Monday, January 9, 2017

Album Review: Nightmare - Dead Sun

I don't like it when this happens, but here I am late to the party on this new record, because of the differences between living on each side of the Atlantic. Europe received this album back at the end of November, and now two months later, it is in my inbox for American release. I won't go into the business aspect of these decisions, but from a selfish perspective I don't like it. There was a case a few years back where the same thing happened to Nightingale's "Retribution", an album that almost won the honors as my album of the year, except that I couldn't decide which year it belonged part of. Delays are one thing, but when they span the difference between years, it gets to be annoying. But, I'm not going to hold that against the music.

Nightmare is a long-running power metal institution, but one that has a new twist in the form of a new female singer. While plenty of power metal bands have taken that course, this one is different, since we are not talking about a classically trained singer providing operatic tones. No, Nightmare opted for a grittier, more metal sound.

Despite how long the band has been around, they are clearly fired up as "Infected" gets things going with pounding drums and down-tuned guitars. It's a heavy, raging beast of a song, and one that shows this might be power, but it's nothing close to 'flower metal'. Nightmare is going all-out to make "Dead Sun" a heavy affair, and that is the album's best redeeming feature. They don't worry about making sure the songs are shiny enough for the modern power metal fan, focusing instead on playing to their strengths.

That does two things; 1) It keeps the band on the right track, and 2) It makes the album a bit too cohesive, if that makes sense. Because they don't take any deviations, everything on the album fits nicely into a single category, where if you like what you're hearing, you're going to like the whole of the album. The problem with that is while the songs are good, they do start to sound a bit similar. The nature of power metal riffing is such that you don't get a lot of variety from the chugging double-bass pace.

But that's the critic in me being critical, because it's my job. The takeaway from "Dead Sun" is that Nightmare has definitely found themselves writing an exciting new chapter in their long career. Maggy Luyten is a powerhouse of a vocalist, sounding like a mix of Dilana and ex-Meat Loaf duet partner Patti Russo. She's got the potential to be a star in the metal world, and she makes this album exceptionally appealing. She is certainly the star of the show, but the songs have more than enough muscle and melody to hold their own. As you listen to the album a second, then a third time, the nuances of the hooks begin to stand out, and you realize that the focus I mentioned earlier works to the record's benefit in the form of honing the blade to a lethal point. Give "Dead Sun" enough time, and it goes from being a record that sounded good, to one that sounds great, to one that I found myself unexpectedly loving to a startling degree.

So if you decide to count "Dead Sun" as a 2017 album, which I'm going to for accounting purposes, Nightmare has notched the first damn good metal album of the year. I don't know if it will hold up as the best 2017 will have to offer, but it's a welcoming way to begin a new year, that much I know for sure. I certainly want to hear more from them, as long as they have Maggy around.

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