Sometimes, context is everything. Take Greek/Swedish melodeath stalwarts Nightrage and their 2005 release, Descent into Chaos. During a time when our digital voraciousness was yet gestating, the general availability of music limited, and my taste still fully receptive of Gothenburg metal, the subjective value of that objectively passable album became immense. Great riffs and melodies, catchy hooks, and an innate sort of aggressiveness bedazzled me. Listening to it today, it sounds good, if unremarkable and most certainly not at the level of some of the classics of the genre. Context, like I said, matters the most. Nowadays, Nightrage are one the last remnants of a style depleted ages ago, their records doses of pure nostalgia, existing oblivious to the current metal framework. Twelve years, four full-lengths, and innumerable lineup changes later, what was once guitarist/vocalist Marios Iliopoulos’s project evolved into a true band that continues to show a stubborn adherence to the same formula regurgitated since their inception. Making only minor modifications to their approach and abstaining from the rollercoaster of style inflections so typical of their peers, in 2015 they returned with a fairly successful and re-energized release The Puritan. Unfortunately, The Venomous sees the quintet drop back into a familiar rut ruined by a tired paradigm.

Yet the familiarity is not Nightrage’s main problem—heck, retro-everything is all the rage right now—but the fact that The Venomous is decidedly a dull and flat affair. Emotionally and technically, it is devoid of any character and instead reduced to simulacra. A cover band crooning longingly to a sparse audience on the terrace of some dilapidated seaside resort. An empty caricature of a once beloved genre. Having listened to it multiple times in different moods and situations, I find it hard to recall a lasting impression of the music it carries. Bouts of recognizable phrasing are packaged in uninspired riffs taken from In Flames’ vocabulary, the alternations of growled and clean vocal lines feel borrowed from late period Soilwork, and sparklings of Insomnium’s edgy articulation are sprinkled throughout but lacking the Finns’ songwriting kicks. Just the first triptych of songs is enough to get a sense of what The Venomous is all about. What starts with the title song “The Venomous,” slow, melodic, and harmonious, morphs into the faster and hymnic “Metamorphosis/Day of Wrath,” and concludes with the unnecessarily accelerated and syrupy “In Abhorrence.” The same pattern is rinsed and repeated for the remaining nine songs on the record.

Listening to The Venomous in one sitting becomes demanding not because it’s a difficult listen, but because the songs have a tendency to fuse into one another, sounding alike and tiresome, chained into a single fifty-minute blob. While cuts like “Catharsis” and “Bemoan” are plainly boring—so much so that I can’t think of any amusing adjectives to describe them—“Affliction” and “The Blood” show the worst side of the band. By insisting on using canorous clean vocals and arena rock choruses, even traces of atmosphere that the band manages to summon are ripped to shreds of copy/paste melodic death tediousness. Add to this the baffling acoustic outro, “Denial of the Soul,” and the situation for the album as a whole starts looking really dire. Fortunately, faster and more aggressive cuts like “From Ashes Into Stone,” the Dark Tranquillity tinged “Trail of Ghosts,” and the buoyant attack of “Desolation and Dismay” salvage The Venomous from becoming a complete failure.

Some metal records, if trite in their songwriting and ideas, can be redeemed through the pure fleshliness of their sound, their sonic massages of our minds. But here the production and mastering qualities are only additional layers of dismay, making the odd interesting guitar riff, tuneful leads, and linear solos thin and oblate. Simultaneously, Lawrence Dinamarca’s plasticky drums tick artificially and Anders Hammer’s bass is nearly unheard, lost in a compressed mesh of instruments. Needless to say and much like their music, Nightrage’s lyrical themes are rehashes of rehashes, childish in the worst way.

The Venomous is in many ways a sad and disappointing release, an echo trying to survive past its time. Go listen to the latest Insomnium, Dark Tranquility, or Mors Principium Est instead.


Rating: 1.5/5.0
Label: Despotz Records
Websites: http://nightrage.com/ | facebook.com/nightrage
Releases Worldwide: Marchi 31st, 2017

Share →
  • Joe1909

    “late period soilwork” thought they were still a band

    • Roquentin

      I like to pretend they aren’t.

      • Joe1909

        Haha

      • You wot m8?

        I think we all do sometimes.

      • Reese Burns

        Laugh all ya want, I loved Soilwork’s last three records.

