Nightbringer - Ego Dominus Tuus [Season of Mist - 2014]Nightbringer is without a doubt the biggest and baddest bringer of darkness on the US side of the pond. Unlike the innumerable hordes that espouse their dedication to chaos, there has always been an air of authenticity about this group that sets them apart; an indelible legitimacy that so many other bands attempt in vain to cultivate. And while my tastes never quite lined up with what Nightbringer released in the past, Iíve always admired the sincerity that so clearly birthed their music. This same sincerity is evident on Ego Dominus Tuus, the bandís fourth full-length, but is coupled with a level of musicality and poise that elevates the album far beyond anything the band has previously released.
In a recent interview, Naas Alcameth likened the bandís approach to creating music to that of a mason building a cathedral. Now, ordinarily, comments of this nature from bands regarding their own compositions are either pretentious as hell, laughably overblown, or both, but with regards to the sonic structure of Ego Dominus Tuus, this comparison is more fitting than any other. The bandís sound is massive and built around carefully layering and structuring the various components. Setting the groundwork for this monument to darkness is drummer Menthor. A new addition to the band, Menthor injects ferocity that I feel was lacking from the bandís earlier output. His use of blast beats and double bass really suits the chaotic nature of this release. But what really sets the drumming on this album apart is Menthorís fantastic fills on tracks like ďWhere Fire Never Dreamt of Man.Ē Itís easy to believe that it takes little creativity to be a black metal drummer, but one listen to this album will set you straight.
If the drumming on Ego Dominus Tuus is the foundation for this cathedral, the string work fleshes out the rest of the stonework. The rhythm guitar takes a prominent role in this album, with great swathes of grinding riffs thrown up like walls. These riffs are almost constantly present and command a significant portion of the mix. Noticeably thick basslines prop up these walls like the flying buttresses of a gothic cathedral. Above everything rise sharp, dissonant tremolo riffs like ribbed vaults and ornate, demented spires. These riffs have an unusually thin and clean tone which accentuates the feelings of unease that these riffs evoke. Itís difficult to create extremely technical and dissonant riffs and still maintain a sense of coherency, but Nightbringer has no trouble at all. Whatís more amazing is that these riffs are incredibly memorable and make for some of the most emotive pieces of music Iíve ever heard. The minimal use of tasteful synths adds another dimension to this release.
Reigning over this cathedral like an evil bishop is Naas Alcameth. The way the album is mixed, his vocals are contained by the rest of the instruments, ringing out and bouncing off the walls. His vocal performance is exceptional and varied. Ranging from a harsh rasp to lower growls to insidious whispers to chilling shrieks, the range and commanding nature of the vocals is quite impressive. Itís so easy to imagine him standing on the pulpit, raised above hordes of gibbering dark disciples and leading a black mass.
In addition to excellent instrumental work, Ego Dominus Tuus displays an unparalleled compositional mastery. The tracks have chaotic, nebulous nature to them at first, but once you begin to look more closely, itís readily apparent that there is a method to the madness. Overarching themes and reoccurring motifs ebb and flow as the album progresses, unifying otherwise seemingly random ideas. I particularly enjoy how the album touches on infinity and chaos with cyclical riffs and patterns, but itís easy to miss if you arenít actively listening. It takes time to appreciate and understand whatís going on here, but itís well worth the time and effort.
The pacing and structure of the album is yet another strong point. While the album is an impressive 70+ minutes long, at no point does it become tiring to listen to. There is an immense amount of variation contained in these ten tracks. You have astonishing fury on display during the faster parts of the album where the guitars and drums are at the forefront, as well as slower atmospheric sections where synths take a more prominent role and the balance between the two is perfect. Two ambient tracks break the album up into three distinct chapters, the last of which culminates in the epic twelve-minute closer ďThe Otherness of Being.Ē You may have listened to it on its own when the track was previewed, but as amazing as it as a standalone track, the experience in no way compares to listening it as the finale of this album. The majesty and grandeur of the track is ineffable.
Ego Dominus Tuus absolutely blew me away. I truly canít think of a single criticism. This album is going to go down in history revered as a classic, mark my words. The level of musicality and songwriting is insane as is the sincerity. Iím holding off on buying the CD only because Iím waiting for the 2xLP to be released by Daemon Worship Productions (and with album art this good how could I not?). Ego Dominus Tuus is a clear highlight of 2014 and quite possibly the highpoint of this style of black metal. I donít know how Nightbringer is going to be able to top this album, but goddamn, Iím sure theyíll think of something. Tyler L.