Rising from the deep valleys of Kymi in southernmost Finland comes I Am The Night, with their debut album, While The Gods Are Sleeping. They are a “new” Black Metal outfit that has its inspiration rooted in the classic early ’90s tradition.
I Am The Night – While The Gods Are Sleeping (Svart Records)
Release Date: 6 May 2022
Words: Jools Green
I Am The Night have an interesting line-up consisting of seasoned musicians normally associated with Melodic Death Metal; Markus Vanhala (Insomnium, Omnium Gatherum), Janne Markkanen (ex-Omnium Gatherum), Okko Solanterä and Walteri Väyrynen (Paradise Lost, Bodom After Midnight).
However, the band’s origins hark further back to the “dimly lit subterranean rehearsal rooms of the mid-’90s”, where Vanhala’s and Markkanen’s interest in Black Metal began.
“Black Metal art has been a continuous and serious pursuit in my personal life since my early teenage years”, explains guitarist Vanhala. “In The Nightside Eclipse, Storm Of The Light’s Bane and De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas opened the gate to the dark side for me years ago, as can be heard from the music we make with I Am The Night.”
Vanhala says the band embrace the underground style. “Our debut record, the result of a yearning for ancient darkness, turned out to be just the time capsule we wanted it to be, far removed from Modern Metal. I’ve seldom found anything interesting in post-’90s Black Metal. We wanted to realise this in the underground way that felt fitting to the music and chose to work with Svart Records.”
From a personal perspective, although I enjoy Black Metal from across the decades, I fully understand the point Vanhala is making regarding pre-’90s Black Metal. It does have a certain quality only found in that era.
While The Gods Are Sleeping delivers eight tracks spanning thirty-eight minutes. Vocalist Solaterä explains that “Our songs are stories about the worship of night and the triumph of the powers of darkness. At night, sun to his slumber and shadows all over, the forces of the night rise to the heavens, cast angels out and usher in a new era of individual freedom.”
Apparently, the album was created during the heaviest blizzard Finland had seen in years in the winter of 2021, with the band holed up at the Soundspiral Audio studio during the height of the pandemic, no doubt adding to the icy aura this album exudes.
The homage to an era continues with the album design following in the familiar blue/black colour scheme, similar in theme to Emperor’s In The Nightside Eclipse and Dissection’s Storm Of The Light’s Bane. So no surprise that the cover art is by Necrolord (Jan Kristian Wåhlin), who also did the artwork for those albums.
Although While The Gods Are Sleeping has its roots in the ’90s, the one immediate difference is the sound quality which is a 21st century one, without being over polished, which would have ruined the atmosphere.
Carefully created with layers of classic Black Metal riffs, synthesisers, and haunting choral backing vocals throughout, opening and title track, from the offset, has a Dissection feel to the starting riffs, taking an eerie, even darker downturn with the arrival of the ominous vocals. From this point onwards, you can’t help but be intrigued as to what will follow.
Next, Hear Me O’ Unmaker, which was released as a tantalising single back in May 2021, finds pounding drum rhythms and haunting riffs herald a wall of Blackened fury, with acidic vocals tearing through the haunting keyboards. A track that is as powerful as it is haunting.
The unstoppable drive continues with Dawnbearer, with a spoken element followed by a brutally acidic harsh vocal segment in the latter part of the second half which will put a shiver of delight down your spine. Ode To The Nightsky again has that Dissection feel to the riffs, brutally bursting forth with sheer dynamism and might.
Released as a more recent single, heralding the imminent arrival of this album, I Am The Night is a superb piece, dark with a sultry drive, a fascinating meld of different classic Black Metal styles and inspirations that, most importantly, makes an engaging listen.
The Owl is a particularly mystical and atmospheric listen, embellished with haunting keyboards, owl hoots and choral backing vocals. Among The Unseen Ones, the penultimate offering is a drum rich driver with a haunting spoken closing element that becomes more deranged as it progresses. This brings the album home to the final track, Holocaust Of The Angels, largely instrumental, aside from distant backing vocal sounds and one of the shorter pieces but no less atmospheric or impactful than its predecessors.
While The Gods Are Sleeping does make an impressive and memorable listen, partly for the slightly nostalgic aspect. It is also entirely a new beast of its own making. An absolute must-listen for all Black Metal fans, particularly ’90s fans and Dissection fans.
I’ll leave the final comment with vocalist Solaterä, who states, in true Black Metal style, “I Am The Night is a real band, not a project. It is unrestrained creation. A ray of darkness for us in the vacuum created by the pandemic. The future remains unseen, and all the better for it.”
Available as CD, 12″ vinyl, svartrecords.com/product/i-am-the-night-while-the-gods-are-sleeping-album/. Digital download or stream from orcd.co/mx8r3go