The Howling Void - _Nightfall_
(Solitude Productions, 2013)
by: Chaim Drishner (9 out of 10)
_Nightfall_ is American one-man show The Howling Void's fourth full-length studio album, released practically in 2014, seeing the light of day in the very last moments of 2013. The Howling Void's musical works have always flown low under the metal radar and been rather overlooked by the masses. Hopefully not anymore.

That's an enigma, really, because the last couple of The Howling Void albums, _Nightfall_ included, have shown more than a fair share of talent and singularity amidst their peers, bringing to the table something that's a bit removed from the rest, being singled out for showcasing a powerful song writing ability and advanced grasp of melody that has been nothing but gripping.

_Nightfall_ is, in a nutshell, the essence of funeral doom. Hands down, this is one of the most accomplished efforts done in the field of slow, eerie and menacing metal. Is it the heaviest of the lot, or the slowest? By no means it is, however it is crushing, with a capital C.

Good funeral doom metal is not about being the slowest, or the heaviest: funeral doom is about insidiousness; the quintessential disease, manifested by sound, that can crawl under one's skin and infect with perpetual supreme negativity. _Nightfall_ is such an album. The six tracks it contains have captured the essence of darkness -- The Darkness. Never have such intimidating, despairing, pummeling soundscapes been captured on tape, painting a sonic picture that's on par with the cover art adorning the album conjuring utter desolation and solitude.

Musically, the band is obsessed with symphonic arrangements, using prominent and dramatic keyboard-derived melodies of the most tragic and depressed kind, coupled with slow and lazy electric guitar chords that are used as the backdrop; a background of incessant distortion that enables the searing, high-pitched keyboard compositions to lead, whereas the constant, sporadic drum work and the buzzing guitars only follow; a brutish entourage escorting a delicate, dead-cold queen of darkness.

Don't look for variation from track to track, as you will find none. But neither that nor any other traditional value one may judge an album by are relevant in the case of _Nightfall_. It doesn't give a shit about all that. It is too busy producing tunes of eternal night and cinematic landscapes of utter anguish, cutting and opening infinitesimal lacerations in the soul of every human who would dare to lend an ear to those harrowing sounds, accomplishing all that by using the simplest, most straightforward, linear song writing and execution.

Ironically, the album in itself is very ear friendly; the melodies are extremely accessible and unadventurous, being the very opposite of any concept of experimentation or avantgarde. And yet, they are as unsettling as they come. Insidiously evil and enigmatic, the unique structuring of the music and the sound architecture were accomplished thanks to the artist behind the band using the chiming bell sampling technique; the very sinister chiming sound serves as an additional instrument in the rhythm section, along with the drums. Whenever a drum beat appears, these ringing hell's bells are there, tolling in unison and perfect Stygian synchronicity with the occasional pounding of the skins.

This interesting technique of using the sound of bells as a pace setting instrument makes a huge impression on the listener and boosts the music into its funereal mode. Couple that with the funeral procession soundtrack personified by the dark, neoclassical synthesizers -- and the experience is complete.

Practically instrumental, _Nightfall_ (never has an album title been so appropriate) contains virtually no human vocals other than an occasional muffled spoken verse or a short piece of soft, lullaby-like singing; the absence of a human vocalist enhances and solidifies the emptiness resurrected by the music, as well as sentiments of grief, loneliness and dark solitude.

Any lover of the darker yet melodic side of doom metal, who's into the most soul crushing tunes and likes his / her metal sublime and atmospheric, must give _Nightfall_ a chance. If you like your doom more 'funeral' and less 'metal', this album marks the zenith of that death-worship music, as you won't find a better sonic equivalent of that concept that easily.


(article published 7/7/2014)

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