Let’s face it, power metal is the drama club of the metal world. Members of said club tend to be overdramatic, artsy fartsy and prone to big gestures and frilly shirts. Needless to say, that makes them the target for the rest of metaldom and inevitably, lunch money gets stolen and nipples get twisted. However, none of that shit is going to fly with French power meisters Nightmare. You try to give them a wedgie or rear admiral and you may lose a tooth or six. Yep, these cats pack a lot of muscle and menace in their music and between the crunching guitars and rough and raucous vocals, you’ll forget all about the need to snicker. Much like 2012’s impressive Burden of God, The Aftermath is a manly dose of ripping power with a heaping helping of Pantera, Brainstorm and Grave Digger and it’s definitely not your sister’s brand of euro-silliness.
The briefest sample of opener “Bringer of a No Man’s Land” reveals a heavy and hefty take on the genre, leaving the frills and fruit far behind. The riffing is in-your-face and deadly serious like the recent Brainstorm outing and Jo Amore’s vocals walk the line between an angry Dio and the wicked growl of Sir Russell Allen. He never goes full Dio, nor full Russell, but his leather lunged delivery always commands attention and respect. The song itself is a gem and their ear for memorable melody will have you eating from their hand come chorus time.
“Forbidden Tribe” is another burner with ginormous riffing and wailing vocals, featuring a strong Brainstorm vibe and another doozy of a chorus. “I Am Immortal” is thick and chunky with a very Russell Allen-esque vocal performance, and “Invoking Demons” takes the quasi-power ballad concept to heavier places as Amore sells the song like girl scout cookies at Burning Man. The highlight is “Ghost in the Mirror,” which is aggressive as hell with huge vocals and even death croaks! The chorus is bigger than Yellowstone and it all just feels so…METAL!
There are one or two tracks that don’t keep up with the herd, most notably “Mission for God,” but they aren’t bad, just a bit flat by comparison. Most of the material here is engaging and addictive fun and far heavier than you would expect.
I continue to be a fan of Amore’s vocals and he really lets it all hang out here. He has similarities to Nils Patrik Johansson (Astral Doors, Wuthering Heights, Civil War), but I think he’s the better singer and utilizes the raspy edge without overdoing it as Johansson tends to. He elevates every song with his wailing and rasping and he’s always a pleasure to listen to. The guitar-work by Matt Asselberghs and Frank Milleliri is sharp and super heavy and their dark, bruising style takes the songs far afield from power metal norms. This time out, some of their playing reminds me of mega obscure Wicked Maraya (especially on “Digital DNA”) which gives the music a slightly proggy flavor at times.
The album has one of the lowest dynamic range scores I’ve ever seen and it is very compressed, but it doesn’t ruin the listening experience as much as you’d think. I was actually shocked at the DR score after spinning this for a week.
Nightmare is a sleeper act and not on a lot of radars, but man, they bring the noise and their writing chops are impressive. If you need more metal in your drama club, this is where you go to pimp your power. But be prepared to give these guys your lunch money or pay the awful consequences.