[Cover art by Kristian “Necrolord” Wåhlin]
The Grand World of Heavy Metal Music is no stranger to works of tribute, typically to an era or sound or Days of Yore, but sometimes bands zero in even closer, paying direct homage to a specific band or even album. Between the King Diamond apery of Them (who initially formed as an actual King Diamond tribute act) and the Necroticism carbon copies from Pharmacist, there is no shortage of bands finding the goods using this approach.
I Am the Night really, really loves In the Nightside Eclipse, and they’re quite good at illustrating that point.
Debut While the Gods Are Sleeping is one of the better recent expressions of this early, less ludicrously orchestrated side of symphonic and melodic black metal. Like its influences, this record is sweeping and dramatic without uprooting its black metal foundation, and ice cold without being so outright frigid that it lacks depth.
This isn’t just a case of nailing an old sound, either, as I Am the Night delivers a pretty great batch of tunes ranging from more expansive, escapist numbers to seriously blasting tracks, all without abandoning any of their inherent majesty (of the nightsky variety, of course). “The Owl” is among the more atmospheric cuts, often letting the washes of keyboards play as much of a role as the guitars while also delivering passages of regal clean singing. Of the more violent material, tunes like “Dawnbearer” and “Among the Unseen Ones” are big highlights. The former has a downright wicked section in which a bunch of pinched lead lines slice over an onslaught of blasting, while the climax of the latter is a pretty obvious nod to “I Am the Black Wizards.” Plus, it manages to stand strongly on its own due to an extra bit of desperation added to the vocals.
That said, the record doesn’t sound exactly like Emperor’s foundational classic. For one, the aggression tends to feel a bit more aggressive than the most obvious influence due to the guitar and drum production leaning a bit more Storm of the Light’s Bane than Nightside. Further, much of the aforementioned “Ode to the Nightsky” carries that strong Dissection vibe into the songwriting using a heap of waltzy arpeggiated lines. But fear not, the vocal chants ‒ which sound almost directly lifted from “Inno a Satana” ‒ bring it back home. Basically, you’ll be hard pressed to find a detail here that can’t be traced back to a 90s classic featuring blue Necrolord art.
I Am the Night brings the type of goodness you expect when experienced veterans with a strong pedigree decide to do such a hero worshiping-type project. While the Gods Are Sleeping is a great nostalgic trip made by guys that you know loved every second it took to deliver it to your ears.