Pulsating with dark energy yet with an intoxicatingly magnetic sound, Seattle area-based Nightmare Fortress’s debut album The Wanting feels like it was made in a futuristic gothic castle, and that is a good thing.
Formed in 2011, Nightmare Fortress have sharpened and honed their wall of sound supporting local bands throughout the Pacific Northwest, also releasing two EP’s throughout that time. Their first full-length record, The Wanting, is a beautifully constructed album woven around dark, inviting industrial sounds—a mix of guitars and electronics that never cross the line into harshness—all punctuated by lead singer Alicia Amiri’s deeply sonorous voice.
The album opener “No Exit” immediately draws the listener into the expansively dreamy and danceable sound that is Nightmare Fortress. A constant underlying force of sonic goodness flows through each song, keeping the pace and allowing Amiri’s voice to draws the listener in like a beckoning siren. “The Perfect Feeling” and “Life Worth Living” keep the dark dance party going, mixing in crunches of guitars between cracking walls of synths. In particular, the middle-break down of “Life Worth Living” is a rich mix of electronics, base, and guitars, melding together with Amiri’s voice, that serves as one of many stand-out moments from the first half of the album.
After the trance inducing interlude of “Terminal” we are taken even deeper into the depths of Nightmare Fortress’s catacombs. The zenith point on The Wanting is “Faces in the Dark.” If the vampire Lestat DJ’d a party in his basement, this is what he would spin. Eerie and slow burning, with bass and a dystopian electronics that melt the eardrums, “Faces in The Dark,” along with “Crawl to Me” and “Morning Star” embody the type of sound Nightmare Fortress has been constructing since their inception. With apocalyptic feel—organ-synths and electronics prickle in the background like sparks in the dark—the compulsion to start an undead dance party in massive chandelier illuminated hall is inexorable.
As the album progresses towards its finish, each song becomes more appealing than the last. Where the first half of the album was a rapid-fire blast of kinetic energy—a mash of resonating sounds. The second half is more expansive and cohesive. The songs separate into climactic serenades—“Crusher” and “Mourning Star” build and release with the pounding of bass while haunting lyrics crystalize into dark romantic moments.
By the time the penultimate “After Death” and the closer “In My Blood” traverse across the membrane, it’s clear this four-piece is in full command of their musical arsenal. Cinematic in its scope, listening to The Wanting is haunting journey through a mansion of sounds, as danceable as they are hypnotizing. At times both a frenetic blitz of organ-based synths and bass—peppered with just the right amount of guitar work—and a blend of dark-wave pop. The eye of the storm is always the penetrating desperation in Alicia Amiri’s orotund voice. The composition alone could fill late night industrial warehouses with steampunk era dancers, but Amiri’s voice adds a commanding sensual presence and balance. The Wanting is a seriously delicious debut from a different kind of band. Do yourself a favor, get lost in the dark recesses of Nightmare Fortress and give this album a listen.