absurdity on Terra Damnata
There isn’t a single bit of grace as opener “As Wolves Amongst Ruins” takes all of three seconds to explode into blitzkrieg rhythms and blaring sirens imitating guitar leads, but that’s alright. If I heard another ambient buildup cosplaying subtlety, I’d have turned the album off immediately. Nightbringer don’t give one single *** about subtlety and I applaud them for that in a weird way. Well, maybe they think they do at times, like the orchestrated cooldown to the very same track or the fabulously long winded piano intro to “Let Silence Be His Sacred Name” (a whopping 35 seconds!), but I also “suspect” (alternately insert “hope”) they’re being a little tongue in cheek with these moments. In any case there’s not a lot of downtime to be found within Terra Damnata
, and if there were I reckon that the album’s effect would’ve been diluted substantially.
There’s also a certain mold that seven of the eight album cuts fit into, blistering trems into blistering blast beats into banshee screams and so on. Copy and paste six minute runtimes for most of them and you have the bulk of the tracks here, minus “Let Silence Be His Sacred Name” which not so coincidentally drags a tad next to the rest. It’s not really so much of a concern since the sheer speed, energy and chaos of the ensemble takes up so much of your attention that you no longer notice such minor roadblocks. “Serpent Sun” closes out the record with a slightly different approach as the music slows down and mournful guitar melodies ease us out of the darkness. It’s a nice diversion even if it’s not so far out of Nightbringer’s usual jurisdiction. All the same, if the album had run with that approach and even built on it some, Terra Damnata
wouldn’t feel quite so much like the intensely fun rehash it boils down to.