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I’m actually not a very big fan of American black metal at all, with most of the black metal acts that I have encountered thus far from America not leaving much of an impression. But Nightbringer has had quite an illustrious history, forming all the way back in 1999 before releasing their debut Death and the Black Work almost 10 years later in 2008. Forever Plagued Records last year reissued what has been claimed by some to be one of the better black metal releases coming from America, complete with the bonus tracks that initially came with only the LP edition of the album.
The sense of unease is quickly established as the intro of opening track Caput Draconis – Black Saturn sets up a rather haunting atmosphere, with the sound effects that are utilised easily sending chills down one’s back. And the band takes their time to do so as well with the rather long duration of the intro (and the subsequently long track lengths on the rest of the album), ensuring that the listener is fully immersed into the atmosphere before letting their ritualistic, occult black metal hit the listener with full impact. Right as the first riffs hit the listener, the band’s influences from Finnish acts are immediately clear with the heavy emphasis on the atmosphere of the music, often dark, cold and desolate, and the at times warm and fuzzy production quality certainly helps in creating a huge sound for the band.
However, the emphasis on the atmospheric aspects of the band’s music does not mean a lack in other departments as Nightbringer brings in various different stylistics throughout the album, ensuring that their music has sufficient aggression included to keep the listener enchanted at the same time. For instance, Womb of Nyx completely throws the listener off guard with the sudden surge of aggressive riffs, complete with some of the most savage drumming on the album. The instrumentation on the album, as one would already expect, is nothing overly technical nor complex, with the entire focus being on the reinforcement of the ritualistic mood on the album, from the heavy usage of trem-picked riffs to the majestic drumming of Nox, backed by Naas’ tortured shrieks. The ambient aspects of the band’s music are also unsurprisingly heavy, such as the intro of Of Silence and Exsanguination, giving a nice buildup to the track.
Personally, the only real complaint of Death and the Black Work is perhaps the over-abundant usage of the trem-picked riffs. These are usually fine as they are buried under the other guitars, complementing each other, but on certain tracks where the lead guitars are mixed especially high like on certain parts of Feast of the Manes, this can get pretty irritating, though they serve the band’s purpose in creating their craft of uneasy-sounding and challenging black metal to listen to.
On this particular issue of Death and the Black Work, the total running time of the album lasts in excess of 100 minutes, and it is not unexpected that each of the tracks here are all pretty long, with even the shortest track lasting more than 7 minutes. Coupled with this particular style of black metal which usually involve rather repetitive riffs, such a long album would usually be a torture rather than a luxury. However, on Death and the Black Work, Nightbringer has ensured that one is kept captivated right from the opening moments of the album, making this an album that one would go back to time and again to re-experience this enchanting, trance-inducing journey. Furthermore, with the band now having ar-Ra’d al-Iblis (of Acrimonious fame) in the lineup, I am all the more interested in upcoming releases of this band.