Nocturna - Lucidity 01Given AMG and Steel Druhms well-documented love for power metal (Sonata Arctica, Riot, Edguy), it’s difficult to claim high profile names within the genre for review. The reviews I just linked were all within the last eight months, and 2015 alone has already seen well-received releases from Blind Guardian, Angra and Orden Ogan. Aside from demonstrating the corrupt poseurs masquerading as our leaders, this leaves us meager staff writers scraping the bottom of the power metal barrel, scrambling amongst the ball-tightening choruses, moldy cheese and delusions of symphonic grandeur. Now and again a diamond in the shit will appear and give us hope that we will rise to the majestic heights of our great overlords. Norfolk’s Nocturna are making a charge for the surface with their début EP, Lucidity, but do they have the power to break the line of fecal matter?

First off, it needs to be said that what Nocturna is doing here is by no means original. Symphonic Euro-power has been done plenty before, and this largely follows that tried-and-true format. It’s epic, full of pomp and virginal choirs adorn pretty much everything. The obligatory mood-setting introduction foreshadows the extensive choral and symphonic aspects. The strings used towards the end of “Gaining Solace” harmonize very attractively with the guitars and drumming, and the horns in the introduction to “Cast Assured” are suitably grandiose. The conclusion to this long track gloriously climaxes with all the symphonic trimmings and a shredding solo, finishing the EP on a strong note. As is the case with most other symphonic metal bands, the classical elements aren’t exactly Handel-esque in arrangement and execution, merely supplementing the central guitar melodies. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though I would be interested to hear music written to truly balance metal with classical, especially where so many bands profess a love for symphonies.

Nocturna - Lucidity 02Lucidity also demonstrates strong metal characteristics despite its softer, classical influences. I’m unsure which of the guitarists is responsible for the prolific solos, but there are some real face-melters in here. The fourth minute of “Lucidity” progresses from technically-impressive wankery to heroic power chords very smoothly, and the neat introductory bridge on “Gaining Solace” galvanizes the EP after a slow and inconsequential interlude. The absolute album highlight is the lengthy but tasteful solo which weaves in and out of the final couple of minutes on “Cast Assured.” Even beneath these, the solid rhythm guitar keeps things moving at a speedy pace, such as the tidy principle riff on “Gaining Solace.”

In a bid to prevent the epic long song from stagnation, Nocturna even attempts a minute of death metal. It’s a a little random but works well, with growls, djent-y riffs and blast beats, before neatly transitioning back to their comfort zone. Though his cleans are solid, I actually think James Davis’s growls are better, so further utilization of this style could be intriguing for the future. Some sort of symphonic-power-death hybrid?!

As for negatives, I would argue that the vocal melodies don’t match the guitars for memorability. Not that there’s anything wrong with Davis’s voice, but melodic music such as this thrives with catchy choruses, and I don’t think they quite hit the mark. It’s fairly standard aside from the aforementioned highlights, so the writing would benefit from greater consistency in this regard. In addition, the kick drum is a little prominent and also has that unfortunate programmed tonal quality despite a real drummer sitting behind the kit. Otherwise, both the mixing and mastering is perfectly serviceable, with a slightly above industry norm dynamic range.

I would say this is partial success: the diamond is there, but it needs a little more polish. The core sound is solid, if a little unremarkable, but the pursuit of a sophisticated integration of death could be innovative and engaging. This aside, their solos are very enjoyable, and if the vocal melodies can catch up, then we’ll have a very respectable power metal band on out hands.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 160 kbps mp3
Label: Self Released
Websites: Facebook/Nocturna
Release Dates: Worldwide: 02.17.2015

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  • Fazy

    A little bit of symphonic choircore to sweeten my breakfast cup of tea? Cheers!

    By the way, does this review feel like a 3 or 3.5 or is it just me?

    • tomasjacobi

      Read the final paragraph of the review again. I would say that corresponds very well to the score of 2.5 which according to the score table is “OK – Nothing special”

  • Mikko Ojanen

    Auggh, they use Morpheus for the band name on the album cover. I hate that stupid font SO MUCH.

    Zero points.

    EDIT: I mean, sure, they dressed it up a bit, but for that effort they could’ve just as well built a logo without using that cancer of a font to begin with.

    • Man, bands have it tough these days. Back when I was a wee lad, we used to be more into the music. Boy, times of changes!

      Just kidding… :-)

      • Mikko Ojanen

        I could make a quip about how the band’s music is even less interesting than their choice of font, but that would be disingenuous because I didn’t even listen to the song first, and I do acknowledge that this is just an irrational pet peeve of mine.

        But now that I listened to the song, it turns out it actually IS just that uninteresting.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      And with Comic Sans so readily available…

      • De2013

        And some windings to finish it off.

  • Doomdeathrosh

    lotta power in this metal (ummm diamond…), they’re pretty decent when it comes to power metal. Some death growls will bring them closer to Omnium Gatherum….

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    If this gig doesn’t workout the keyboard player could fall back on a hand modeling career.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      So long as he watches out for irons…

      • FutureBeyondSatan

        I wonder if he wears oven mitts, too?

        • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

          Well if he wants to keep his premiums low on his per-digit hand insurance, he’d better! One little paper cut, and there goes 6 months of work.

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    Anyone else catch last years release Of Gods & Goats by Layment? I have it in constant rotation.

  • Whoa! A sphere AND a triangle! This must be mind blowing!!! :)

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Commendable indeed, but it still doesn’t surpass the cover of Ethereal’s Opus Aethereum imo — sphere + goat.

  • Kryopsis

    The video definitely does not win the band any favours. I find their mannerism absolutely insufferable and the obnoxious audio effects and emphasis on synths is just gauche. Perhaps the band was just unlucky to release a Power Metal album some weeks apart from Blind Guardian and Orden Ogan but this review score is practically double of what I’d rate this album.

  • Jukka Alanen

    Well that cover is geometric.. There is that. Not much else going on here, scatter away people.

  • madhare

    Lot of bands originate in teenage idleness. Nothing else to do than sit around and play with your friends. And that’s okay, that’s how you build your playing skills and grow together as a band.

    But unfortunately that’s not enough alone. Usually it takes experience, perhaps even adversity, in life to create something more interesting and meaningful. Especially when we are talking about heavy/rock genres. (Cue all the stories about being troubled and dying too early ranging from Dead to Bon Scott.)

    Or even if the adversities are not literal, it might be enough to experience things in your imagination. And perhaps you feed your imagination with good, original stuff from literature, history and so on. This can work if you have a good imagination and the ability to channel that into your art. (I’d say this is one of the reasons why for example BG is so bloody good.)

    I think in this case the video tells it all. These guys have spent way too much time sitting on the sofa, playing on their Xbox. Having experienced nothing, they have nothing to contribute. And instead of using their own imagination, they’ve filled their heads with too much tv and other popular culture. Now then they are playing exactly the kind of music they like themselves, being unable to modify it in any kind of interesting way. Mimicking all the cliché motions and poses they’ve seen “those cool people do on tv”. I feel these are like kids from South Park brought to life.

    But who knows, if they actually start living and grow a bit older, maybe they’ll end up doing something interesting one day. After all, the skills seem to be there.