Nocturnal Rites - In A Time Of Blood And Fire (Megarock Records) 1995
I had been searching for this CD for some time, especially after October 31's vocalist King Fowley told me it was one of his favorite discs and definitely his favorite Nocturnal Rites CD. "In A Time Of Blood And Fire" is heavy metal! Galloping, triumphant heavy metal. I don't suppose that this CD is terrible groundbreaking, but SO WHAT! That is not always the point. The point was to make good, quality heavy metal. That is exactly what Nocturnal Rites did here. Those familiar with "Tales of Mystery and Imagination" will know what to expect here. I don't even hear a hint of their death metal beginnings here either, which I thought I might as this was their debut album. My favorite track here is album opener "Sword of Steel," an excellent choice for the opening cut. "Rest in Peace" and the epic closing number "Dragonisle" are also some highlights. The entire disc, however, is full of solid riffage, cool melodic parts, excellent guitar solos, and a variety of speed and tempos. "Lay of Ennui" likewise is a cool song, with a hooky chorus. Unfortunately the lyrics here are pretty dark, as are most of the lyrics focusing on dark fictional tales of fantasy and science fiction. The vocals are all in a semi-high pitched power metal mode, which I personally enjoy. (thanks for hooking me up Kurt! you rule!)
Nocturnal Rites - Tales of Mystery and Imagination (Century Media) 1998
1. "Ring of Steel"
Nocturnal Rites fall squarely between Hammerfall and Narnia, mixing in equally parts of neoclassical metal and fantasy based heavy metal. I have heard that these guys started off as a death metal band, which would explain the band name, but if this be so, there is not even a trace to be found on this album. This one is just pure heavy metal with clean, melodic vocals. Yet another band on a heavy metal crusade. Death to posers!
Nocturnal Rites - The Sacred Talisman (Century Media) 1999
1. "Destiny Calls"
The Sacred Talisman is similar to "Tales of Mystery and Imagination" in that it offers more classic early '80s power-metal yet it is infinitely better. I suppose "more mature" would be the proper definition of what I am trying to say. Unfortunately in today's "metal is uncool" world maturing tends to mean moving away from heavy metal. This is certainly not true of "Sacred Talisman," but the songwriting is much better leaving me to come back time and again for another listen. Nocturnal Rites, unlike many of modern bands have not forgotten two essential elements, killer guitar riffs and lyrical hooks. Nocturnal Rites, along with bands like Iced Earth, Hammerfall, etc, could very well bring about a metal revival. Long live metal, long live Nocturnal Rites!
Nocturnal Rites - Afterlife (Century Media) 2000
Nocturnal Rites continue to pound out the triumphant heavy metal, only this time they are a bit less frantic than in the past. "Afterlife" seems a bit slower in tempo than past discs, and dare I say they are more melodic or even more commercially accessible? **GASP** I dunno! I like it better like this. I mean, it's not like they went for a sellout radio sound, it's just that they improved their songwriting skills. Another excellent release from Sweden's masters of true metal, if not their best so far.
Nocturnal Rites - Shadowland (Century Media) 2002
1. "Eyes of the Dead"
I held off reviewing this disc as I wanted to give it plenty of spins before I wrote anything about it. In general I think that Nocturnal Rites has been a leader in the current crop of power metal bands. However, I read on the All Music Guide, about this disc, that "their abilities generally don't rise above the industry standard of the genre." What standards are these? Who set these standards? What an asinine thing to say. Not only is Nocturnal Rites a fine example of power metal musicianship but "Shadowland" is their best release yet. (Spoken like a true fan, don't ya think?) Perhaps Nocturnal Rites are not burning new ground here, but so what! What matters is that the song craft, musicianship and overall feel of the disc is more than enjoyable to those who like true metal. No one expects, or even wants, bands like Nocturnal Rites to suddenly start experimenting with other styles. Having said that, however, I do think that "Shadowland" is a tad bit more progressive and even more melodic than anything they have released in the past. Long live true metal. Long live Nocturnal Rites.
Nocturnal Rites - Grand Illusion (Century Media) 2005
DISC ONE (CD)
DISC TWO (DVD)
"Grand Illusion" is grandiose, majestic, melodic, passionate, heavy metal. The first time I gave this disc a listen, I was at work and had to play it at a very low volume. Even at that low volume, I was immediately impressed. My next listen was inside my car at maximum volume. I was even more blown away. This is simply one of the best albums in the Nocturnal Rites catalog. I can understand why some fans of their earlier, less melodic material might be disappointed, but frankly, I think the band's progression has worked exceedingly well for them. Unlike other melodic power metal bands (ie. Kamelot, Stratovarius), Nocturnal Rites retains a heavy sound that isn't overly saturated with keyboards while still having a very melodic sound. In short, Nocturnal rites haven't forgotten the HEAVY in heavy metal, nor the POWER in power metal. They also incorporate big hooks. "Never Trust A Stranger" will stick to your brain like super glue, as will "Fools Never Die" and "Still Alive". Jonny Lindqvist vocals are superb as well. His voice isn't overly high, nor do I think he has a huge range. Rather he knows his voice and uses it well. At times his tone reminded me of a young Ronnie James Dio. "Grand Illusion" is a spectacular power metal album from beginning to end and stacks up again "Shadowland" as the best in their catalog. It's also worth mentioning that this album is packed with guest musicians as well. The special edition, 2 disc release also contains video clips and a lengthy documentary.
I must also mention that I cannot even think of the title of this CD without the chorus of the Styx song of the same name popping up into my head. Ugh!
Nocturnal Rites - The 8th Sin (Century Media) 2007
1. "Call Out to the World" (3:48)
I am amazed at the transformation and evolution of Nocturnal Rites. They started out as melodic death metal, moved to straight forward heavy metal, then into majestic power power. "The 8th Sin" is once again a move in a different direction. With this album the band has moved into straight forward, melodic hard rock, not unlike something I would expect from Pretty Maids, TNT or Pink Cream 69. There are some heavier moments peppered throughout, such as "Strong Enough", which echo back to the bands more metallic, Euro-power metal roots. Overall, however, this is much more pop oriented and radio friendly. That alone might be enough to chase away some longtime fans, but add to that the squeaky clean production and layers of keyboards and it nearly sounds like a different band. However, I still find this album to be very enjoyable. This band doesn't know how to release a dud. Each song is packed with huge catchy melodies, grandiose choruses and high quality musicianship, even if the songs themselves aren't as complex as past arrangements. Probably my least favorite track is the piano ballad "Me", which sounds like something you might hear on American Idol or some pop radio station. The song is even turns into a duet with female vocalist Carolina Miskovsky. It's actually hard for me to believe listening to this CD that this is the same band that released albums like "In A Time of Blood and Fire" and "Shadowland".