New emanations from the nightside


Release year: 2023
Label: Purity Through Fire

Finnish Nightside released a small body of material in the late 90’s and early noughties, the majority of which was compiled on the album-slash-compilation The End Of Christianity (reviewed here), and then split up only to sink into the black waters of obscurity. Finnish black metal became an institution, but Nightside were not posthumously raised to be a luminous member of internationally venerated trailblazers next to acts such as Horna, Satanic Warmaster and Behexen who put the “second wave of Finnish black metal” firmly on the map.

But that is not dead which can eternal lie and so on. A whopping 22 years after the release of the aforementioned album/compilation, Nightside is back with a new line-up. Remaining from the original incarnation are two members: drummer Beleth and vocalist Serpent. Ah, I hear you wonder in deep worry – or possibly with only feigned interest, if you’ve never heard of Nightside – how much has the sound changed after all this time, with entirely new members handling guitar duties?

Very little, I’m happy to say. Nightside have by and large retained the core element of their sound, which is late 90’s styled black metal. To be honest, there never was a great amount of originality in their sound; they took their cues from the established blueprints of mid-90’s nordic black metal, and that’s the same source they draw from today.

Admittedly, this might be part of the reason why Nightside never became a fondly remembered cult act after their split: there were more than enough bands feeding at the same carcass. Nevermind the fact that especially Nightside’s sole 7″ release, Call To War (1999) was actually a very strong release despite not being the most original stylewise. In hindsight, the three tracks on it remain some of my favourites within that era of somewhat nascent Finnish black metal. But unquestionably, it was other acts that defined the distinct Finnish sound, which probably plays a role in why Nightside’s fate was to fall into obscurity.

But now, in 2023, the largely same recipe hits in an entirely different way even conceptually. Of course there are still more than enough of acts out there shredding tremolo riffs like it’s 1994 in Norway, but where younger acts come across as self-serving nostalgia and too many older acts have lost their teeth, Nightside sound powerful and vital. The guitars pick their tremolo riffs with agressive precision, the drums pound away with violent but organic fury, and vocalist Serpent’s voice is a venomous, gruff rasp. Add in some well-measured, atmospheric synths and clean chorals, and you’ve got a package that echoes a bit of early Emperor and other raw-but-atmospheric acts in the classic era of Scandinavian black metal.

The band themselves call the three-track Lions a demo. Apparently these recordings were made to secure a deal, and the tracks will be featured in different version on the upcoming full-length. Label Purity Through Fire however was of the opinion that even these recordings deserve a proper release.

I couldn’t agree more.

The sound is entirely professional and more than proficient. The instrumentation is sharp and the vocals vicious. The tracks themselves are all strong, with my favourite being the opener There Won’t Be Another Dawn, thanks to those aforementioned subtle Emperor vibes provided by the tastefully used synths. This certainly trumps over a large portion of today’s so-called “proper” releases within the genre in all fields. Makes one interested in hearing what the band will do when turning all knobs to 10 and doing album versions of the same tracks.

As a comeback release, Lions is most impressive. It’s not only a strong testament to the potency of the resurrected Nightside, it also proves that even after such a long hiatus and despite a changed line-up, the band hasn’t lost their identity. This is not a bunch of old farts trying to emulate their more youthful selves, as too many latter day reunions tend to be. Nightside anno 2023 sound much like they did back in the day, but without that cheap self-pastiche so many succumb to. This comes from the heart.

Visit Nightside on Bandcamp or Facebook

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