The early days of any band can often be tumultuous. Finding the collective sound, vision, and goal has broken the backs of more musicians and projects than I care to think about. Sometimes it’s for the best as the band’s motives and talents are questionable at best, other times it’s tragic because the timing is off or the drama is too much and a talented group gives up. Even though the road is littered with the cautionary tales and bones of past band, there are still those that brave it. They either learn from the mistakes of those that came before them, never encounter said issues (a rare feat indeed), or ignore everything around them and barrel onwards. The feat of creating an original song, even if that song ends up being horrible, derivative, and boring, is an accomplishment. These bands have to keep moving, like sharks, they can’t survive just standing still and resting on their laurels. They must continue to create, to find gigs, to book tours, the records singles, demos, and EPs. They have to get better, even if they start off good, they must get better, good isn’t good enough. So I come, after a lesson masked as a diatribe, to Nightgrave. Nightgrave is an ambient black metal with some doom influences around the edges from India. I knew black metal had spread far and wide and could be considered worldwide at this point but India was a scene I never thought I’d encounter. Not one band constitutes a scene of course, lest you think I’m ignorant. Nightgrave offers up a four track EP, Futures, to listeners, mixing some Agalloch influences with their own interpretation of ambient black metal. What’s the result? Let’s find out.
To start, the Futures’ cover design is simplistic and stark, for an ambient black metal album that’s a good start. Ambient black metal exists in that space between raw black metal where atmosphere is utterly unimportant and atmospheric black metal where (as the name implies) atmosphere is everything. Ambient black metal can drift into either territory without the need to commit to either one. It both opens up a lot of possibilities in terms of sound and it creates a lot of difficulties in defining said sound for the band. Nightgrave is a little schizophrenic when it comes to their identity and their sound but to their credit, the sounds they produce are pretty good.
The album was only four tracks long and the first took a little time getting settled but after that the album really took off. The production was raw but still refined enough not to muddle all the instruments together. I don’t like my instruments mushy, I like them crisp and sharp. If there are two guitars and a bass, I want to be able to discern all three. Nightgrave has some impressive talent, they are raw and chaotic at times but still very much enjoyable. They play some very good, very technical riffs that are accompanied by acoustic guitars. Very much in the vein of Agalloch and like them, Nightgrave manages to pull off the sound. The vocals need a little work. I liked the harsh vocals, they were rough and nasty but they managed to make a melody that played counter to the guitars. The clean vocals weren’t as strong to me. I thought the album was strong enough with the acoustic, electric, and ambient that clean vocals aren’t necessary. They are the extra chef in the kitchen no one needs and seems to bump into everything. Everything else though, was well produced and choreographed. When the album was playing well, it sounded furious, wild, and energetic; it felt introspective and deep.
Nightgrave is up and coming, they have a long road ahead of them but they have talent and they have the drive to create. They exist in a fledgling scene, a place where they can experiment and create freely and come to define it. Step up to the plate, Nightgrave, the world is ahead of you.
Highlights: Futures, In Exile
For Fans Of: Agalloch, Skagos, Burzum
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- Poisoned Chalice
- In Exile
Futures was released independently through Bandcamp on July 2nd, 2017