FOR THE PAST two years, Nightfell have maintained a low profile in Portland, the city that spawned them. Although the band's two records—The Living Ever Mourn and last year's Darkness Evermore—each earned them national and even international recognition, Nightfell remains one of metal's best-kept secrets.
Much of this mystery is due to the fact that Nightfell has been a studio project since the band's inception—their March performances will be their first live shows ever. The band's core members, drummer/vocalist Tim Call and guitarist/vocalist Todd Burdette, also haven't given many interviews—zero in person. Even their press photos are distorted and dark, subtly obscuring the band members' identities. I began wondering if Nightfell's music is even made by humans, or by some shadowy fiends.
And yet there I found myself, sitting across the table from these two fiends at a not-so-shadowy drinking establishment in Northeast Portland. Both were friendly, though equally cagey when it came to talking about the band and their music. "It felt daunting at first," says Call of Nightfell's decision to finally play live. "We're both enthusiastic, though—we want to stay true to the records."
Those records contain some of the best metal in Portland, or anywhere for that matter. It's dark and unsettling, where mid-tempo riffs are met with occasional lush instrumental keyboard and cello parts. The production (courtesy of young wunderkind Evan Mersky) swallows you whole, what I imagine being trapped in a deep pit sounds like. And while they adhere closely to death metal, Nightfell avoids the cartoonish gore of some of the genre's better-known practitioners.
Their musical pedigrees are varied—Call has played with Aldebaran and Mournful Congregation, and Burdette with Warcry and Tennessee punks His Hero Is Gone—which adds to their current band's unpredictable turns. Over the past two years, Nightfell has steadily become their priority. "This is where most of my creative stuff goes," says Burdette, adding, "there's nothing premeditated about this band because there's no time."
Nightfell released The Living Ever Mourn in 2014 on Call's label, Parasitic Records, before Southern Lord issued it on vinyl. Less than a year later, the band got to work on Darkness Evermore and released the album on the venerable label 20 Buck Spin in September 2015. This time, however, Nightfell will test those songs onstage rather than heading right back into the studio. Burdette and Call have fleshed out the live lineup with bassist Derek Willman from Hellshock and former Anhedonist guitarist VB, although they're taking things slow. At the moment, Nightfell only has two shows on the docket—March 11 in Olympia, and another in Portland the next night—plus an August appearance at Olympia's three-day Migration Fest.
As we finish our beers, the topic drifts to Nightfell's new material, which Call and Burdette will record for release sometime in 2017. Burdette says they already have skeletons of songs for their third record, and expects their new music will be even more visceral and aggressive—and, perhaps, even more lyrically unnerving. Why all the ugliness?
Burdette says it best: "Savory people make terrible music."