NIGHTFALL – Kassiopeia

Metal Blade – Out Now.

Nightfall and I go back a long time, all the way to the classic days of the late 80s/early 90s, the time when my country’s extreme Metal scene gave birth to some of the most innovative and artistically inspiring bands ever.

Similarly to their compatriots Rotting Christ, the mid to late 90s found this Athenian sextet indulging in the forbidden, to some, sounds of Goth, whereas the new millennium signalled a return to the old ways leading to the release of albums such as “Astron Black And The Thirty Tyrants” – the first album ever to be released under the banner of Metal Blade and, in my humble opinion, one of the top releases of 2010. Would Efthimis Karadimas (vocals) and Co manage to reach the same high standards with their latest offering, “Cassiopeia”?

The short answer to that question is “no”, however, the good news is that Nightfall came pretty close in achieving such a truly difficult goal. Just as its predecessor, “Cassiopeia” finds the band investing heavily in its trademark twin guitar melodies, heavy riffs and eerie keyboard themes – all working together in perfect harmony and presented in such a clever way that your addiction will be both instant and everlasting.

At the same time, there isn’t a single composition on this eleven track release that does not feature a short break in which these six very skilful musicians are allowed space to put their instruments and technical skills to the test – with amazing results. That, together with a powerful production achieved through the use of three different studios, resulted in “Cassiopeia” being yet another important addition to the band’s discography.

Fans of Nightfall will recognise familiar sounds – straight from the opening melodies and the commanding riffs of “Phaethon”. This feeling will persist and manifest itself in stronger terms as the album gradually reveals its treasures. “Oberon & Titania” contains one of the meatiest head banging riffs of the album, while “Colonize Cultures” is a much more urgent offering with its much faster tempo.

There is one moment in the album that the band’s skill and greatness is truly revealed and that is in the triumvirate of “The Nightwatch”, “Stellar Parallax” and “Hubris”, all of which contain amazing melodies and riffs of quality equal in skill and spirit those forged by their countrymen Rotting Christ.

Guitarists Evan Hensley and Constantine go virtuoso in “The Reptile Gods”, elements of Morbid Angel are audible in the commanding “Hyperion”, while the trio “Akhenaton, the 9th Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty”, “The Sand Reckoner” and “Astropolis” are solid tracks that are deserving of a place on the album.

Nightfall have been perfecting their black art for twenty one years – a long time according to anyone’s standards, and so to see them now going through one of the most productive phases of their career is both surprising and inspiring to those of us who have been following them from day one.

During financially hard times, such as these, record labels do not offer their support freely. The fact that “Cassiopeia” bares the seal of approval of Brian Slagel’s Metal Blade records proves that there is still a lot that these pioneering Athenians have to offer in extreme Metal. Invest without fear.

John Stefanis

Rating: ****1/2 (4.5/5.0)

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