Nitefall - Red moon rising 3.5/5

Reviewed: 7-10-09





Tracklist:

1. Die for destiny
2. Death reigns here alone
3. On the edge
4. Black tomorrow
5. Don't break the seal
6. Desert of ice
7. Race to the end
8. The quest
9. Harvester of souls
10. Red moon rising
11. Wings of fate
12. Time warp


In the last couple of years, California's Stormspell Records has quietly carved out an impressive niche by scouring the underground dustbins of history for worthy bands whose output, for whatever reason, never enjoyed wide distribution or recognition when it was recorded. Stormspell then repackages those old recordings (often as anthologies of demos), commissions eye-catching new artwork, and reissues them with informative booklets. Ohio's Nitefall are one of the latest acts to be showcased in this manner. This 3-piece from Cleveland was comprised of ex-members of local thrashers Severe Warning, and was formed out of a desire to explore different musical territory than their previous act. Sadly, although Nitefall recorded a trilogy of demos from 1990 to 1992, they were unable to secure an elusive record deal in that disastrous grunge-ridden musical environment, and eventually called it a day. On this 'Red moon rising', all 3 of those demos have finally been made available on CD in remastered form.

Make no mistake: This is good stuff. Descriptions of the music are a bit challenging because Nitefall did not fit neatly within any particular niche. The label calls them "U.S. doom-laden epic power", and I suppose that's as accurate an encapsulation as any. The guitar riffs tend to be of the massive, towering Iommi/Edling variety, simple and repetitive but also memorable and effective. There is a strong and pervasive doom influence, which makes sense given that the band were apparently named after Candlemass's 'Nightfall' classic. Tempos tend toward the slower end of the spectrum, but that could be misleading because there are flashes of speed, as displayed on peppier cuts like "Black tomorrow" and "Race to the end", and several more midtempo rockers too. So it would be incorrect to brand Nitefall a pure doom act, although there are undoubtedly doom elements to their traditional U.S. metal foundation. Vocal-wise, Ace the Raven (please don't judge him by the name or the Flock of Seagulls hairstyle) takes a bit of getting used to, but actually does a good job. He's got a clean but slightly abrasive singing style, perhaps sounding a touch like Damn the Machine's Dave Clemmons with a tiny shot of Wino (The Obsessed). From a production standpoint, I'm always leery of these demo compilations because they may sound wretched due to limitations of the source tapes and the difficult circumstances under which they were made. But these Nitefall recordings (especially the 2nd and 3rd demos) actually sound quite professional, with each musician and instrument coming through clearly, belying the shoestring budget that undoubtedly financed them. Trust me: you've heard many modern label-backed recordings that are not as strong, sonically speaking, as these Nitefall demos.

The net result is that 'Red moon rising' is highly recommended for fans of the darker, slower, epic U.S. metal style populated by bands like Thrust, Cirith Ungol, Penance, and perhaps even Detroit's Halloween and that ilk. Classic doom fans will also be favorably impressed with this CD because of the powerful doomy undercurrent to the proceedings. Perhaps some of the songs overstay their welcome by just a tad, but I defy any old-school metalhead to listen to tracks like the punishing, relentless march of "Harvester of souls" or the crushing "Wings of fate" without raising a fist in the air and flailing about your living room. It's a pity that Nitefall did not receive more acclaim when they recorded these demos in the early 90s, but we can all be thankful for the glittering legacy they left behind.



KIT




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