Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Nightbringer- Hierophany of the Open Grave(2011)

Nightbringer- Hierophany of the Open Grave

As caustic and demonic as anything released this, year Hierophany of the Open Grave is an unstoppable mass of swirling black carnage that is immediately haunting and intense. Nightbringer have always flirted with greatness in the past, but it was often a shortage of ideas coupled with songs too long for their own good that doomed solid albums like Death and the Black Work and Apocalypse Sun into the dreaded, "good but not great" category. At most, Nightbringer had been a furious, albeit under-achieving, young act still trying to find its way in the American Black Metal scene.

Hierophany of the Open Grave leaves no questions about where Nightbringer stand amongst their US peers now: they have arrived as one of the finest and most powerful young acts in Black Metal today. By taking the classic Norwegian sound and adding the dissonant, technical leads popular with French(and French sounding) Black Metal acts, Nightbringer stand apart from any of the Orthodox Black Metal acts that are all the rage right now. The guitar work on Hierophany is something to behold: almost completely tremolo picked, they are technical and dissonant, but not without some meat to them. Thankfully, Nightbringer also tone down the blast beats on this album: they will still cut loose hammer through dozens of notes and beats in seconds, but Hierophany shows a new maturity in song writing that was not on previous albums. Ideas and riffs are given enough time to work their black magic and hook listeners in for the long haul. Song lengths remain extended on Hierophany, but now songs are not running out of ideas 3 minutes before the end of the song.

The atmospheric elements of Hierphoany are the strength of this record. "Eater of the Black Led," easily the strongest track on the record, begins with an acoustic interlude before heading into a slow, demonic riff that layers on the evil before things speed up. But they never get too fast, and the fantastic vocals keep the air thick with darkness. To think that this is the same band that released 7 mintues songs on Apocalypse Sun that were entirely driven by blast beats is pretty hard to believe.

Every band has to "grow up" to reach that next level. Nightbringer have done just that with Hierophany of the Open Grave. But not only have Nightbringer grown-up, they have shown wisdom beyond their age with this release. Without a doubt the finest Black Metal release of the year, Hierophany of the Open Grave is the kind of album that transcends its own era and stays with listeners well past its initial listen like all truly great albums do.

Rating: 9.5/10

The Beast of the Apocalypse- Henosis(2011)

The Beast of the Apocalypse- Henosis

While the bands poorly chosen moniker might lead to a few raised eyebrows, the quality of the work will outshine the oddity. TBotA's newest release, Henosis, is one of this years finest experiments in the occult. Reeking of evil and the stench of Brimstone, the ritualistic ramblings of Henosis are immediately fascinating and all consuming, while repeated listens bring more depth and intensity to the forefront. There is a certain comfort in the bands bestial barrage, but at the same time Henosis is unafraid to challenge listeners with a thick, static laden production and blasphemous noises straight from Hell.

On the surface, TBotA is straight forward enough to be instantly accessible: a healthy does of early Beherit and Archgoat is apparent from the first riff, and provides the demonic lubricant for Henosis to really get its engine moving. Once sucked into the blackness however, Henosis is filled with nice surprises: snippets of melody, crushing rhythms, effective use of symphonic elements and hypnotic use of riff repetition create a level of immersion unmatched by most albums released this year. Clearly influenced by Mories various projects, particularly in the manic vocal attack, as well as acts like Mitochondrion and Ulcerate, TBotA channel their various influences in such a way as too be greater than the sum of its parts.

The level of accessible complexity in this album is what makes it stand out from a lot of bands in this newly crowded genre of Occult Death and Black Metal: unlike other bands in this vein, TBotA have the songwriting chops to draw you in instantly and keep you interested, as opposed to merely challenging the listener every step of the way and depending on their endurance to get something from the album. A truly great feat for a relatively young and unknown band.

Part of the reason this band may be so unknown is that in a crowded genre, they fail to stand out in certain areas: from the bands awkward name, to their cover art which seems lifted from various other bands(Henosis has cover art that looks almost exactly like the cover art for Parasignosis, Swarth, and the Aethyrvorous demo), to their Deathspell Omega/Mitochondrion-esque song titles, TBotA have done a terrible job selling themselves to fans who would gladly eat this stuff up if they knew about it.

Truth be told, nothing about Henosis is inherently original: all of its disparate elements have been done and done very well by countless bands. What makes Henosis so damn good it that the band have found a way to present all of these well worn aspects in interesting new ways. TBotA are not inventors: Henosis is not the work of men looking to bring forth something we did not know we wanted. Henosis is the product of a master-craftsmen, using the ancient techniques handed down by those in the past to create something viable and quality.

Rating: 9/10