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Nightside Glance - Gray Haven

Nightside Glance
Gray Haven
by Julius "Dreadheart" Mikkela at 10 November 2014, 1:07 PM

Some bands can be tricky to pin down. Be it that their sound can be outlandish, their style unusual, and their influences diverse or just overall close to impossible to compare or relate to other bands.  Such bands can give reviewers like me a hard time, since one way or another it’s my job to – in words – convey what a band and their music is like.

But then there are bands like NIGHTSIDE GLANCE that you need only listen to for one minute before you can say without a doubt what it is, what it isn’t, who will like it and who sure as hell won’t.

So in the simplest of ways all I have to say is; do you like DIMMU BORGIR?

Because let’s get one thing straight: If I hadn’t known that NIGHTSIDE GLANCE’s second album “Gray Haven” was just that, I would’ve thought with just about no doubt in my mind that it was a DIMMU BORGIR album. It’s Symphonic Black Metal of just about the same caliber, style, ambition and sound that we’ve come to expect from the Norwegian Symphonic Black Metal legends – Hell, the vocalist Demian sounds so similar to DIMMU BORGIR’s Shagrath I thought it was him. These guys could’ve easily formed one of the most impressive cover bands of all time, but opted out to write their own music instead – and the Gray Havens be blessed they did!

Because although it would be so easy to write these guys off as a DIMMU BORGIR rip-off, that would be missing a few important points that, in the end, makes all the difference. First and foremost, NIGHTSIDE GLANCE is more angled towards the Black Metal scene than DIMMU BORGIR has been since “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant”, and as such won’t scare away the more puritanical Black Metal fans – or at least not as easily as DIMMU BORGIR has done since “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia”. Secondly, the Symphonic elements are much less predominant and not as Epic compared to anything DIMMU BORGIR has ever written, and instead more Dark and supportively atmospheric. This is turn opens up room for the guitars to come into larger play, and NIGHTSIDE GLANCE makes excellent use of this to mix some EMPEROR-like guitar plays into their music, which by every should easily exalt them in the eyes of the Black Metal scene and help them overcome the shadow of DIMMU BORGIR.

Apart from this they, just like DIMMU BORGIR (damn I’m getting tired of writing that name), use some really exceptional production quality – at least for a Black Metal album – to bring their music to the forefront, and aren’t afraid to play around with influences and styles like Industrial, Melodic and even some touches of Progressive Metal to diversify their music while never straying too far from their roots; a fine balancing act that really pays off. All-in-all, they succeed on getting their point across just about every point, and although I sadly can’t say I found any one song really stand out or really make a lasting individual impact, there was no doubt in my mind that wasn’t a single bad song on the album: Each song feels distinct and unique, each song has a place and purpose, and they all flow together into a larger whole like a good concept album should.

Now as much as I’ve quasi-trashed on DIMMU BORGIR during this review, I still can’t say with a straight face that NIGHTSIDE GLANCE has managed to surpass or even match the Norwegian legends. Sure, “Gray Haven” is more Black Metal than anything DIMMU BORGIR has written in over one and a half decade, but on the songwriting department – which is excellent, make no mistake here – NIGHTSIDE GLANCE doesn’t stand a chance, and as much as people complain about BORGIR’s extreme emphasis on Symphonic and Orchestral elements, they do bring DIMMU BORGIR to a level of their very own that no band to date has been able to match. “Gray Haven” isn’t just a good album, it’s a great album – it is however not a beyond great album, which is partially due to the slight lack in memorability of the songs and partially because no matter how far you take it, NIGHTSIDE GLANCE’s sound is just far too similar to DIMMU BORGIR to not fall under its tremendous shadow.

But then again how often can you say that a band has been able to – successfully or not - usurp the throne of a genre-defining legend? Close to never, so in effect that’s neither a critique of NIGHTSIDE GLANCE as a band or “Gray Haven” as an album. Because make no mistake here, “Gray Haven” is a really good Symphonic Black Metal album on every single account, and I’d say it’s among the best Black Metal releases of the year. NIGHTSIDE GLANCE’s similarities to DIMMU BORGIR are many, and I think the sound in the end may be just a little too similar for them to really forge their own unique identity, but there’s also enough to differentiate themselves to shrug that rip-off ribbon straight off and make it a worthwhile experience in its own right.

NIGHTSIDE GLANCE is as such a very talented band with huge potential, and “Gray Haven” is all the evidence anyone would ever need of that. If you like DIMMU BORGIR or Symphonic Black Metal in general, you simply can’t ignore this. Now, if these guys could just find their way to a sound of their very own, and maybe also find that edge to write really kick-ass songs, then these guys have all the potential to become a modern Symphonic Black Metal giant.

4 Star Rating

1. Humdrum
2. On the Wrong Side
3. Daydream Lullaby
4. Gray Haven
5. Persecution Complex
6. Awakening
7. Ward No. 208
8. Figment of the Imagination
9. Last Frontier
10. Final Chapter
11. Epilogue
Demian – Vocals
Gozard – Guitars
Sick Parasite – Guitars
Midgard – Keys
Lökis – Bass
Bizo - Drums
Record Label: Independent


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