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Nihternnes’ first full length debut is without a doubt among the most creative and inspired releases of the year. The Dawning Of A New Era is experimental without being over the top, lacking any sense of boredom.
Traces of experimentation is everywhere, and used quite effectively. Tasteful electronic effects witnessed throughout the entirety of the album, but that does not detract at all from the album in a musical sense, unlike poorly used keyboards in thoughtless melodic death metal projects. In fact, many of the memorable passages (such as in “In Life And In Death”, and “The Eye Of The World”) are heavily or completely reliant on synthesized material.
Astley’s vocals are often heavily laden with effects, but unlike Francine Boucher of Echoes Of Eternity, who uses effects to mask her ineptitude at singing, Dan Astley’s vocals are significantly enhanced by such effects, giving it a distant, futuristic feel without diminishing the sheer strength of his vocals. His clean vocals are often used to narrate his story of the future, as if the listener is embarking on a speculative fiction journey. The lyrics are notably dark, reflecting the abject hopelessness of our future - very nihilistic & existential.
The music itself leans more towards a dark, atmospheric and futuristic mood, of a post-apocalyptic world that has suffered the harrowing effects of endless damage caused by human strife. The drumming, while not technically brilliant, is fast and keeps a strong beat, and occasionally does perform an interesting fill. It isn’t up to technical death metal standards, but this isn’t technical death metal and definitely shouldn’t sound like it, to preserve the atmosphere created here.
The guitars maintain a strong and bleak atmosphere that is only permeated by the vocals. The music is dynamic, with many changes in tempo and volume to adapt between the harsh vocals and the clean, spoken, narrated lines. This is done very effectively, and is produced in a way that you can grasp everything while keeping any little detail in clear sight, as every instrument does its fair share to contribute, not one instrument is toned down or completely drowned out to be nothing more than background noise. Rather, they instead become one, and contributes to the wall of sound, instead of detracting from it.
Acoustic sections are employed well for the most part, except maybe a single isolated case, which is the reason this release isn't getting 100%. Solos are performed properly, often escalating from the momentum created by the at times massive walls of sound.
All in all, definitely a release worth checking out for anyone interested in extreme ambient metal, even if they do not like black metal per se, as this is not quite a black metal release as much as an dark atmospheric release. It should also be noted that it is odd that there are a disproportionate number of reviews on a product that is supposedly limited to a few hundred globally. That is a conundrum worth investigating.
Recommended tracks: Atlantic Accelerator, The Eye Of The World, In Life And In Death
This album is the first one in a very long time that really made me slam my head through my desk. That actually happens quite often, but usually because of the fact that the album causing it is so incredibly fucked up. ‘The Dawning of a New Era’, however, is not. The thing that really amazed me, besides the admirable production, is the fact that most tracks on ‘The Dawning of a New Era’ differ surprisingly much from the other tracks, without making it an inconsistent release.
The riffing is very varying, but flawless. Some songs have riffs so monumental and emotive they remind me of the grandeur and elegance of Drudkh, while others contain parts that remind me of the Italian horde Aborym and even of Anaal Nathrakh. The leads on ‘Atlantic Accelerator’ can be compared to nothing and are among the best on the album: they are so intense and whirl higher and higher in a crescendo that eventually breaks through the clouds and catapults you into the blue, serene sky. A bit like a plane crash, but then upwards.
There aren’t many vocals on most songs, but when the screams do kick in, they definitely show what they’re worth. Imagine the distorted, raw sound of Anaal Nathrakh’s vocals, but even higher and shriller. Ordeith often speaks more than he screams though, with the effects over his voice. We even find clean vocal work on some parts.
The biggest flaw on this album is that the song writing isn’t always as good as it should be. For example, the second track kicks off incredibly powerful but gradually loses that power along the way, which causes me to forget the last half of the track. Another weak spot is the fifth track. I always find that acoustic tracks with clean vocals can be a great addition to black metal albums, but on this one, nothing happens. I’d call it almost boring, actually. The sound relies too much on the clean guitars drowned in their own effects, while the riffing itself isn’t that interesting at all. Doesn’t make the cut.
In conclusion, this is a great debut album. We have it all; extreme, harsh, fast, but also emotive, atmospheric and clean. A very original and varying record, and most definitely not what I would have expected from such a relatively unknown band with virtually no discography. Highly recommended to listeners of all black metal subgenres. ‘Atlantic Accelerator’ is definitely a stand-out track, as well as the 2 slightly less great ‘The Eye of the World (The Wheel Of Time Part I)’ and ‘In Life And In Death’.
'The Dawning of a New Era', the debut of Nihternnes is both creative and consistant. It's creative in the sense that nothing else really sounds like this, and it's consistant because it never gets dull or uninteresting throughout it's 45 minute playing time.
