A local release we have been anticipating all summer is Nightosaur’s third album, Set Fire to the Mountain. You’ll be able to hear the whole thing — and take home a copy for yourself — on Friday night, but until then all you’ll get to hear is this single, “Devourer,” which they have posted online. It is but a heralding, a brief forewarning of all that is to follow, the smoke before the eruption of the mountain, a tremor to hint of the bursting of the Earth below.
It is so because we know. Hymie’s has been given foreknowledge of the coming of the new Nightosaur in the form of a disc of the master before it was sent to press. We have heard all that is to be unleashed, and we can attest that it is good. Very good. The title track is our favorite thing the band has recorded, a driving epic we cannot wait to add to the archives of our collection. And Set Fire to the Mountain is, by the way, their first release on an LP, although one of the new songs (“Skeleton Key”) was on Learning Curve Records’ Held Hostage Vol. 2 which came out this spring — it the main reason we brought home a copy of that collection.
Nightosaur sounds a little different on Set Fire to the Mountain, having shifted from a ‘twin axe attack’ to a trio, but they didn’t drop their flair for dynamic, dramatic arrangements. The album opens with “Old Man Grandfather Tree,” a sludgy, steady burner that’s good enough to recall vintage Sabbath. Drummer Brad Schwab adds otherworldly percussion in just the right proportion to his pulsating fills, while the new dual attack lineup, bass and guitar by Andy Webber and John Henry, play off one another with harmonic intensity. Any fears the band would sound smaller are put down like a lame horse in the first six minutes.
Last year Numero Group released a compilation in its Wayfaring Strangers series, Darkscorch Canticles, which featured obscure occult-themed Sabbath-sounding seventies metal singles. We can’t possibly recommend this collection enough — it really reinvigorated our enthusiasm for everything from Iommi to Iron Maiden, and reminded us there really isn’t enough music like it anymore. What we love about Nightosaur is that they fill that hole in our hearts and in our record collection. They ace the familiar form in songs like “Old Gods” and “Bow Down to the Destroyer” while also pressing their range in “(The Shocking Tale of) Wilson Pinafore” and pretty much everything about the album’s epic title track.
All this isn’t to say the new Nightosaur sounds like a ‘throwback’ act — not that it would be such a bad thing if they stopped there, as we’re a little fatigued with retro-soul records and would love to hear a revival of some fresh blasts from the past. “Wilson Pinatore” and “Old Gods” are brightly-recorded and thrashy, a successful more modern turn not entirely removed from the big M’s of the 80s, Metallica and Megadeath. And “Skeleton Key” (which you can listen to here by the way) is awesomely Iron Maiden-y even though Nightosaur no longer has that signature dual lead ‘twin axe attack’ sound.
We agreed not to post anything but the single until after the release show, but we’ll probably post another song from this album next week. In the past we’ve called Nightosaur the funnest band in the Twin Cities. The musicianship on Set Fire to the Mountain far surpasses anything they’ve previously recorded, but they’re still, especially in their vocals, not taking their music to the heights of seriousness which started making metal no fun. Schwab sounds especially awesome throughout, and the bands interplay on “Bow Down to the Destroyer” and “Set Fire to the Mountain” is both intuitive and rockin’. The disc we were given this summer had a handwritten message, “some of the titles may be shortened,” so we may have been listening to an extended version of the album all this time (doing the math it seems likely all seven tracks will fit over two sides of an LP without pushing the limits of good sound quality).
We’re told the jackets for Set Fire to the Mountain were custom screen printed, but haven’t seen one yet — either way we are very excited for this album. You can bet it will be playing in the shop a lot this fall.
Nightosaur’s record release show for Set Fire to the Mountain will be at the 331 Club this Friday, September 26th at 10pm. Free, 21+. Also performing will be Gay Witch Abortion and Bongonya. We have also scheduled an all-ages in-store appearance, but it’s not ’til November so you better get your butt up to Northeast on Friday to hear these guys.