Extreme metal doesn’t get much more extreme than Greece’s Nightfall. They’re not the fastest or the loudest, but their music leaves nothing on the table. After twenty years and nine studio albums, there’s nothing left for frontman/founder Efthimis Karadimas to prove. But with their latest LP, Cassiopeia, he shows he has no intention of slowing down either. On Cassiopeia, Nightfall debuts new guitarist Constantine and bassist Stathis Riddism, but these eleven songs show that even as members change the band’s mission does not.
Cassiopeia fades in with an orchestrated dual-guitar bit on “Phaetheon” that reveals a theme of the album. Karadimas’ growls and Jorg Uken’s drums join the mix with unconventional beats and tight layers of sound. The theme — the band’s mission — is collaboration. Even though Karadmimas is clearly the leader and mastermind behind Nightfall, there is no other way Nightfall can produce such rich, intricate songs. Sometimes the experiments don’t work (such as the slight piano ticking on “Oberon & Titania.” Other times, like the arena rock opening to “Stellar Parallax,” the end result is satisfying. The twin axe attack continues throughout Cassiopeia, through to the last number, the driving and riff-laden “Astropolis,” which also features a rare calm respite in the middle.
In Greek mythology, Cassiopeia’s vanity led to her banishment to the sky, where she remains today as a constellation. Throughout this album, there is beauty in the arrangements even in the presence of Karadimas’ intimidating delivery. If Nightfall are similarly full of themselves, they might have reason to be. Cassiopeia is an accomplishment, and even though it’s not chock full of blazing fast drums and scorching solos, it’s still about as hot as death metal can get.