Nightfall Cassiopeia

Based in Athens, Greece, blackened symphonic metal band Nightfall have just released their ninth full-length record, Cassiopeia. Nightfall have evolved significantly since they were founded in 1991, due in no small part to the fact that only Efthimis Karadimas remains from the original line-up. Shifts in personnel, as well as the sheer passage of time, have refined Nightfall into a band capable of making their often-overwrought genre intelligent and worthwhile. While their previous releases have been more esoteric in concept, Cassiopeia is a direct engagement with the story of the legendary maiden, exploring the constellation from an astronomical point of view, as well as the mythical narrative of Cassiopeia and Andromeda. Their story is one of punishment for vanity, which Nightfall also use to comment on contemporary excess. On Cassiopeia, the symphonic elements are quite minimal and more of their blackened tendencies come to the foreground, resulting in a record that is quite dour and restrained. Keyboardist Stathis Kassios shines particularly bright on the moody tracks, especially the ash-stained "Hyperion," which is an album highlight. Melodic without frivolity, Nightfall maintain a sense of narrative gravity that gives Cassiopeia heaviness and replay value. (Metal Blade)