Artist: I Am The Night
Album Title: While The Gods Are Sleeping
Label: Svart Records
Date of Release: 6 May 2022
Are you a fan of 90s melodic black metal in the Scandinavian tradition? Do you like bands like Emperor, Dissection, Mayhem, and Immortal? If your answer to these questions is a resounding ‘yes’, then you need to read on, because this record is for you.
I never like to use the term ‘supergroup’, but there’s a strong argument to use it here, because I Am The Night features some familiar names in metal circles, albeit not necessarily connected most strongly with black metal. I Am The Night is comprised of Omnium Gatherum and Insomnium’s Markus Vanhala on guitars, ex-Omnium Gatherum member Janne Markkanen on bass, Horizon Ignited’s Okko Solanterä on vocals, and Paradise Lost drummer Waltteri Väyrynen. Salivating yet? You should be.
The first thing that hit me when I checked out the promo was the artwork. It sounds daft, but the cover immediately stirred something within me. It harkens back to the likes of ‘Storm Of The Light’s Bane’ with its frosty, cold, blue palette and shrouded central figure. Without knowing anything about the clientele involved, I knew that this was a record that I simply must check out.
My senses were proved right, too, because this record is the real deal. The intro to the whole thing, the title track, might only be a little over two minutes long and a largely instrumental piece in the best black metal traditions going back aeons, but the tone is set immediately, and you just know that what’s to come is going to be good. The guitar tone instantly evokes the frostbitten soundscapes with which we are all very familiar, whilst the slow tempo creates a sense of eerie malevolence, built upon by the keys that only help to increase the foreboding, evil atmosphere.
‘Hear Me O Unmaker’ however, is the point at which I fell in love with this record. It has that classic 90s sound to it, that’s created by icy, claustrophobic guitar riffs, layers of synths, and a driving tempo led by fierce drumming. The shifts in pace and the transitions between sections are smooth and really add to the drama, and the aggression that’s palpable throughout. Solanterä’s growls are an ideal accompaniment to the malevolent atmosphere, gritty and nasty, as he spits his diatribes about the strength of the night, and the powers within the darkness. The whole thing is so infectious, especially when you add the majestic melodies that are memorable without undermining the dark nature of the composition.
The last time I so thoroughly enjoyed the screeching, wailing harmonics of a lead guitar as heard within ‘Dawnbearer’, I was listening to the almighty ‘IX Equilibrium’ album by Emperor. For the majority of this track, the assault is relentless, with drums and guitars seemingly trying to outdo each other for sheer pace and freneticism. However, in the second half, the pace slows, allowing the ever-present layers of keys to come even more to the fore, creating some sensationally sinister atmosphere, only added to by a deep voice reciting the The Lord’s Prayer. But it’s the tone of the guitars that steals the show at this point, as they are so delicious.
Anyone missing Dissection will drool when ‘Ode To The Nightsky’ begins, as the intro is pure Nodveidt and co. The way the track then explodes alongside the evil screams of Solanterä is dark, heavy poetry, as is the entire track if truth be told, as the keys bathe everything in a blanket of cold, impenetrable darkness. I’ve always been a sucker for deep, monastic-style choral vocals and these make an appearance too, just underlining the excellence of the track in my humble opinion.
There’s a surprising amount of variety to be heard across the eight tracks too, with ‘I Am The Night’ a much more groovy affair, at least to begin with before descending into another frigid, icy attack that’s just pure nectar to those of us who like this 90s style of black metal. The whole album is well paced and keeps me interested as I listen, all the while delivering riffs, blasts, and growls, that harken back to one of the most exciting times of my life in terms of musical discovery. The band, in the press release, talk about their love of this music and they seem to have had a great time in recreating their own slice of this magic.
The love certainly shines through too, and nowhere is this more keenly felt that within ‘The Owl’ that encapsulates everything that can be so good about this music; the cold, fast riffs, the frantic drumming, the layers of dense atmospheres, elegant and majestic melodies – it has everything I want and more, including a quiet section where the metallic elements drift away to be replaced by a resplendent synth-led Gothic sequence, complete with the hooting and screeching of owls. With the addition of more choral vocals, it has become one of my very favourite songs on an album chock full of great music.
The only criticism that I could possibly level at this album would be that it literally offers nothing new to the metal scene. However, this is also as much a strength as it is a weakness. I Am The Night is a band that came together deliberately to pay homage to a style of music that all of these musicians hold dear, and there was never any intention to reinvent anything. And the fact is that ‘While The Gods Are Sleeping’ has got me excited in a way that is wonderful; the album takes me back in time and fills me with an infectious nostalgia, and for all the right reasons. This album reminds me in glorious technicolour exactly why I fell for this kind of music in the first place. And it does this because it is lovingly crafted and is of an incredibly high standard throughout. I could – and indeed have – listened to ‘While The Gods Are Sleeping’ over and over again and it hasn’t lost any of its magic. This is the real deal folks, you need this album in your lives.
The Score of Much Metal: 94%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
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