Home > Music > Nightfall – Macabre Sunsets (1993)

Nightfall – Macabre Sunsets (1993)

folderMore evidence that “classic” Nightfall aims for the same musical niche as Septic Flesh. If Athenian Echoes felt like a prototype for Ophidian Wheel, then this album would be a warmup for Mystic Places of Dawn, sort of. Compared to its successor, though, Macabre Sunsets has more varied (if fragmented) songwriting, and more interesting ideas about riffwriting and tonality. The fact it’s less conventional than its successor makes me want to like it more, but in many ways it’s also less polished. Does one outweigh the other?

The first thing an attentive listener will notice is that this album has strange production. The tones of everything aren’t too bad given the circumstances – the guitar sounds fine, although the synths are VERY cheap sounding – even making a bid for Summoning‘s crown.  The overall mixing of these parts is questionable, though – mostly, the drums and the vocals are too loud. This is most notable during the occasional blastbeat sections, which appear abruptly and make it difficult to hear the melodic guitar and bass lines that are this album’s strength. In addition, unlike its successor, this album has downtuned guitars (E flat instead of E standard). This contributes to my overall sense that the album is rawer, but more emotive than Athenian Echoes.

This overall impression I gained is strengthened by the writing on this album. In many ways, it’s quite bizarre, with its looping riffs and abrupt tempo changes and transitions. The chord progressions underlying everything tend towards conventional tonality, but the order the chords underlying the riffs are played in seems to be out of the ordinary. At some points, they feel almost random. Needless to say, this arbitrary feeling that permeates parts of the album actually strengthens it at some points, as it increases the satisfaction one gets when they decipher one of the more complex ideas on the album (like the third main riff of “Poetry of Death”, starting around 2:25 in). In general, the songwriting has more depth than it did on Athenian Echoes, perhaps due to being less formulaic (or perhaps less understanding of basic songwriting formulas). The fact it’s less predictable is definitely a plus, at least temporarily; the only question that remains is whether Macabre Sunsets retains its value once a listener deciphers the album.

I would argue that, in fact, this album is superior to its successor from a writing stance, primarily due to being less obvious in how it constructs its songs. It also feels a bit more “extreme”, although that’s never necessarily a good thing (or even a bad one). On the other hand, I wouldn’t recommend it over the corresponding Septic Flesh album mentioned at the beginning of this review. That one (and to a lesser degree, Esoptron) is better produced, and better written. However, the difference in quality between this comparison and Athenian Echoes/Ophidian Wheel is less pronounced, and I think Mystic Places of Dawn is better than Ophidian Wheel, so I could argue that Macabre Sunsets is a better place to start listening to Nightfall than its successor. I still think they’ve been obsoleted at most of what they do by the ‘Flesh, especially if my suspicions about what their late ’90s albums sound like are true.

Highlights: “Odius”, “As Your God Is Failing Once Again”, “Poetry of Death”

Note: This review received minor revisions in August 2013 so I could polish it up for Encyclopedia Metallum submission.
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