There are bands that ape the NWOBHM era, and there are those who breathe it. There are those who take the requisite notes about song structure, harmonized leads and banging choruses and simply emulate, and there are those who absorb the HEAVY METAL™ into every atom in their being, and via some heavy metal fission burst it back out into the ether where you can sense the building blocks but the thing before you? This is new. This, ladies and gentlemen, is bitchin‘. That’s the kind of fist pumping, head banging rock and roll Nite once again bring forth on their sophomore release Voices of the Kronian Moon. Its cover art may be brooding fantasy, but its heart is clad in denim and studded with spikes, ready to envelop you under its dark spell.
The fact the band nails the sound and the spirit of the best of what emerged in the late 70s/early 80s metal scene shouldn’t come as a surprise once you dive into the pedigree of the band. Formed in San Francisco in 2018, the guitar attack is led by Van Labrakis of Satan’s Wrath and Mencea along with Scott Hoffman of Dawnbringer and High Spirits. And when you hear those guitars take off on “Kronian Moon” the reaction to the aforementioned bands becomes immediately clear. One of the big differences here, first brought to bear on 2020’s debut Darkness Silence Mirror Moon are Labrakis’s vocals; where one might expect to hear the smooth creamy leads of a Chris Black associated to this kind of traditional metal, instead you get a snarled, clearly enunciated rasp, and the seemingly opposed styles work to bring layer of freshness to the tracks.
And man, those tracks. Eight songs clocking in at 37 minutes, Voices of the Kronian Moon is the perfect length, packing maximum punchability into each song and never overstaying its welcome. Whether it’s the pedal riff that licks off opener “Acheron” or the gallop that leads later track “Edge of the Night” the amount of sweetness packed into these songs borders on the ridiculous. In some ways there’s a direct comparison to be made to what Ghost has been doing: there are moments here, particularly on the main riffs for “Heliopolis” and “Last Scorpion” where – if it weren’t for the vocals – I could close my eyes and think these were heavier tracks from bands like Loverboy or Journey (anyone who thinks Journey can’t rock should hear the guitars on “Edge of the Moment”).
I meant the preceding as a compliment, but of course the opposite is also true: one listen to closer “The Trident” and it’s readily apparent Nite can be as heavy as they want, and you can just as easily point out small moments that echo Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and even Opeth in the way the guitar plays against the strong and steady rhythm work of bassist Avinash Mittur and drummer Patrick Crawford. But the thing that draws me to Nite and the album as a whole more than anything else are the wonderful solos. This isn’t technical show-off wankery or anemic one-note sustains to simply bridge one from another: every solo is thought out, musical, and has an arc that supports the mood and energy of each song. In that way it’s also a lot like the hard rock heroics of the 80s metal scene, where solos were carefully thought out to be a necessary part of the song, rather than a simple “break.”
It’s great to discover a band and album that calls out to everything you grew up loving about heavy metal. Taking modern elements and effortlessly combining them with classic elements that forged the genre in the first place, Voices of the Kronian Moon feels both timeless and of the moment. If Nite keeps creating music this strong and memorable, I suspect we’ll be talking about them as leading the way for other bands 10, 15 years from now.