Nightside’s call to war

NIGHTSIDE: The End Of Christianity

Release year: 2001/2020
Label: Sound Riot Records/GoatowaRex

Finland’s history with black metal is both long and illustrious – already during the earliest days of what was to become known as the second wave of black metal, when the Nordic countries left their indelible mark on the genre, early Finnish acts took the nascent extreme metal and moulded it into their own perverse forms. Acts such as Beherit and Impaled Nazarene, the two most notorious early Finnish acts, created forms of satanic noise unheard of elsewhere and nudged the direction of the entire style. Later, during the first years of the noughties, acts such as Satanic Warmaster rose from the depths of the deepest underground with a new form of Finnish black metal. In recent years, it is this style of uncompromisingly raw but still melodic and even melancholy black metal which has come to equal “the Finnish sound” in most people’s minds – though of course there’s a lot more to Finnish black metal than that.

In the years between, when the second wave had started to reshape what bands such as Venom and Bathory first created into a sound truly distinct from all other forms of extreme metal, the Finnish scene was in a state of active underground gestation. Numerous acts have risen to cult fame from those years – Horna and Clandestine Blaze are two obvious examples – but by and large, it is a chapter in the history of black metal which is often overlooked these days. Perhaps understandably so, as it was a time when there was no “Finnish sound” as it is understood today, nor the absolute trailblazing of already mentioned Beherit & co. It was a time when things were boiling and taking shape.

However, as someone who started to listen to black metal during this stage, and whose first touch with real underground artists was via the Finnish bands of the mid-to-late 90’s, it is always welcome when some artifact from that age is uncovered and given a new lease of life. Cult label GoatowaRex’s reissue of Nightside’s sole album/compilation The End Of Christianity is indeed such a release.

Nightside hailed from the Turku region in southwestern Finland, and released in their day only one 7″ and some demos, of which the cream of the crop is featured on this release, originally put out in 2001 by Sound Riot Records and now, in late 2020, by GoatowaRex in its first vinyl release ever. Incidentally the 7″, Ad Noctvm, was most likely the first black metal 7″ I ever bought… so I guess you can say this review is tinted by nostalgia in many ways.

Stylewise, the band are a pretty typical example of Finnish black metal from that day and age. Not so much in the sense that every Finnish band would have sounded like this – quite the contrary, in fact! – but in the sense that the influences from Scandinavian black metal of the day is quite obvious. The style and songwriting have at times a somewhat unrefined and unhoned feel to them, but at the same time even the demo tracks sound surprisingly coherent and strong on every level. The playing, whilst not any height of virtuosity, is well beyond passable, and the songs certainly stick together a lot better than with many contemporary demo bands. And the stuff from the 7″ takes a step forward from that; my favourite pick from the release is probably its title track Ad Noctum with its tasteful organ synths in the background.

Anyhow, what you’re in for on this compilation album is raw but still melodic black metal, but not in the later Finnish style. Perhaps there’s a bit of early Marduk in here (before they started panzer divison speedblasting everything in sight), and certainly, you can pick echoes from Norway from here, and so on. It’s not exactly original, but it’s not a carbon copy of any band, either; Nightside’s brand of late 90’s black metal was just pretty characteristic for its age, and on the other hand, not the most distinct. In other words, ample amount of buzzsawing guitars, speedy (but not hyperspeed) tempos, tasteful use of synths in the background, viciously snarled vocals, the whole nine yards. A song such as Demon Metal, its razor-sharp riffing driving it into black thrash territory, blurs the focus and reveals that, ultimately, these were some rather young guys who were still trying things out, not a tight-knit musical unit who knew exactly what they were about.

To be honest, The End Of Christianity is by no means a lost gem or forgotten essential milestone in Finnish black metal. It’s not a (let alone the) defining recording of turn-of-the-millennium 90’s Finnish black metal. But this doesn’t mean it’s undeserving of a new release, either. Despite not being a moss-covered divine relic, it’s a fine exponent of what the Finnish scene was capable of in its maturing years, the years between the pioneers and the establishing of a Finnish sound. Rough edges and the occasional clumsy bit and all, The End Of Christianity provides a window into the “in-between age” when the Finnish scene was building its own identity and coming of age. Sometimes clumsy, sometimes a bit unfocused, but in best of times even surprisingly mature and sharp, Nightside – and 90’s Finnish black metal overall – was capable of material that has stood the test of time. Not without some dents and fading, not without sounding a bit dated, but well enough to sound good today. At least if you add a dollop of nostalgia to the listening experience.

Presented with new, vastly improved artwork (the cover art on the original looked like a cartoon) in a gatefold with plenty of photos back from the day, this new re-release of The End Of Christianity is a fitting obituary to Nightside, who’ve since its original release faded into the mist and haven’t been heard of in years. Or, should they ever re-emerge from the shadows, a fine compendium of their original run.

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