Night in Gales – The Black Stream (Apostasy Records)Monday, 25th September 2023
Within melodic death metal circles, those truly in the know have Night in Gales near the top of the most influential and finest of the many acts the genre has to offer. Nary setting a foot in the wrong direction, this epitome of German melodeath have had bumps in the road, yet have managed to persevere. When they made a huge underground splash with their 2011 comeback album Five Scars, many metal lovers old and new were piqued by their skilled and keen interpretation of the famed Gothenburg sound. Lead vocalist extraordinaire Björn Gooßes departed not long after, and a lesser band would have crumbled upon losing such a vital cog. Not Night in Gales, who brought back Christian Müller, who featured on the band’s landmark debut EP Sylphlike in 1995, only to depart before debut album Towards the Twilight. Gooßes shoes are nearly impossible to fill, but if anybody could pick up where he left off, it absolutely had to be Müller. Since his return, the band haven’t missed, releasing modern classics in 2018’s The Last Sunsets and 2020’s Dawnlight Garden.
Now to the present, with a still hungry band no doubt hoping to continue the momentum with The Black Stream. Suffice to say, Night in Gales has crushed expectations into gloryful (see what I did there, Jens) smithereens once again. The searing riffs, memorable leads, twin harmonies, thumping rhythms, and voracious snarling vocals are all present. What puts these fellows in the highest echelon is not just those pieces, but the ability of putting together these aforementioned individual characteristics and melding them with undeniable songwriting flair. To that tune, “Tears of Blood” enshrouds the listener with melancholic harmonies and sharp leads, beefed up by the meaty rhythms of bassist Tobias Bruchmann and drummer Adriano Ricci. No doubt a fine start to a hell of a journey.
The monster keeps growing via infectious fretwork and raw vocalizations highlighted inside “Gone Forever,” wistfully calling back to the mid 90s boom. If endearing lead guitars that will permanently embed into the psyche is sought, “Transition to Doom” provides one that yours truly can’t expunge from the old brain (not that we’d want to). Balancing out ethereal melody with crunchy heaviness is the trio of “Final Place,” “Return to Chaos” and “The Eternal Fall,” each putting forth pulverizing riffs that exquisitely build delicious tension, all while each maintaining their own identity and unique crescendos. Direct entries such as “Laughter of Madness” organically transport the listener to the early days of Eucharist’s rawness, with a touch of the band’s smooth attention to detail.
The coup de grâce for The Black Stream lies in the title track, beginning with an intro dominated by ominous clean guitars that niftily set up a twisted maze of harmonics and pacey lead work, courtesy of the brothers Basten (namely Jens and Frank). This song contains a sampling of everything that makes the style timeless, constructed into a five minute dose of annihilation. Vocalist Christian Müller puts on a varied and impactful performance, mixing deep growls, blood curdling screams, and haunting whispered/clean pieces that further elevate each track, no more so than the eventful closer, “The Surface.”
While Majesties took many by surprise with their fresh-yet-timeless inspirations of the very early days of the genre, Night in Gales continues to mightily draw from the illustrious sound that they had such a large part in crafting and refining nearly 30 years prior. This quintet still doesn’t get nearly enough reverence for their immense and undeniable contributions, but that aside, they’re amongst the early acts that are still making music to such a high level of quality (alongside Dark Tranquillity, Ablaze My Sorrow, Withering Surface, and a few others). Night in Gales continues to further cement their legacy with The Black Stream, and it certainly doesn’t get much more hard hitting and masterfully composed. This will stand as one of the year’s best, and no melodic death collection will be complete without it.