        • Death_Black_Metal_Fanatic

          So YOU were the one. Solves that.

          • Reese Burns

            I was the one!

        • AndySynn

          Many of us did… well, except “The Ride Majestic” was mostly boring…

          But “The Panic Broadcast” and “The Living Infinite” are both rather spiffing.

          • Reese Burns

            See, I found The Ride Majestic to be the best of the three, with my least favourite (though I enjoy all of them) being The Living Infinite. The Panic Broadcast is a special album though. To my ears at least, it had a very ‘happy’ vibe. Something rare in metal. On a side note though, have you heard the ‘rarities collection’ they put out last summer? There’s some cool material on that record, along with some more meandering B-sides.

          • Death_Black_Metal_Fanatic

            Interesting. Not shitting on your opinion at all, to each their own. I think they have been on a steady decline since Sworn To A Great Divide. I liked several tracks on that album, but there are a few that I find to be pretty bad also. The 3 albums that followed were very disappointing and flat boring to me, with the long exception being the track “Epitome” from The Panic Broadcast. Cool song. My favorite Soilwork albums, in no particular order, are Stabbing the Drama, Natural Born Chaos, and A Predator’s Portrait. Although my favorite Soilwork track may very well be “Room No. 99” from The Chainheart Machine. An absolutely PHENOMENAL, goosebump inducing track!!

  • Drew Music

    I have loved Nightrage for years, after this review I’ve got some weeping to get through before I can investigate the new album any further.

    • Roquentin

      I could be a jaded reviewer, perhaps with a grudge on Gothenburg metal. You should give it a spin anyway.

      • Drew Music

        Oh I will, no doubt, but a lot of their appeal to me is nostalgic at this point so I can easily see this album being a musical recycling center. I’ll check it out, but it’s not necessarily a high priority after reading this.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          Recycling is good! Well, maybe not for music…

          • Drew Music

            Definitely not for music, at least in this case. Well, I was warned anyway. Few bands can be 100% awesome 100% of the time, and Nightrage may never have been that but Wearing A Martyrs Crown is basically my go-to melodeath fix, kind of a shame they couldn’t find a way to evolve a bit by now.

  • Death_Black_Metal_Fanatic

    “Sweet Vengeance” is their best album, but “Frozen” is my favorite track of theirs. Lindberg and Stanne together? Swedish bliss.

    • Drew Music

      Sweet Vengeance doesn’t wear the (martyr’s) crown for me (take a wild guess which one does…) but Frozen very well may be my favorite track as well. I remember damn near shitting myself with joy when I first discovered that particular gem, though I was brought just a little closer to the Brown Note by Insomnium’s Weather The Storm with Stanne. I was fortunate enough to catch them on tour with Dark Tranquillity a few years back, that one song alone completely stole the show.

  • Thatguy

    That was harsh…so I won’t join in. I will instead be annoying about something else. Whatever the merits or otherwise of the music I can hear the bass very clearly in the embedded song – mostly doubling the rhythm guitar patterns.

    • I have some power metal stuff coming up soon, so you can negative toward that.

      • Thatguy

        I look forward to it.

    • Roquentin

      It’s better than on some other songs, but still sounds muffled.

      • Thatguy

        It isn’t prominent at all and that is the production choice they made…I’m glad I didn’t have to hear the acoustic outro – I hate that. As I said above, just interacting.

        • Name’s Dalton

          You’re really taking your wife’S suggestion to heart!

          • Thatguy

            It’s what the wise man does.

          • Bas

            True, but I doubt that she meant interacting with people on the interwebs.. at least when mine tells me to interact with people she actually means that I should spend less time with books, computers and music :-p

          • Thatguy

            You are 100% correct. But here I am replying to you…

          • Bas

            :-)

          • Serjien

            Also, the wise man once said: “Happy wife, happy life”. I live by those words!

          • [not a Dr]

            I don’t understand how you could assume it was a “suggestion”. When the wife “suggests” something, it’s more like a factual statement of how things will be. More like a prophecy.

  • Pretty harsh score. I think it’s fine for what it is. After a few spins, seems more or less on par with The Puritan. Guess it boils down to if you think this is a nice nostalgic throwback or not. But, I certainly wouldn’t call it a “bad” record, as your 1.5 suggests. Then again, I don’t write metal reviews, I just bitch about them online.

