Terra Damnata by NightbringerRelease date: April 14, 2017
Label: Season of Mist
Nightbringer are quite simply a band to bow down to. Hailing from Colorado the American black metal serpents have risen to the forefront of the scene, proving themselves to be a respected and imposing force over the eighteen years of their existence. Considering US black metal hasn’t exactly been in equality with the more dominant European brand, it takes a special kind of magick to gain as much authority as Nightbringer has accumulated in recent years.
The band are an audial vessel for all the mysteries and philosophies surrounding death and the dark art of the occult, and one of the few ‘dress up’ bands I can take seriously. Founder Naas Alcameth and his cloaked comrades are most certainly not a gimmick and far more than just your average shred and blast band. Steeped in tradition and bound by the oath of spiritual darkness, they have fashioned their own craft of deviousness whilst remaining as close to orthodox as possible.
To say Nightbringer’s sound is distinctive is an understatement, no band on earth or in the depths sounds quite like them. With all the dread magnificence of the most chilling of bands and the revered flair of glory days Emperor, their sound is a sure-fire statement of diabolical intent making them formidable figures among the hordes. As with their entire back catalog, each track on fifth album Terra Damnata pulsates with majestic reverence for their creed that perfectly lays waste to the ears in a perversely enthralling way. Songs are more like incantations that unleash a hellish torrent of scathing blackened riffs and incessantly destructive blastbeats. They are and have always been a complete experience in black metal done absolutely right.
2014 masterpiece Ego Dominus Tuus was a masterclass in black metal and my personal top album of that year. This more to-the-point album showcases Nightbringer’s almost (but not quite) stripped-back approach whilst never failing to strip flesh from bone with each scything note.
Opener ‘As Wolves Amongst Ruins’ leaps into Nightbringer’s trademark sound with no prolonged intro, setting strings ablaze with a maelstrom of the diabolical riffage and tremendous torrents of drum blasts that have made them a name amongst the gods. Crazed shrieking guitar rhythms shift and shape all slithering about maniacal vocals, which exhibit an introduction to the diverse stylings included on this release, with three of their six enigmatic members on vocal duty. The most chaotic track on the album is the perfect appetiser for more esoteric evil. The ominous cry of strings leads way to an assault of sensational screaming guitars in ‘Misrule’ backed by Menthor’s deviant and ever-destructive drum work. The use of tremolo guitar savagery provides a gorgeous manic fury to their sound and is as barbaric as it is beautiful. ‘Midnight’s Crown’ is a ticking time bomb from its build up to the explosive frenzy of inhuman blastbeats that endlessly flow like a ballet of bullets into one’s ears. Vomitous gutteral declarations spew forth alongside distinctive high-pitched wailing guitars from string-slayers VJS and Ophis, which add a furiously pacey dimension to their dark work. When it first hits that sweet spot it’s breathtakingly furious and quite honestly, it’s one of the greatest pieces of violent black metal in years!
The second half of the album takes on a new life with a few slower paced songs yet as dramatic and venomous as ever, such as the auditory bomb blast of ‘Let Silence Be His Sacred Name’, which after a short BM keyboard intro explodes into an orgy of precision blastbeats and flesh-shredding riffs continuing the blazing trail of hellfire this album lit from its first note. Perhaps the stand-out piece on this album is ‘The Lamp of Inverse Light’, a seriously stunning work of instrumental grandeur with all notes singing sweetly in place of any grim incinerating vocals, instead cavernous words bellow from beyond in shape of chants by ar-Ra’d al-Iblis. Its dark soaring atmosphere provides a perfect contrast to the albums terrifying pace.
‘Serpent Sun’ brings the album to an epic conclusion with its thunderous cacophony of hammering drums and sweeping tremolo-licked riffs it truly thrusts you head first into a chaotic world of damnation. Doom-bringing emotive guitars speak in ill-fated volume backed by sombre dark atmospheres and sporadic grandiose blastbeats peppered about, ending the album on an altogether slower but ultimately climactic high.
Vicious atonal chaos and dissonant beauty bleeds throughout the album all wrapped up in compelling arrangements and dramatic delivery. The musicians are thoroughly commendable, each stamping their authority on every track with dominance that never overpowers any other. VJS and Ophis conjur icy-cold riffage and malicious melodies that’ll strip your insides of humanity and Menthor’s driving force and skin-pounding heartbeat provides an unrelenting energy to the mix.
Terra Damnata stands as testament to Nightbringer’s continual rise through the deathly ranks of the genre and for the past few years certainly they have been among the best. It is an album that goes above and beyond to create a piece of art that shines as the perfect epitome of its makers’ dark convictions. You cannot help but be impressed by Nightbringer’s thematic depth and knowledge and total immersion in their subject matter. With flawless compositions and highly technical and intellectual musical prowess Nightbringer have crafted yet another step in their unshakeable legacy.