Nightbringer: Hierophany of the Open Grave

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Nightbringer: Hierophany of the Open Grave
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Nightbringer: Hierophany of the Open Grave
Black Metal
Season of Mist Records
September 27th, 2011
Release length: 1:02:18
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A little over a year has past since Nightbringer issued their follow-up to their debut effort. Apocalypse Sun was met with a good deal of mixed emotions throughout the Black Metal community, many raving a fantastic effort, and others claiming it to be far from a grand release. However, this did not stop the band from returning to the studio and quickly bringing us their next effort, Hierophany of the Open Grave, another release that caps a little over the one hour mark. But, does this effort meet with a similar heckling mediocrity, or is this the effort that will launch the band and it’s future even further?

With Hierophany of the Open Grave, there is no denying that this album will crush your spirit in the most brutal, as well as most sinister of manners. Musically the album favors a cleaner, crisper sound to the instruments, carrying with the production a little heavier atmosphere that builds up the sharp Black Metal guitar distortions to varying levels of razor-like madness and frostbitten lands. The bass ends up being rather loud in the mix, which works well with the music, giving the sharper sound a brutalizing atmosphere that plunges the rather razor-like chords deep into the skin of the listener with a grand bludgeoning force. The drums are great, having a loud, echoing snare that sounds rich and vibrant against bass kicks that have a great click but are not quite as loud, pulling back just enough to not be overwhelmed by the snares or the loud clashing cymbols. Of course the vocals are mostly what you would expect, having that traditional rhaspier Black Metal approach to them, but whether you’re sick of that sound or not won’t matter when the music rushes in with absolute chaos and starts to tear away at your skin the moment “Rite of the Slaying Tongue” begins, showcasing melancholic lower wails against deep, brutalizing Death Metal gutturals. The cacaphony of the mixture becomes unsetteling and disturbing, and honestly on your first listen you may very well not understand or fully appreciate the chaotic Black Metal madness Nightbringer incorporates into this track alone, but with a solid audio sound and the insanity the track has, it’s almost impossible to deny the song goes straight for the juggular immediately, establishing a maddening atmosphere to the release that is often capitalized on. This seems to be a constant through much of the album, even on the some of the slower material such as “The Gnosis of Inhumation” once the more eccentric-sounding keyboards kick in to give a further grim element to the recording. These kinds of atmospheres exist throughout much of the album, but sometimes ends up being thrown to the side for a bit.

While Nightbringer start Hierophany of the Open Grave off in the most insane of ways, the album is not strickly set to chaotic chords and blast beat drumming. While the band does that style well on this release, having some additional variety works wonders here, and really offers some of the most melancholic and frostbitten territories you will find for a modern sounding Black Metal band. “Psychagogoi” actually throws things back to the earlier second wave with a much slower pace and grim, haunting guitars that are sharp and capture the frost covered lands often known and refered to within the style. The speed of the track really creates a dismal atmosphere to the track, and some of the chords that do appear still retain that maddening vibe to them, but that seems to happen more around the halfway point of the song when the track slows down even more and holds onto some of the notes being played. This could just be the distortion playing tricks before it hammers into a faster pace that’s natural and expected, but either way it works well within the general concept of the entire release. “Lucifer Trismegistus” continues this concept, though never picking up speed. The main focus to this songis more to create a haunting atmosphere instead of a sinister one, which Nightbringer does well. Thanks to the deep, loud bass and loud drums, both seem to just hammer away at the listener while the starker contrast of the sharp guitars works to create a cold, hopeless sensation to the track.

Unfortunately, while constant blast beats can always be a bad thing to an album, this release is definitely lacking on them. “Rite of the Slaying Tongue” and “Eater of the Black Lead” set up the most intense, chaos-driven, brutalizing Black Metal you could hear this year [2011], and yet they seem to be missing on many other tracks in favor of the slower pace. Sure that eerie chaotic element is in many other tracks, but as you continue on there’s a stronger focus on slower material that, after a while, can start to feel more like rambling then anything, only further feeding into that maddening sound the band manages to pull off. From “Psychagogoi” and on, the songs often favor a slower pace, though sometimes a mid-tempo and with “Psychoagogoi” picking up the pace near the closing of the track. While these songs are not repetitive in any sense, and there’s often a wide array of distinct elements that make each song their own, you can’t help but start to grow weary as some are just not as good as others. Sadly, “Dreaming Above the Sepulcher” is about the time the album starts to crumble under the weight of these slower tracks, as the song doesn’t really end up doing much with the atmosphere, or even offer much of anything that really stands out beyond generic ideas and chords.

So what Hierophany of the Open Grave boils down to is a chaotic sound that sadly becomes overshadows in the end by slower material. Nightbringer welcome you into their twisted world of Black Metal so well that you actually need time to process what it is you just went through, as if calibrating your mind to be one with the eccentric and chaotic representations found on those tracks, and some that follow. However, the music shifts to a slower pace that does eventually shed itself of the aforementioned atmospheres, and by the end are solid tracks with a good deal of unique material to each, but you can’t help but start to grow weary of the style and wish the band would lash back out with a barrage of blast beats and oddly sounding/timed chords. This release had plenty of potential all throughout, but not really mixing the two ends of the spectrum that the band did so well in the first half didn’t help them out, and in the end what closes the album isn’t necessarily filler, but it’s nowhere near as strong as the welcome wagon gave you the impression it would. Hierophany of the Open Grave will still appeal to fans of Black Metal, but by the last two tracks of the album, even they will want to put the album down and walk away for a bit, or hammer past them to get back to the start once more.

01. Rite of the Slaving Tongue – 7:22
02. Eater of the Black Lead – 7:56
03. Psychagogoi – 7:10
04. Lucifer Trismegistus – 5:08
05. The Gnosis of Inhumation – 6:09
06. The Angel of smokeless Fire – 7:10
07. Dreaming Above the Sepulcher – 5:09
08. Via Tortuosa – 6:26
09. Old Night – 7:56
Overall Score: 7/10

Digital review copy of this release provided by Season of Mist Records.