Ten years is a long time between albums. This is, however, the gap between The 8th Sin and Phoenix the latest release from Swedish metal band Nocturnal Rites. As titles go it is I suppose appropriate considering many fans probably thought they had called it a day. Apart from one change of personnel with Per Nilsson from Scar Symmetry replacing Nils Norberg on lead guitar, it is the same line up from the last album. Having only a couple of the albums, which are from earlier years, the thing I noticed right away was how powerful it sounded, more in your face, not as twee or cheesy power metal wise but heading more into Hammerfall or Primal Fear territory rather than for instance Blind Guardian which is a good thing. The album has plenty of solid fast riffs, big choruses, tasty guitar solos and throaty but booming vocals. There is everything one would expect from a melodic power metal band.
The opener is solid but the album really takes off on the second track “Before We Waste Away” which seems lyrically like an ecological song, a plea to think about what we are doing to the planet. Although that maybe just me reading too much into it. This is the type of track that live should be fantastic. Lots of fist pumping, a chorus that just needs to be sung out loud and a section at the end (which does sound very familiar from somewhere) with lots of “oys” to also shout. “The Poisonous Seed” has a touch of heavy Fates Warning about it in places. Next up is a jaunty sounding track which has a melody that has the feel of something Arjen Lucassen would write (see his off-shoot project The Gentle Storm as an example) but surrounded with a more metallic vibe. The mix between the throaty vocals and the harmonies in the chorus are effective in “What’s Killing me”.
Possibly the best track on the album is “The Ghost Inside Me” with its symphonic touches. Positioned in between some excellent riffing and thunderous drumming they add a bit more texture and variety to the album. This also has some of the best guitar soloing on it. The ending piano/keyboards goes a bit Alice Cooper “Steven” just to further mix it up. Sadly the next couple of tracks are a disappointment. They are not as strong as the rest of the album. “Used To Be God” picks up the pace a bit before the excellent closer “Welcome To The End” which definitely is a song dealing with the planet and what we have, as humans, done to it. Once again there are some symphonic elements. The rapid machine gun fire drumming hints at the subject of war. As do the lyrics “make your peace with a loaded gun” amongst others. With another tasty guitar solo included this hits all the right spots. A very good end to the album.
A very good melodic/power metal album, which doesn’t break the mold but has enough variety to keep it on the whole quite enjoyable to listen to. There are songs that will certainly sound terrific live which is always a bonus. Despite a bit of a dip late midway through it is a solid album for anyone who likes anthemic music with some power and guitar solos.