Nightfell have stayed so true to their original sound that A Sanity Deranged sounds like the duo barely left the studio after 2015’s Darkness Evermore. This is a good thing, of course. Aside from the disappointment that they have failed to get the word ‘ever’ into the album title this time around, they have returned after an all too lengthy absence with another slab of uniquely blended heavy stuff that continues the band’s legacy, beginning of course with Darkness Evermore in 2014. Sanity brings together some by now familiar ingredients – which we’ll come to – but remains a band with few direct comparisons. Nightfell albums always manage to feel effortlessly dystopian from the outset and A Sanity Deranged is no different. It’s an oppressive sound that rings like an ill fated warning of dark times to come. A sound so thunderous and foreboding that it surely can only have been drilled out in dark factories on machinery powered by the discarded hopes of a punished humanity.
At the heart of Nightfell is the combination of Mournful Congregation’s Tim Call and hardcore punk band Tragedy guitarist Todd Burdette, which may explain the genesis of a sound that is both dispiriting and electrifying in equal measure. It’s a doomy mix of rolling blackened death metal but which is jolted into fresh and dynamic levels by a metalised crust punk edge that sounds like His Hero is Gone being slowly consumed by Bolt Thrower. It brings an urgency to Nightfell that as welcome as it is difficult to define because this band is not averse to slowing things down to a doom-like pace as well as cranking up to a mid-paced riot or occasionally drifting to the bleakly epic with the addition some blackened riffs over those ever rumbling basslines.
There’s little preamble, perhaps why the band’s ever shortening album times aren’t necessarily something you’d notice too much (this one at just over 35 minutes). Whereas Call’s other band would just be opening their guitar cases in that time, Nightfell’s densely packed excursions waste no time laying out their wares. Opening track No Life Leaves Here is a statement of crushing intent while following track (As Now) We Must Succumb continues the relentless progression while also demonstrating the band’s inherent subtle qualities, tugging firmly at the heartstrings as it goes like steel sharp claws slicing into your ribcage. It’s this track that most reveals the blackened heart beating so strongly within Nightfell just as the following track, To The Flame, hints at the quasi-religious tones that come with each album and would undoubtedly come marching with the oppressors to which the band’s themes allude so strongly.
It’s only the final and longest track on the album that leaves me slightly perplexed, so I can only assume given the deft hand at work elsewhere that it’s me that’s missing something. It’s perhaps the most doom-inspired in the first few minutes before picking up into a quickened pace with an almost dreamlike guitar refrain. Possibly, all in, the most straightforward track on the album, if that’s not demeaning the intricacies at work here too much. It certainly ends what is an emotionally and musically heavy album on a high simply by stepping up the pace and managing to achieve the inverse of what it does on the rest of the album – by folding the final 9 minutes into what feels like a third of the time. An indulgent achievement for a band that otherwise wastes little time with frivolities. Nightfell is a captivating band and one that I only wish would release more material – more often rather than in larger doses – if only to allow us to flesh out the brutal world foretold within the fragments of each release. A Sanity Deranged is a dark almost psychedelic, foray whose mighty weight reflects the sad future awaiting us if we allow others to make choices on our behalf.
(8.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)