    • Roquentin

      Reviews are always subjective and all that. Compared to other recent melodeath releases, this one is lacking. It sounded so uninspired and strained that I just couldn’t go with a higher score.

      I’m sure there are people who will enjoy it and that’s OK too.

      • For sure. I’m not disagreeing with what you wrote (except about The Blood – love that song). There are definitely better melodeath albums coming out these days, and this album was pretty vanilla. Just think 1.5 is reserved for the Amaranthe’s of the world.

        • Wilhelm

          Melodeath died for me years ago, or at least the style I liked the most – name some good bands/upcoming releases. I’m curious.

          • These days my favs are Mors Principium Est, Be’lakor, Alustrium, Whispered, Allegaeon, In Mourning, Ne Obliviscaris. Nothing new on the horizon anytime soon though, unless you can put up with Wintersun drama.

      • Thatguy

        Yes to all that. I didn’t particularly like it either. Just interacting. My wife tells me I need to interact.

        • Tofu muncher

          Haayy….

          • Free Opinions

            Don’t! It’s madness!

        • Drew Music

          Only with us, never with ‘people.’

        • Roquentin

          That’s sweet. :-) Thank you for interacting!

        • sir_c

          even though your wife may not have explicitly said so, I presume she meant that you should interact with her.
          Or did your marriage already come this far that you actually enjoy the absence of the other half?

    • h_f_m

      I would tend to agree, there’s been plenty of stuff I’ve liked less that have gotten higher scores. I usually listen to the embed on all of them regarless of score, due to the fact that it’s just one person’s opinion and all that.

    • Michael Cosgrove

      Harsh indeed! I’m enjoying this one. I’ve been into this band since day one and find it to be comfortingly familiar rather uninspired or stale. I can appreciate when bands evolve successfully (Dark Tranquillity), but some bands just can’t pull it off and would be better dipping back to their roots (In Flames). So I see nothing wrong with Nightrage recognizing & sticking with what they do best.

  • You wot m8?

    The cover seems like such a rip-off of the last fantastic album by Indian. Generally, I wouldn’t throw around such an accusation, but come on, it’s incredibly similar.

    • Copywrong

      Just because it’s a drawing in a circle with yellow colors? I don’t see any other obvious similarities.

  • Wilhelm

    This song sounds exactly like a track from In Flames “Colony” album. I really dig it.

  • Martin Knap

    Reminded me of another Greco-Swdish melodeath band – System Shock. Arctic Inside is quite the blast form the past :-)

  • AndySynn

    Confession time – “A New Disease Is Born” is one of my all-time favourite albums.

    But nothing Nightrage have done since has inspired/excited me all that much.

  • Ondřej Hanus

    Too harsh for me. The latest Insomnium, Dark Tranquility and Mors Principium Est all bored me to death, this was the first melo-death record in years to get and keep me hooked. But who am I to complain… I actually don’t complain… umm, please don’t delete me from matrix

  • Shrümpelstiltskin

    Stylistically, I love Nightrage. They’re one of the last of a dying breed. However, this album just sucks. The songwriting needs to get better. The Puritan was hard to get through as well.

  • Here’s Johnny

    This review equals a big fat Nope!

    It is def a 3.5/5, the riffs/solos are worth the admission price alone.

  • JL

    i agree with the overall tone of this review, which is that Nightrage has honestly just lost their way. Marios is a great player, but losing Thomas after DIC really hurt the band. Jimmy S. was an absolute joke of a vocalist; Antony was pretty good but didn’t last long. Fast forward to this album – just a total letdown. Marios should just bring Exhumation back and call Nightrage a day.

  • ImageOfChaos

    I know I am super late to the party here, so much so that no one may even read this – but I felt I needed to throw my 2 cents in here as this review truly highlighted to me just how subjective reviews can be.
    I finally got around to listening to this album a few times and have to say that I have enjoyed it for exactly what it is – a solid Melodeath album in the same vein as Nightrage’s entire discography. For anyone who enjoyed their earlier works that is wondering if this is worth checking out, I say absolutely yes. A solid 3.0 and a great throwback to a fun era in metal loaded with competent riffs and leads. If you are expecting them to have evolved like the great Dark Tranquility or the once great In Flames, then move along, these aren’t the tunes your looking for.