Having not heard of this band before receiving this album, I certainly was not expecting doom when I saw the cover of this album, which displays an ornate suit of 15th century plate armor in front of a backdrop of fire, with the titles written in "medieval"-looking typeface-staples of power metal albums, as we all know. Needless to say, I was forced to remove my Brocas Helm from the very first note, and enjoy this classic doom album.
This band, which has figured prominently in the Maryland Doom scene since the early 90s, began as a Black Sabbath cover band, and the sound of this album is a logical step from that past. The riffing, drumming, and songwriting are pure Sabbath circa Master Of Reality, Volume 4, and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Alfred Morris III plays loud, dark, fuzzy, wah-drenched, downtuned, skull-crushingly heavy guitar. His performance is the highlight of this album, really, and for all of the aforementioned reasons! Larry Brown's powerful bass playing provides the low-end thump with Morris's guitar, and the nicely-syncopated drumming of Ron Kalimon, whose performance draws high marks as well.
In Why Can't You See Me?, there seem to be smatterings of keyboards, but no credit is listed for this instrument.
Rob Leven's vocal performance is a bit of a mixed bag. Truly, he has the perfect voice for this sort of music: his tone is slightly nasal and gritty, and he never resorts to screechy highs or anything terribly technical, he just delivers a solid performance focused around the lyrics. But, he suffers from pitch problems at various times throughout the album. Sometimes it is barely noticeable, at others it grates on the ears. Granted, this style of music isn't about technical virtuosity, so a little looseness is permitted, even encouraged, ergo, the fact that he often doesn't land right on the note he's after can be overlooked-to a degree.
The songs meander quite a bit, but never uninterestingly or unnecessarily; each song is constructed deftly and tastefully. Thus, the album covers a good deal of territory as far as variety and shades of, well, darkness. The guitar solos are never overdone, but always bluesy and wild and never detract from Morris's real strength, which is his rhythm playing. What separates this album from other doom releases is the tempo: while many doomsters attempt to plod along as slowly as possible, at few points on this album does the band invoke the signature sinister shamble of their fellows. All of the songs have a common thread stylistically, so the changes make sense when they happen. Lyrically, the band stays away from demons and the occult and stands firm on social issues, from narcotics to ecology, abortion to AIDS; the idea that the real doom of mankind is present in man himself. Thus, even a nearly-two decades-old album still has freshness and relevance to this day.
All told, this reissue is very well done and will warrant quite a few more plays. Fans of classic fuzz-wah 70s hard rock and doom will rejoice at this album, and the upcoming re-releases of the remainder of the band's work. The only issue production-wise is the typo in the title. It is listed on the front cover as "Black Night", but everywhere else it is listed as "Black Knight." Given the armoured warrior on the front cover, I can probably answer this question, but still I am left to wonder: Moonless evening or medieval elite?
Thank you, Shadow Kingdom Records, for re-releasing this
monumental metal masterpiece!