Nightfall

Lyssa: Rural Gods and Astonishing Punishments

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Even for a band as experienced and accomplished as Nightfall, following 2003's excellent I Am Jesus album would be no easy task, but the following year's loosely conceptual Lyssa: Rural Gods and Astonishing Punishments does just fine, with a number of slight variations in formula to also help it stand on its own. Specifically, these variations entail a small but noticeable lean away from previously domineering gothic tendencies (such as excessively clean vocals and ambient synthesizer dramatics) and closer to commercial death metal (thanks to additional growled-like vocals and broader guitar textures relegating keyboards to a more supporting role), while showing no ill effect on their always compelling songwriting. Helmed as ever by band founder Efthimis Karadimas, these result in memorable highlights such as "Dark Red Sky," "The Perfect Li(f)e," and "Victimized," which represent extreme metal at its most concise, restrained (no violent fire and brimstone or world destruction is preached here), and song-oriented. Also proving that no one knows great metal riffs better than a one-time doom band, the majestically foreboding "Christless," "The End Times," and "Synastry" offer nods to Nightfall's mostly abandoned doom/death origins. As for those toned-down but still lingering gothic elements, they lend their services very well to supplementary standouts "Swollen" and "One of These Days." Finally, as is the case with many Nightfall releases, metalheads seeking entertainment through aggressive catharsis should be forewarned that they may come away disappointed with Lyssa's refined, almost relaxed personality ("Master of My Dreams" and closer "Essence" are about the only tracks built on that sort of fury); but those seeking quality songwriting craft at a higher premium will not.

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