Album Title: The Great Nothing
Label: Scarlet Records
Date of Release: 19 November 2021
Once in a while, an album will come along about which you had no idea, and will knock you sideways. It’s a special feeling and is one of those fundamental experiences that keeps me coming back day after day, to listen to new music, review it, and hopefully discover something a little bit special in the process. Reviewing the more established, well-known acts creates its own buzz, but finding a new gem is something else entirely. You can probably tell that the focus of today’s review is once such album. Is it perfect? No. But is it exciting? Yes. Does it suggest that there’s a new name that needs to be shouted about? Yes. Does the album give me ‘the feels’? Hell yes.
The album in question is entitled ‘The Great Nothing’, and it is the third album by a band called Nightland. You may already be familiar with the name, but I certainly wasn’t. For those in the same boat as I, Nightland hail from Italy. They are a quartet comprised of guitarist/vocalist Ludovico Cioffi, guitarist Brendan Paolini, bassist Filippo Scrima, and drummer Filippo Cicoria. Cioffi also handles the orchestral arrangements that, as will become clear, play an important role in the music of Nightland. For Nightland have chosen to plunder the world of symphonic death metal, with a vague hint of tech/prog for good measure. On the strength of ‘The Great Nothing’, Nightland is definitely a name that should, from now on, be uttered in the same breath as the likes of Fleshgod Apocalypse, Septic Flesh, and Persefone to name just a few.
Many of you know that I have a genuine weakness for well-executed symphonic death metal, and Nightland definitely scratch that itch. The music isn’t as over-the-top in the orchestral sense as the likes of Fleshgod Apocalypse tend to be, but the music is no less grandiose, dynamic, and imposing as a result. Vocalist Cioffi has a deep gruff growl that’s not dissimilar at times to Dimmu Borgir’s Shagrath, especially when treated to a few effects. But the songs are laced with well-placed clean vocals too, as well as choral voices, adding depth to the material. However, the key strength to the Nightland sound is their ability to create gorgeous melodies that interweave the compositions, thus leaving an indelible mark on the listener. And these melodies don’t just grace a couple of the tracks, they are evident within them all to a greater or lesser extent.
And, at 48 minutes, ‘The Great Nothing’ is an ideal length for this kind of intense music. Spread over six or eight songs, depending on how you view the three-part closing epic, the only feeling I get when the album comes to a close is one of surprise that it’s all over, alongside an urge to press play again to delve into the Nightland soundscape once more.
When I mentioned the similarities to Shagrath, just take a listen to the shorter, punchier, and rather anthemic ‘Further’ for the evidence to support this statement. The verses feature a pulsating bass alongside the heavily effected vocals, but the juxtaposition between this and the rousing chorus is stark. Here you get layers of anthemic synths, choral clean vocals, and a really rich, powerful lead guitar solo on top.
Compare this to the opener, ‘The Conjunction Of Benetnash’ or the ten-minute long ‘Shade Of A Lowering Star’ and there is a really great feeling of variety to be heard within the music. The opener begins in imposing fashion, with bold orchestration embellishing heavy chugging riffs, expressive lead lines, and a muscular rhythm section. Blast beats feature, but not incessantly, whilst it is refreshing to be able to hear the bass of Filippo Scrima so clearly. When clean vocals duet with the growls, they add melody to an otherwise bruising, but enjoyable encounter, whilst there’s a palpable energy as eventually the intensity gives way to a singing lead solo, albeit briefly. ‘Shade Of A Lowering Star’ is the very definition of ‘epic’, beginning tentatively with a lone piano before a measured riff takes over, itself bolstered by grand orchestration. The changes of pace, the ebb and flow of the music, as well as the injections of stunning melody are an utter joy to behold. I’m not entirely sure that the track requires the rather long atmospheric outro, but aside from that, it’s a class act.
In a complete change of pace, ‘101 Megaparsecs’ sees Cioffi experiment and in so doing, he creates a beautifully rich film score piece that could easily feature as a sci-fi soundtrack. It might divide opinion amongst listeners, but personally, I really like it and it is worthy of its place on the album; to suggest otherwise is just wrong as far as I’m concerned.
Without question however, the crowning glory of this brilliant record arrives in the shape of the final composition, the 16-minute, three-part title track. Use any adjectives you like: ‘rousing’, ‘epic’, ‘moving’, ‘grandiose’, ‘sumptuous’; they are all justified, as well as many more besides. ‘Part 1: Of Seeking And Straying’ takes a while to get going, but when it does, it’s an outpouring of thoroughly warm and inviting extreme metal. The central melody that’s reprised throughout the three parts makes an instant impact but so does the perfect blend of extremity and orchestration. ‘Part 2: The Reliever’ is a chance to unleash the acoustic guitars as well as a flexing of aggressive muscles from all concerned, be it a blast beat, effervescent lead solo, or strident symphonics. The final part, ‘Pursuers Of Absolution’ offers more film score-worthy material before delivering the most satisfying of crescendos, ensuring that ‘The Great Nothing’ ends in the best way possible.
There’s an argument that might be put forward by some that ‘The Great Nothing’ is almost too melodic, thus robbing the heavier elements of some of their punch. I can see that criticism, I honestly can. But for my tastes, Nightland have created an amazing album, full of aggression, depth, and with a massive melodic intent. I’m delighted to be able to shine the spotlight on this talented Italian symphonic death metal band, and I genuinely can’t wait to see what’s next for them.
The Score of Much Metal: 91%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: