There can be very few who do not know of the Greek dark metal weavers Nightfall or be aware of their continuing legacy to metal in general let alone their chosen genre of creativity. From deeply impressive and acclaimed albums and putting Greek metal on the wider world map, the Athens band has also nurtured and brought forth many musicians who have moved on to other high profile bands, such as Bob Katsionis and Mark Cross (Firewind), George Kollias (Nile), and George Bokos (Rotting Christ). After a seeming break the band has returned with their new album Cassiopeia via Metal Blade Records, and a senses awakening piece of accomplishment it is.
Formed in 1991 by the now only original member, vocalist Efthimis Karadimas, Nightfall took little time in grabbing attention, their initial four track demo bringing them to the attention of French label Holy Records and leading to the signing with them. The following year saw their debut Parade Into Centuries released to enthused responses whilst the next mass of years saw its success and acclaim repeated and exceeded through albums Macabre Sunsets, Athenian Echoes, Lesbian Show, and Diva Futura. During this time many line-up changes challenged but brought fresh spices to the sound of the band, their original death metal breath honed into an even more atmospheric and melodic wind upon the ear and heart. Via Black Lotus Records, the albums I Am Jesus in 2003 and Lyssa: Rural Gods And Astonishing Punishments a year later were open and impressive realisations of this direction change. In 2005 though as the band ceased performing live and with members leaving, there was a ‘hiatus’ of sorts for Nightfall.
The announcement of a new line-up and the following release of Astron Black & The Thirty Tyrants in 2010 through Metal Blade, showed the band was back stronger than ever, the album the recipient of immense praise from critics and fans whilst their further evolved sound was a passionate and rich soundscape of blackened death metal malevolence weaved into a melodic and dark symphonic grandeur. Cassiopeia is drawn from the same inspiring well of imagination and one which dances with the passions. Whether it exacts the same rapture as its predecessor will be arguable from individual to individual but the release certainly mesmerises and intimidates with equal craft and magnetism.
Alongside Karadimas the band consists of guitarists Evan Hensley and Constantine, bassist Stathis Ridis, drummer Jorg Uken, and Stathis Kassios on keys, and again as is notable across its existence, it is a collection of musicians which perfectly fit and further the heart of the band. The album as its title suggests, takes essences for its theme from the constellation and the mythical character of Andromeda’s mother but more so refers to and investigates the arrogant characteristic of the human race. Opening with Phaethon, the release immediately holds attention in its majestic palms, the beckoning weaving of the guitars lighting the way into the shadows of the song which then swamp the senses with the oppressive growls of Karadimas and seductive caresses from the keys of Kassios. The rhythms are reserved though the bass is a prowling entity with strong sinews within the sonic fires being conjured along the journey of the song. From eagerly appealing to deeply hypnotic and switching often, the song is one which ebbs and flows within its lush presence and enthrals throughout. The great starter is a sign of the album in that it is a constant engagement one can only be enthused by but at times ignites greater passions from particular moments of ideas. This could be said to show inconsistency but in this case it is a nice problem to have if the case.
The following Oberon & Titania is a delicious storm of caging rhythms, spiralling sonic enterprise, and melodic teasing with a sensational lone wanton taunt of piano erupting which sparks sheer adoration for its unexpected and enchanted mischief. The track is a formidable encounter, one which stirs up the primal and emotive dark inside to coax it into a vibrant furnace of invention and destructive beauty. From keys to guitars, bass and drums, to the venom coated vocals, it is bruising yet invigorating treat.
Tracks like the infection invoker The Nightwatch with its familiar but knowing melodies and barbed hooks, the thought and senses wrapping Hubris which again stokes the heart with irresistible keys ‘doodling’, and the riveting Hyperion, leave one breathless and captivated. To be fair every track has that grip for the main of its presence making an album in Cassiopeia, which provokes and incites the dark and light within the listener.
At times the album is scintillating and even in its lesser moments compelling, and though it maybe does not trigger the furnace of passion as their previous album, it is one which lures you willingly back again and again.
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