NIGHTFALL – At Night We Prey

NIGHTFALL – At Night We Prey

More evidence that metal music is not only undying but actually thriving at the time of a global pandemic comes from Greece, from one of the trinity of Greek metal along with Rotting Christ and Septicflesh, the first extreme act in the country to sign an international deal. The blackened death/doom with origins as far back as 1991 has just recently reactivated after a 7 year hiatus, returning with the half of the original lineup, original logo and original sound on the near-masterpiece "At Night We Prey" (a thinly veiled Slayer "At Dawn They Sleep" from "Hell Awaits" allusion?), an album combining black, death, thrash, doom, traditional and gothic metal in one progressive couldron for an extremely satisfying meal, one more in the line of those "if you don’t like this you don’t like metal" records.

If there is one person who is as much synonymous with Nightfall as David Scott Mustaine is with Megadeth, Charles Michael "Chuck" Schuldiner was with Death or Robert "Lawrence Matthew Cardine" Flynn continues to be with Machine Head it is Efthimis Karadimas (vocals, bass, keyboards until 2005) who, along with Christos Adamou (guitars), and Michalis Galiatsos (guitars) had formed Nightfall in Athens signalling the arrival with 2 demos: "Vanity" (1991) and "Parade Into Centuries" (1992) the latter of which had started a 7 year relationship with Holy Records who had released their most notable blackened death records: "Parade Into Centuries" (1992-yes, no typo, same title as the preceding demo), "Macabre Sunsets" (1993) and "Athenian Echoes" (1995-the last with the old logo until 2021), as well as their increasingly gothic sounding "Lesbian Show" (1997) and "Diva Futura" (1999) after which founding guitarists Adamou and Galiatsos both left the collective. New label, Black Lotus Records, and new image brought "I Am Jesus" (2003) and "LYSSA – Rural Gods And Astonishing Punishments" (2004) as well as the start of frontman’s Efthimis’ depression. Neither a new deal with the renowned Metal Blade Records nor the subsequently released "Astron Black And The Thirty Tyrants" (2010) and "Cassiopeia" (2013) did much to alleviate his condition so Nightfall practically ceased to exist for 7 years (even if Encyclopedia Metallum does not define it as a breakup). In any case, Efthimis may have suspended Nightfall but he didn’t make a complete break with music forming The Slayerking with two album releases: "Sanatana Dharma" (2016) and "Tetragrammaton" (2019).

Either Efthimis had conquered depression by 2020 or was planning for "At Night We Pray" to deal it a devastating blow because he managed to not only reactivate Nightfall with the original blackened death metal sound (with some gotthic influences), to attract back the founding guitarist, Michalis Galiatsos, but to complete the new/old lineup with The Slayerking mate and former Septicflesh axeman Kostas Kyriakopoulos as well as ex-Septicflesh, ex-Nightrage drummer Fotis "Benardo" Giannakopoulos. And, indeed, the new crushing LP concerns frontman’s battle with depression, "a beast I have experienced its teeth deep into my soul" – says Efthimis. "This is the least I can offer now to the big fight against depression" – asserts Karadimas about a monster yours truly had battled himself around the same time he did. "If we do not stop this, it will eat us all alive. Share your pain, speak openly about it. This is the only way to kill the demons in your mind…I decided to come out and share that experience with metalheads".

No wonder that "At Night We Pray" rivals the mighty Behemoth from "Demigod" (2005), "Apostasy" (2007) or "Evangelion" (2009) the Polish blackened deathster’s most devastating albums, in terms of power, intensity, hooks and, most importantly, fantastic songwriting where nothing feels forced or out of place as evidenced by the progressive masterpiece "Witches" or the thrashy Kreatoric "Temenos" or the Amon Amarthian melodeathly closer "Wolves in Thy Head", to name but the three of the best tracks to these ears. Sure, the Middle Eastern My Dying Bride by the way of Enslaved of "Meteor Gods", may feel like a "let’s catch a breath" solution with its "Call Of Cthulhu" (Metallica) or "Diadems" (Megadeth) balladic intro but I assure you it is a necessary breather before the sulphuric straight Iron Maidenic/Black Sabbathian classic doom of "Martyrs Of The Cult Of The Dead (Agita)".

Extremely memorable (mark my words), expertly and not generically melodic while still devastating, Nightfall’s 10th installment, At Night We Prey", is, first and foremost, frontman’s Efthimis’ total and utter victory over his mental illness and personal artistic setbacks, but also another fantastic metal record you cannot afford to miss this year. Superhighly recommeded and very high on my current Top 10 2021 list, the album is yet another triumph for metal music amidst the global deadly threat.