The world needs to take note

Comprised of members from Singapore, the Philippines, New Zealand and the United States, Nightmare A.D.’s story began in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 2014.

Their 2016 debut EP Corruptors saw them start life as a crossover/thrash metal band. On Phantoms of Our Ruin (due for release in Spring) they incorporate sludge, death metal, and retrowave. How does this renewed approach benefit their music? This reviewer aims to find out.

Opener ‘The Great Equaliser’ begins as a sludge-drenched take on the sound heard throughout Corruptors with subtle retrowave influence creeping through. Vocalist/guitarist Mia Priest’s voice bear the hallmarks of a thrash-dominated delivery yet also reveal a slight death metal inflection. These influences reveal an expansive space which was previously unexplored. It’s a heavy, introspective trip; a great way to kick off proceedings.

‘Deathtrip’ opens with a softly spoken intro that gradually progresses to a roar, matching the increasing intensity of the music. Mia and rhythm guitarist Genesis Trias offer some solid riffing over the foundation deftly created by bassist Ned Kelly and drummer Todd Bazley. A haunting synth lead (courtesy of guest Jon Banules) is overlaid to great effect. ‘Deathtrip’ works as a solid example as how Nightmare A.D. haven’t lost their thrashy core, they’ve instead found new ways to augment it, really benefiting from the interplay between the crushing riffs and duelling guitar and keyboard solos.

‘Pain is a Master’ features a bludgeoning riff, soon underpinned by layers of synth. Mia’s vocals are absolutely venomous once they emerge, ably conveying the nature of the lyrics. The band’s new sludge influence takes prominence here; alternating between speedy synth-led passages and crushing riffs beset with some deeper growls. Interlude ‘The Lesser Light’ is a mournful instrumental led by guitar and synth, showing that Nightmare A.D. are comfortable enough in their new skin to reflect.

Before the listener has time to finish absorbing ‘The Lesser Light’, ‘Interloper’ goes directly for the jugular. Featuring a varied vocal assault set against almost-progressive riffs, the track just climbs higher before a ripping guitar solo hits at the apex; leading the track into a sludgy, death metal crawl before gaining in speed. It really shows just how adept Nightmare A.D. are as musicians, ably shifting between subgenre traits with ease.

Closer ‘Vultures’ opens to a solid riff, some well-placed synth, and vocals taking centre stage. The synth feeling perhaps the most integrated here as compared to elsewhere on the EP. It’s noticeable that the synth is not used to provide a contrast, or soften the impact, but conveys as much heaviness as the gargantuan rhythms underneath, before those impressive vocals lead to an abrupt exit.

When I first heard that Nightmare A.D.’s next release was a departure from their thrash sound. I was hesitant, but also intrigued: Hesitant because so many bands have made this claim, and either not changed their sound at all, or only to a minimal degree. Yet the idea incorporating relatively disparate influences into a thrash/crossover sound was an intriguing one. It was quite a risk to take, but Nightmare A.D. are skilled enough to make it work. I look forward to seeing where this revitalised sound takes them. It is releases like this that show why Cambodia, and Southeast Asia in general, is a hotbed for extreme metal. The rest of the world needs to take note.

  1. The Great Equaliser
  2. Death Trip
  3. Pain is a Master
  4. The Lesser Light
  5. Interloper
  6. Vultures