Nocturnal Rites-shadowland(stratovarius, Rhapsody) Mmy

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Nocturnal Rites started off as death metal, recording one demo and a promo in this style. After a few years their sound gradually became more melodic and by the time they released their first album they were playing power metal.

Mattias Bernhardsson played keyboards on the first two albums on a session basis before being added to the official line-up for The Sacred Talisman, Afterlife and Shadowland, after which he left. Keyboards are now for the most part played by Henrik Kjellberg.

Fredrik Mannberg played lead guitar until Nils Norberg joined the band. He has almost exclusively played rhythm since then. He was also the band's vocalist until 1993.

Reknown artist Par Olofsson did the artwork for one of their T-shirts.

Birth dates:
Nils Jonny Lindqvist (3rd August 1965, Själevad, Sweden)
Nils Elof Oskar Eriksson (28th May, Umeå, Sweden)
Nils Fredrik Mannberg (1975, North of Sweden)
Owe Lingvall (1969, Umeå, Sweden)
Nils Norberg (Umeå, Sweden)

After a rather surprising reinvention in their previous effort “Afterlife”, Sweden’s pioneering power metal act returned with a more melodic release in “Shadowland”. The mystical imagery on the album underscores that NR has taken the course back towards the more melodic side of their past, although they have kept the brutal and heavy guitar sound that first surfaced on the last release. The result is a more powerful brand of power metal that stands out amongst the crowd of Helloween and Judas Priest influenced bands.

Jonny Lindkvist’s vocals have been cleaned up a bit on this release, making way for a series of highly memorable and riveting choruses. Where on songs like “The Sinners Cross” and “Wake Up Dead” on the Afterlife album he was grunting with a quasi-demonic character, on tracks such as “Never Die” and “Vengeance” off this album he is projecting the upper peak of his range to give us a triumphant sound that highlights why they call it power metal. In addition, all the odd effects on the vocals that were present before have been transferred completely to the instruments, and even there the amounts are much smaller than on Afterlife.

The guitar riffs on here have taken on a very different character as well. Although the dark and heavy sound of the 7 string guitar is as present as is was before, they have been utilized very differently here. While songs such as “Genetic Distortion Sequence” and “Temple of the Dead” had quintessential speed metal riffs that are almost impossible to hum, the melodic intro riffs of “The Watcher” and even the slow thudding “Invincible” are so catchy that you are forced to sing along with them. The chorus progressions of the chorus of the title track, as well as those of “Revelation” and “Eyes of the Dead” are complex enough that they resemble the work on “Tales of Mystery and Imagination”.

Nils Norberg’s solos have a character that is a bit closer to the pre-Afterlife style, but he is still keeping it short in the interests of keeping the focus on the powerful choruses that are the staples of this album. One exception on here is the solo to “Faceless God” which does go on a bit long and trades off a bit with the keyboards. Other solos such as that of the title track, “Vengeance”, and “Invincible” are similar to those found on Afterlife, but are a bit more climactic and loaded with plenty of brilliant shred licks.

The drum sound on here deserves special note as it is highly different from all the other albums this band has ever released. Although I am not normally a big fan of a snare tuned high, the way it is done here, and how it meshes with the deep guitar power chords and the ground-pounding bass gives the whole arrangement a strong sense of balance. Owe Lingvall is obviously in top form on this release, providing us with some rather brilliant drum work, particularly on the title track and “Underworld”.

Picking standout tracks on this album is extremely difficult, as every song on here has been perfectly tailored to give this album a uniform sense of continuity. On the basis of lyrics, I’d give high marks to the title track, “Invincible” and “The Watcher” for having some well placed words during their choruses. On overall musical strength, I’m torn between the quasi-epic title track and the slow and heavy rocker “Faceless God”. The former is a brilliant set of melodic twists and turns, and contains probably the most beautiful synthesizer interlude that Mattias Bernhardsson has ever performed. The latter is a dark yet highly melodic crusher that actually sounds remarkably similar to “The Sign” off the Afterlife album, which was my favorite track off that album.

In conclusion, this album is probably the most universally accessible album that NR has ever put out. It has the melody and speed that power metal fans love, it has the down tempo heavy tracks that fans of doom metal can get into, and that same thrash/speed metal guitar sound that made Afterlife a departure and yet such an innovation. It is a highly progressive approach to Power Metal, although it doesn’t contain all the long-winded and mixed meter songs that define Prog. Metal. In addition to the non-compromising lyrical approach of Lost Horizon, Sweden is pulling its weight to keep the Power Metal genre reputable and viable. This album comes highly recommended to fans of both the old and the new NR sound.

Power Metal. What does this term mean? For many in the metal world, this means high pitched vibrato vocals, a sort of disney-esque feel to it (gamma ray) and technical skills and songwriting skills of a somewhat higher nature to others.

Of course, if we were to ask a non-metalhead (and a literal minded person) what Power Metal is, they would probably say 'powerful metal.'

Nocturnal Rites really makes the second statement true with this album, Shadowland. This album puts the Power back in Power Metal, and makes it almost as dark as other styles of metal. See, I've always been a big fan of power metal, but bands like Edguy, Stratovarius, Gamma Ray, always seem to be a little too happy and upbeat for me, especially being a huge fan of black metal. Nocturnal Rites is something for the typical anti-christian, fuck everything, I hate motherfuckers black metal loving metalhead.

That's not to say they sacrifice melody and the power vocals. Oh god no, these songs are still power metal, but just with an edge. Think Nevermore-Lite maybe, although because of Nocturnal Rites' amazing melodies and skills (that Nevermore honestly can't compare with) it almost seems that that is an injustice, because Nocturnal's sound comes out much heavier than anything Nevermore will produce (not saying I hate Nevermore, I just love Nocturnal Rites).

The guitarwork is as said, melodious yet heavy. The power vocals, although still power vocals, are MUCH LESS ''annoying'' than other bands, because the singer here has a rougher voice and uses it in an almost 'meaner' style. Like on tracks such as Vengeance, where the intro and verse are typical power metal, followed by a mean and gritty chorus. The real highlight here (for me) is Awakening, which basically wraps up everything this review has said in a nutshell.

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Nocturnal Rites-shadowland(stratovarius, Rhapsody) Mmy

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