REVIEW: NYKTOPHOBIA – “Fallen Empire”
It is very rare for a modern album to be considered a complete masterpiece. Rarer still for a debut album to receive such high praise. However, Nyktophobia’s debut offering, Fallen Empire, is the exception to the rule. A side project of melodic death metal hero Tomasz Wisniewski (frontman, Dawn of Disease, owner, Apostasy Records), the three-piece are on the cusp of releasing their gloriously old-school debut on the 27th of January. Though their name stems from the “extreme or irrational fear of the night or darkness,” there is nothing to fear from Fallen Empire – through the dark, cold atmosphere shines a slab of modern brilliance.
The first impression of Fallen Empire, the artwork, immediately sets expectations high. Created by Indonesian artist Bahrull Marta (Abomination Imagery), the album cover displays a set of crumbling ruins, complete with gothic angel statues, crucifixion crosses and (presumably) three of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse riding down from the sky. The piece is dark and emotive, and every bit as much of a masterpiece as the album it has been thrust upon.
From the opening riff of “Genesis” to the closing drum beat of “Codex Gigas,” Fallen Empire had the hairs on my neck standing on end, and chills running up my spine. The juxtaposition of the cold, frostbitten production with the warm melodies and riff work scattered throughout Fallen Empire gives the record an interesting and wholly enjoyable sound. Though the album is very much rooted in the old-school melodic death metal sound that took Sweden by storm in the ’90s, and there is little deviation from this style, each tracks brings something new to the table. There are no filler songs slapped in here to bring the run-time up, each song has earned its place.
Nyktophobia begin Fallen Empire with “Genesis,” a short intro track that showcases a super-melodic riff that slips into the subconscious and leads into the delightfully punishing “Urors Well.” The majority of Fallen Empire is an up-tempo sonic attack, lead by Christian Timmer’s unrelenting double bass and blast beats. Fallen Empire’s highlight tracks come in the form of “Hammer of the Gods” and “Release The Kraken.” “Hammer of the Gods” sees Nyktophobia channel their inner Amon Amarth with the brutalized NWOBHM riffs, infectious melodies and anguished vocals. With “Rise of the Kraken,” the riff-work takes a very blackened turn. “Rise of the Kraken” has a feel of Dissection’s Storm of the Light’s Bane to it – melodic, but utterly evil.
I’m not sure what dark Gods blessed Tomasz Wisniewski at birth, but everything the death metal machine touches turns to gold. His “main” band, Dawn of Disease, are one of the best bands to come out of Germany since Kreator, and his label – Apostasy Records – consistently releases top-tier underground death metal. Nyktophobia is no different – I only hope the project doesn’t become buried in his already busy schedule.
Buried in the depths of the German underground, Nyktophobia have crafted what will no doubt prove to be one of the finest albums of 2017 – and we’re not even out of January yet. Make no mistake, this album is all killer, no filler – an underground masterpiece if ever there was one. For fans of old-school death metal that has a melodic edge, particularly the Swedish scene, Nyktophobia are a vital addition to your collection.