Hierophany of the Open Grave
posted on 9/2011 By:
Hierophany Of The Open Grave is the latest effort from the four-piece void of absolute darkness, Nightbringer, digging even deeper into classic soil more so than their previous Apocalypse Sun from 2010. I never thought we’d see the day when the blackest of the black in the US is located in the highly unlikely town of Green Mountain Falls, Colorado, but this bunch is no joke. It’s clearly understandable why they were so quick to complete and unleash their debut for the freshly-formed Season Of Mist imprint, Underground Activists, because not only is this album black as soot, the songwriting it contains is the best the band has penned to date. While they sound like almost no other American black metal project, there’s enough distance between them and their European counterparts to give them a uniquely hellish sound that is certainly not meant for those with tender sensibilities.
In a year where a few beloved well-known veteran acts have shit the bed so thoroughly with their recent recorded activities, it’s fantastic to see the underground rise up commandingly to compensate, and Hierophany carries a hell of a lot of weight on its shoulders. Psychotic tremolo riffs and a nasty display of drum kit abuse is served with the voices of the damned taking control of things: a belched roar, or scraping hiss, and sometimes a mid-ranged growl courtesy of Matricide/Acrimonious frontman Carl Nordblom (guest vocalist: moniker; “ar-Ra’d al Iblis” here) as well as guitarists Nox Corvus and Naas Alcameth. The entirety of Nightbringer’s sound on this album is a little bit of Emperor, a bare hint of Averse Sefira, and an organically demented artistry all their own which follows no traditional sort of songwriting agenda.
Dynamically arranged, these tracks run the gambit between seething doom passages, frazzled blast-beaten rhythmic chaos, atmospheric stanzas, and a few nods towards legitimate groove on occasion (“Lucifer Trismegistus”), and all are tied together by an uncommonly pristine production job that heightens clarity and thunders when the tempos shift into power-chord laden doom. Iblis sounds like a rabid animal all the while, even as “The Gnosis Of Inhumation” slows to a crawl, and tracks like “The Angel Of Smokeless Fire” take on a nearly cinematic, larger-than-life stature by way of soaring chords and bizarre chants that still manage to avoid symphonic pomposity.
Although there are differing musical elements within that make Hierophany such a resounding success, all of it has been coated in the thickest blackened coat that sounds resolute and very pure for the style. There’s not much experimentation or rambling into desolate ambiance, just hateful sounds performed by deftly talented individuals. With all but Iblis contributing to the guitar work and featuring Serpentinam six-stringer Grimnar (“Alabas” here) as well, this is less of a wall of sound and more like a feeding frenzy of intricate and frequently bulldozing black metal riffery (“Rite Of The Slaying Tongue”, ”Eater of The Black Lead”). “Dreamer Above The Sepulcher” is deliberate and recalls more cinematic atmosphere which gradually descends into heavier and more dismal faster sections and a cool kind of Satyricon-ish groove. And it all comes together in an hour and seven seconds that feels like a lot less time due to the intense momentum this album creates.
Trading sophistication for something much more primal and insolent, Nightbringer plays their cards openly and with no restraint for the majority of this album, and isn’t repetitive with any regular frequency. In fact, much of the material never revisits previous riffs within the songs themselves, which contributes to the kaleidoscopic and mercurial vibe the band conjures. This is hateful, boldly Satanic stuff that pulls no punches or concerns itself with accessibility or ease of consumption, which fits right in with the upper-echelon of the genre in the US. We get a dissonant solo here and there, and a breath is allowed as well, but the denseness never truly ceases, and riff upon riff devastates under a torrent of blasts and a tandem of vocal powerhouses. This onslaught of blackness will not smother, but it will stain, and stands as one of the best black metal releases in 2011 alongside Negative Plane, Blut Aus Nord, and Sorgeldom. It would be shameful if this wildly remarkable album is overlooked among the faithful followers of the genre, because Hierophany Of The Open Grave is of perplexingly high quality and shows Nightbringer as a force to watch as we get closer to the end of the world… Let this be its soundtrack.
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