Nihternnes are certainly unique, very different from pretty much everything else, but it totally works. This isn't even difficult listening, most of it is actually pretty stunning. A summary of the sound is quite difficult, but I'll give it a shot. This is black metal, but doesn't really sound much like black metal nor have any of the normal traits. It doesn't sound very evil, it's not raw per se, there are no odes to Satan or Odin or Hitler to be found. It has harsh, raspy vocals (mixed in with some more commanding 'clean' vocals), intense riffing and speedy drum work, but these don't necessarily make it black metal.
At the same time, it has an industrial feel without having any industrial elements at all really, it's not repetitive or electronic sounding. It feels more futuristic, but also of the past in some way. Imagine what the world will be like in 2200, and then imagine a band in 2500 trying to recreate that feel. Weird, but it's the best way I can put it. Nihternnes is not the music of somebody painting a picture of what they think the future will be like, it's the music of somebody that has experienced it and is demonstrating it to us. It's epic and spacey in the same way that Summoning is, but it doesn't bring to mind stories of elves or orcs. It doesn't necessarily bring to mind space battles or Roswell encounters either - it paints a picture of a future that fantasy writers have not yet comprehended. It's the music of another universes' equivalent to mountains and forests. It's really difficult to describe, it has to be heard.
The music is both epic and stunning the whole way through. The tempo is varied...mid-paced, slow and fast all taking their turns at different points, but mostly during the metal parts we have mid-paced tremolo riffs, big and epic similiarly to Summoning, with fast, calculated drumming over the top. There are also long, drawn-out ambient parts, with finger-picked guitar creating a different but just as effective atmosphere. And then there are the beautiful, perfectly written guitar solos, played beautifully over the gentle atmospheric parts, as in 'The Eye of the World' and 'In Life and Death'. These solos are the absolute highlight for me, even though the whole album is great. It's breathtaking, and brings the album up to a perfect peak. Really, if this album represents the beauty of another world, then the solos in the aforementioned songs are the sunrise and the sunsets.
Really, this is a magnificent work and the fact that nobody knows much about this album is an absolute crime. 'The Dawning of a New Era deserves wonder and respect, and I'm sure that once spread about enough, it will get what it deserves. Nihternnes is pretty much the best UK black metal in the last twenty years, and should be recognised as such. A masterpiece.
No, I don't feel that originality is a requisite for good music, but at the same time, if you're not COMPLETELY sure that you're making really good generic music, you should probably make the effort to do something more, and it's come to the point where even seeing a band that's at least trying to go further than the average is a surprise. Nihternnes is cool: it's ambitious and actually trying to do something that, if not entirely new, at the very least moves in a different direction from normal. Add to that the solid songwriting and I'd rather listen to this than the majority of extreme metal out today.
Nihternnes plays a style of music that you could kind of call black metal, even though it's not very black metal at all. It has tremolo picking, rasped vocals, and lots of blast beats and double bass, but it's very modern, doesn't have a particularly dark atmosphere, and just doesn't feel like black metal much at all. 'The Dawning Of A New Era', though it is purely of its own style and aesthetic, moves in a very large number of different directions, and never stops poking at different general ideas. No, they don't all work. This is a GOOD thing. The fact that some of the tracks on the CD fall flat means that Nihternnes is really putting its ass out there and doing something new. This is a band that really should be feeling out the corners of its style, and it's good to see it lose its legs sometimes. It's like a little fawn, you know.
The two awesome tracks: 'The Eye Of The World (The Wheel Of Time Part I)' and 'In Life And In Death'. The former is like Summoning transported to some massive industrial megalopolis: tribal drumming is replaced by the steady crash of cymbals and double bass and the melodies are modernized and mechanized in a haunting, beautiful manner. The song is composed of essentially two repeating riffs, but this incredible electric core of totalitarian mysticism makes it a thrilling, wonderful track. 'In Life And In Death' is incredible in a somewhat similar way, though here the music reminds me of a more melodic, uplifting, clearly musical Atomtrakt, like the music on their 'Inmitten Von Trümmern Und Ruinen' EP. It's melodic, and kind of uplifting in a melodeath fashion, and the distorted vocals speak against the rhythm of the music in a wonderfully declarative fashion. It's awesome, really.
The rest of the tracks range from medicore to quite good, but none of them reach the power of those two tracks. Overall, the music is slanted towards significantly above average with the possibility of being completely great in the future, especially if that neo-Summoning style is replicated on future material. Honestly, this album is worth acquiring for those two tracks alone: they're way, WAY beyond anything that most metal artists are doing these days and are worth seriously looking into, and the fact that you get six other tracks to go along with it just sweetens the deal. Additionally, Dan Astley is giving away a hundred copies of the album for precisely zero dollars, so you have NO reason not to acquire this if you like metal at all. This is worth your time, honestly.