REVIEW: NIGHTFALL – “At Night We Prey”
When you consider Greece as a heartland for metal, most thoughts often switch directly to Septicflesh or Rotting Christ as the bands that gave rise to black metal in the country. Often forgotten about is Nightfall, a band which arguably helped put Greece’s grim underground on the map, but also a band whose light burnt too bright too fast as they withdrew from the limelight and quietly became a studio act. Having been seven years since their last album Cassiopeia, and with frontman Efthimis Karadimas going on to form THE SLAYERKING in the meantime, many could be forgiven for thinking that the band may have run its course. However, on the eve of their third decade of existence the band has seemingly clawed its way back from the brink of the dead to release their 11th opus At Night We Prey.
The album begins with Instrumental opener She Loved the Twilight, and its a passable introduction but really only serves to build suspense before true opening track Killing Moon kicks in, and its from here that the album really takes off. Killing Moon is a fast paced melodic piece that boldly announces that this album going to be dark, melodic, atmospheric and fast, and really well as a signal that the band is back and better than ever.
Darkness Forever follows and leans right into the thrashier side of the bands roots, with a barrelling speed from start to the end that is sure to rouse anyone that listens to it. This track could easily draw comparisons to something like Mayhem’s Life Eternal with its ferocity, as it is a very fast moving beast, but Nightfall have added a few interesting sections amongst it which make it uniquely stand out. Next track Witches, is a slower paced affair throughout its first half, before everything gets thrown out the window in the back half with the track goes absolutely manic. This dichotomy between the slower and faster paced nature is something that Nightfall really well throughout the album, but there aren’t many places where it is done better than on this track.
Giants of Anger follows, and it slows the pace down a bit to become a more melodic affair, but the blast beating drums throughout its verse really give the whole track an imposing vibe. The spoken word lyrical section offers a brief reprieve but the song harnesses a lot of the best parts of Nightfall’s musical talents individually to create something unique. This then leads into the low strung opening for Temenos, which makes you think that it’s going to follow a similar path as Giants of Anger before it; however once the music kicks in you are treated to one of the fastest songs on the album. The melodic guitar work that fills its verses offer probably one of the more memorable pieces of music from the album, and the way the song changes shape and form throughout its run make it a clear standout.
Meteor Gods follows and seemed a bit more of a filler track compared to those before it. While the lyrical content reverberated quite well, the pacing of the song seemed out of place in comparison to the tracks leading to it, and as a result it didn’t engage with this listener as well as some of the others. It’s still a good track, and probably one that will grow over a few more listens, but just didn’t instantly pop out amongst the other songs on the album.
However, any suspicion that the album would transition into a dull tail end was quickly dashed by track Martyrs of the Cult of the Dead. This fast-paced anthemic track commanded fist pumping attention from its onset and its infectious vibe proved that this album wasn’t finished and that Nightfall still had plenty to offer.
Penultimate track At Night We Prey hits all the right marks, with a catchy chorus that’s easy to sing along with and an interlude piece that’s sure to go down well in a live setting, before Wolves in Thy Head brought the album to a triumphant close
Vocally, Karadimas performs incredibly well. The vocals strike the right balance of brutality and clarity, with his enunciation helping to clearly orate the lyrics. His guttural bellows perfectly fit, never seem forced, and at times almost seem like a natural tone he might take with someone, which highlights how in control Karadimas is of his voice. His performance is definitely a big draw-card, and is something that stands out very clearly on At Night We Prey.
Musically though, Mike Galiatsos and Kostas Kyriakopolous really are to be commended for the work they do on guitar for this album. Many times, it seemed like there may be more than two guitarists operating, such is the ferocity of the tremolo picking and harmonies that are carried over it. While there is only a few examples where solos shine, the fundamental guitar work is enough to really get excited about. This sort of an album rightly so could have been a three-guitarist job, but this duo has managed to bring these tracks together seamlessly.
Karadimas on bass and Drummer Fotis Bernardo of course enable this work to flow with their bass line providing a great platform for the others to launch off. There is very rarely a song where the thundering bass or blistering drumming doesn’t shine very prominently, and that’s a true credit on an album of this nature.
Overall the production on the album is good, although, as a minor criticism, there were times where the mix favoured instruments a little too favourably over the vocals. However, the layering was generally really well done, and it was still a good listen even after a having it run a few times.
This album represents a strong return to form for a band that many thought might have run its course. At Night We Prey is a strong release from Nightfall, and with the backing of one of the worlds best labels, and with the promise of upcoming live shows once touring returns to normal, this album definitely signals the coming of a new age for Nightfall — three decades on from their inception.