Nightbringer- Hierophany of the Open Grave

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Monday, February 13, 2012

In 2010 US black metal band Nightbringer released Apocalypse Sun, and it was one of the highlights of the year thanks to a mixture of slow atmospheric melodies and fast paced blasting. A little over a year later, the group surprised everyone with another full length release Hierophany of the Open Grave, their first for Season of Mist imprint Underground Activists. Despite the quick turnaround, Nightbringer has managed to add even more depth to their material and as a result this is another stellar effort from one of the country’s best.

Like its predecessor, Hierophany of the Open Grave instantly makes an impression on the listener but will take a couple of listens to completely absorb. While there are moments where the instrumentalists hit you full force with blast beats, the majority of the songs tend to favor a slower approach. This allows the various elements to offer plenty of twists and turns, and the way that Nightbringer has layered the guitar work creates an enormous sound that at times almost sounds like an orchestra. Even when the band returns to some familiar styles there are unique elements, such as on the track “Lucifer Trismegistus” which begins with a fast Deathspell Omega sounding riff and quickly transitions into some haunting high pitched riffs. Once again there is a lot to take in, as this album is over an hour in length, but each song has plenty of surprises and listeners will find themselves wanting to explore the haunting textures multiple times.

While having instrumental depth helps quite a bit, the vocals on Hierophany of the Open Grave are also able to offer this same level of complexity. Three members of the group provide vocals at different point, but the primary vocal style is a scream that at times sounds like a manic chant. The way that this is performed allows the vocals to tower over the instrumental arrangements and command your attention, and considering that Nightbringer tackles subject matter and language that is much more sophisticated than your average black metal band this is not a bad thing at all. It is rare for a group in this genre to offer constantly changing vocals, but Nightbringer has managed to do just that.

Apocalypse Sun was a tremendous achievement, and in a year the group has already managed to eclipse that release with Hierophany of the Open Grave. Nightbringer does require a bit of a time investment to truly appreciate, especially as their material tends to favor lengthy track lengths, but fans of the more experimental side of the genre will find the effort well worth it. I have no doubt in my mind that this group is one of the best US black metal acts currently out there, and it should be interesting to see what direction Nightbringer heads in next.

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