As soon as ‘The Last Disease‘s’ first growling chord is played, its powerful enough to tear through the fabric of space itself, you know that this one is a winner. If brutal, crushing heaviness is your thing, then you can’t go wrong with Nightfell‘s ‘The Living Ever Mourn.’ It deftly combines blackened death metal hardcore approaches to create an album of both sonic and lyrical intensity.
The pedigree of members Todd Burdette and Tim Call is impressive. Both have played in bands far too numerous to list, from Burdette’s His Hero Is Gone and Tragedy, to Call’s Weregoat, Aldebaran and The Howling Wind. ‘The Living Ever Mourn‘ sees the pair pool their influences and past projects together somewhat, and the resulting nectar is sweet indeed. Weregoat’s atmospheric black metal, the crust punk of His Hero Is Gone, and Aldebaran’s refined funeral doom are melded together with a myriad of other sounds to create highly effective blackened death metal.
The album’s opener, ‘The Last Disease,’ reeks of old school death metal, and the vocals are firmly rooted in that camp. Even though there is an overwhelmingly melancholic tone to the album, groove and melody are prioritised. The track makes use of black metal’s technique of repetition and hollow guitar tones to create ambience. But the vocals are low (and, yes, brutal) roars that deliver the lyrics with a welcome degree of clarity and energy.
‘I Am Decay‘ just perfectly encapsulates all the best that this album has to offer. The main melody is catchy, tinged with a folkish flair that conjures the same stormy scenes of riders travelling through fog-drenched moors perfected in Opeth’s earlier releases. But it is played over a wall of held chords that sounds almost feral. The vocals sit fairly low in the mix, acting more to support the riffs rather than vice versa. The track skilfully swings between death metal grove and black metal tremolo, before falling into slow doom. This is where Nightfell show off what they do best.
Styles and tempos are mixed up well across ‘The Living Ever Mourn,’ and the album never gets stale. The tracklist takes a general ‘fast-slow-fast-slow‘ approach, although closer ‘Funeral Dirge‘ sits somewhere in the middle. As far as the ‘slow‘ goes, fourth track ‘Empty Prayers‘ stands alone. The instrumentation is superior to the other slower tracks, ‘I‘ and ‘II‘, but the vocals miss the mark. The bass crawls slowly along, preceding a haunting refrain that hovers above a doomy chord progression. Discord is used so well that it almost brings a tear to one’s eye. But the harsh vocals are abandoned in favour of Primordial-esque clean singing. The style fits the lyrical content, evoking tones of isolation and hopelessness, like a chanting band of infantrymen awaiting rescue in a rain-flooded trench. Yet despite its effectiveness the vocals are jarring. They come across like drunken singing, an unfortunate example of good ideas, but mediocre delivery.
The drums, though not particularly ground-breaking, provide a solid rhythmic base, and bring plenty of heft when needed. ‘I Am Decay‘ and ‘The Hollowing‘ in particular showcase the rich production, with blast-beating bass pedals becoming a relentless roar of sound that drive the songs forward. As technical death metal has risen over the last few years, there has been a trend towards making drums sound like a click track. Nightfell avoid this pitfall, preferring a deep, round rumble, and it lends grit to their sound. It’s not old school. It’s just good.
Nightfell‘s ‘The Living Ever Mourn‘ is an album so drenched with bass and growling guitar tones that the music becomes a kind of sonic assault. There are great stand-out moments here, and the great variety in tempo and mood throughout keeps things fresh in a genre (if you can put Nightfell in one genre) that can get a little stale. It may have its weaker parts, but the sheer weight behind the growled vocals, instrumentation and the song-writing itself more than make up for this.
Scribed by: Will Beattie