While the name Graveshadow would suggest a band dabbling in a number of genres, the album art pretty much narrows that list down to a select few. Just seconds into Nocturnal Resurrection and all your wonder transforms into 100% certainty. This album clearly bleeds with the Nightwish-washy inklings of symphonic keys and power-metal attitude. I suppose this makes sense being that this sextet hails from the magical forests of Finlannnn… oh wait.. Sacramento. Not exactly Dr. Grier‘s cup o’ tea and a definite trivia stumper for when your friends draw the “Can you guess where this band is from?” card at your annual holiday party, these Californians dish out their own form of Disney metal that has just enough dimension to give it some potential and avoid a bit of the typical cheese of this style.
“Namesake” opens with some organs and orchestration very much in the vein of… well, every other symphonic metal band. But when Heather Michele’s harsh growls hurl hatred at the mic and the rest of the band shows up with some crunchy riffage, you discover the type of weapon this band has sheathed. Taking on an almost Anette Olzon-beauty in her cleans, Michele drops in harsh vocals to add depth and dimension to the fairly standard songwriting. The band expands on the formula for follow-up “In the Road of Desire” with more alternating vocal work (ranging from Elizabeth Blackwell altos, Olzon highs, and Amy Lee dramatics) and pitching in shovel-fulls of heavy synths, chugging riffs, and a back-end emotion that combines the powerful with the poppy. From here the album progresses into “Lycan Lust;” a straight-up Nightwish number full of orchestration, storytelling, and powerful choruses. The song weaves its way through heavy leads and the emotional builds of the midsection interlude before accelerating and allowing Michele to drop the album’s best written passages. It’s executed well and that extra bit of anger in Michele’s voice adds the perfect cap to the song.
Other catchy choruses include the melodic delivery in “Winter Comes To Call” and the male-female duet of “Blink.” The former is straight-laced but Michele comes to the front and delivers some classic memorability that isn’t offensive, even if it’s not overly novel. The chorus repeats multiple times and right before it takes on a radio-friendly feel, the layered clean and harsh vocals smash it out. The latter utilizes some Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear) vocals that swing around to tag-team with Michele, resulting in one of the better choruses of the album. On top of that, “Blink” has perhaps the sleekest riff on Nocturnal; charging, chugging, and groovy.
However… the cheese on Nocturnal Resurrection cools a bit and becomes quite thick at times; an effect that causes even their better tracks to suffer some pretty cringing moments. While “Lycan Lust” is a good song, the moment where Michele desperately calls out, “run, love, run” doesn’t work and feels so much like Nightwish‘s “The Poet and the Pendulum” that it hurts [Is it any worse than crying out, “run away, run away, run away”? – Steel Druhm]. If it wasn’t for her harsh vocals adding something new to the songwriting, my eyes would roll so far back I would be able see my brain (and don’t get me started on that video below). “Fading” is a decent “ballad” but it borders on Evanescence material with its Amy Lee delivery, typical chugging guitars, and a truly poppy chorus (again, thanks goes to the growls for making it bearable). Finally, closer “Blood and Fire” is only memorable for its layered vocals and cathedral-like organs at its conclusion. Otherwise, I find myself tuning-out for most of the song.
Production-wise, I have to hand it to the band. For their debut, the recording and mix are quite good (minus the clipping and so-so DR score). Everyone is present, the orchestration and keys don’t overpower, and it sounds pretty damn professional. I also have to give it to Heather Michele for what success Nocturnal does possess. Her mix of harsh and clean, alto with soprano, and aggressive with beautiful adds some originality to the standard songwriting of the genre and shows some real potential for the band.