Steel Druhm is in his iron glory. After being sidelined from reviewing for several weeks by the various demands of life, I get to come back strong with two bands themselves attempting comebacks after long absences. Jag Panzer may have been idle for 6 years, but Sweden’s Nocturnal Rites went radio silent for an entire decade. Back when I was a carefree graduate student, the band was a fairly typical sword and sorcery themed Euro-power outfit. Despite an artery clogging cheese quotient, the sheer infectious strength of albums like Tales of Mystery and Imagination and The Sacred Talisman all but forced you to get your Balrogs to the wall. Everything changed when Jonny Lindqvist joined as vocalist for 2000s Afterlife opus, slowly shifting the style into a more hard rock oriented sound. This culminated with the radio friendly, power meets hair metal steaming mess of 2007s The 8th Sin, which proved a highly divisive release for fans. And that’s where the saga ended, as the band subsequently fell apart and faded from memory. Now 10 years later they pop out of a rabbit hole with Phoenix, sounding for all the world as if the past decade never happened. Phoenix sounds like the natural followup to The 8th Sin that somehow got badly lost in the mail only to be delivered after many a season has come and gone. Whether you’re willing to accept anti-Prime delivery depends on how you liked The 8th Sin, or for those not born back then, how you feel about Masterplan, Avantasia and the solo doodlings of one Jorn “King of All Rock” Lande.

As opener “Heart Black as Coal hits your tympanum, you’ll detect the foul aroma of metalcore riffs, but when Linqvist comes in you’ll be distracted by your sudden transportation back to 2007. The man sounds like nary a day has passed since The 8th Sin and it’s a bit disconcerting. He’s still like a mix of Tobias Sammet and a young Jorn, full of hard rock rasp and roar, and his ability to hit a catchy vocal hook is undiminished by time. The song is slick and accessible, and the core-ish riffing makes it feel heavy-ish. The hooks continue on cuts like “Before We Waste Away” and “Repent My Sins,” and it’s clear the band aimed at maximum accessibility and memorability, and for the most part nailed it.

They get more adventurous on “The Poisonous Seed,” adding a progressive flare along with increased aggression, sounding like a pissed off Anubis Gate and it works quite well. In fact, it makes me want more of this style instead of the album’s hard rock/power fusion. “The Ghost Inside Me” goes full yacht metal, sailing into Avantasia territory replete with violins and other symphonic accouterments and while it’s decent, it won’t make anyone forget Sammet’s compositional prowess. The album ends strong on the aggressive, borderline thrash of “Welcome to the End,” where the band seems to wake up angry and ornery. Not every song is a hit though, and cuts like “A Song For You” and “Flames” are a bit too melodic and laid back for their own good. The biggest drawback is the somewhat shallow feel some of the more melodic cuts have. It’s like cotton candy – you like it but there’s not much there when you think about it.

At 43 minutes, Phoenix is an easy listen full of catchy, uncomplicated fare. The songs are all radio-ready length and no track feels like it needs to be shown the door. The sound is somewhat loud, but it’s not a serious issue.

The biggest surprise is how great Jonny Lindqvist sounds after such a long layoff from music. His Jorn-ish, bluesy vocal style is still easy to love and he adds considerable gravitas. Original guitarist Frederik Mannberg and new ace Per Nilsson (Scar Symmetry) pepper the album with heavy, core-ish riffwork to support the otherwise melodic, semi-poppy music and it creates the same useful tension Scar Symmetry always benefited from. Their occasional sojourns into more proggy soundscapes are the most interesting parts of the album though, and something I hope to hear much more of in the future.

I never expected to hear from Nocturnal Rites again, and after such a long walk through limbo, they certainly sound feisty and ready to rock for a new generation of metal fans. Phoenix is a solid, enjoyable album to build their second phase of life upon and I’m glad they’re back. Hopefully we get the next installment before I join AARP.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: AFM Records
Websites: nocturnalrites.com | facebook.com/nocturnalritesofficial
Releases Worldwide: October 6th, 2017

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  • Monsterth Goatom

    I’ve been told that fat isn’t the evil it’s been made out to be. Sugar is the culprit. Enjoy all the cheese you want! And eggs!!

    • Get thee to a Gloryhammer buffet.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Oh Yeah! Pour Some Fondue On Me!

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          You’re singing that to Def Leppard’s “Pour some sugar on me” tune, right?

      • SoLeftISeeRight

        Infernus Ad Pasture

    • Iain Gleasure

      I am going to blow your mind. When your body eats fat: it converts fat into sugar.
      (And then back into fat but nevermind that)

      • My body converts it into additional back hair.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Doesn’t it convert fat into fatty acids, while glucose is created mainly from cab-rich foods?

        Anywhoo, everything in moderation, except, of course, for sex, beer, and metal.

        • Iain Gleasure

          Eh not exactly. Fatty acids are basically long carbon chains and glucose is a carbon ring. So a few ‘cuts’ and additions and suddenly a fatty acid is a lot of glucose rings. The reason glucose is associated with carbs is because carbs are basically just glucose and simple sugars like it to begin with. So you don’t need to convert it to make energy. You can just make energy.

          • Monsterth Goatom

            Thanks.

        • [not a Dr]

          Should moderation be taken in moderation too?

  • PapaRay

    A few songs in and I’m enjoying it. It kills me though that they’ve never come close to topping Shadowland, one of my favorite power metal albums ever.

    • Carl Ärdemyr

      Shadowland is great but I like Afterlife even better. I wonder if Jonny singing in a somewhat lower pitch on Phoenix is a stilistic choice or if he can’t hit as high notes as he used to.

  • Feytalist

    Holy shit it’s Nocturnal Rites. Of all the bands I never expected to make a comeback, they probably topped the list. New World Messiah was a dormroom staple of mine back in the day.

    Stoked to hear they’re back. Definitely checking this out.

    • I just assumed it was some new black metal band when I saw the name appear in the promo bin. Never expected to see these guys resurface.

  • AdrianoP

    for the man who never asks…cheese.

  • aaron bergman

    I can’t say that I am proud of myself, but I really liked the embedded track.

  • Piet

    Whether it’s French, Italian, Swiss or in this case Swedish cheese, I love it all. One of my favorite albums of the year so far. And yes, I thought the 8th sin was fantastic as well.

  • brutal_sushi

    I’m so fucking happy they are back!

  • Jim Bob

    Why, this is quite the delectable example of finely aged cheese.

  • welyyt
    • Nukenado

      Classy shadow and understated unicorn there.
      Although this is a fairly normal band photo that doesn’t need unicorning.

      • I think we crossed that line some months back.

        • Nukenado

          Unicorning for the masses I guess!

          • It’s the new Fidget Spinner.

          • Nukenado

            Nah, unicorning is still kvlt.

          • This is trve.

        • [not a Dr]

          At horn-point.

      • Thatguy

        Every band photo will benefit from unicorning.

        • [not a Dr]

          Unicorning offers a measure of protection against the band photometer…

    • This is sublime.

    • The Unicorn

      Nicely done, that is my cousin Matilda’s little one!

  • Septic

    After the Epica & Septicflesh scooter fiasco, Nocturnal Rites scrapped their original album art.
    http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4d4ed9b6ca3b2f72f9e758e7226bb763614930a8c46769af53b6eefa4b171aa4.jpg

  • Mollusc

    My favourite cheese is Cambozola.

  • Jaime VG

    Worst album art since the last Immolation.

  • Nahuel Benvenuto

    Holy shit a new NR album!?

  • The Jag Panzer album would benefit from these vocals and probably the production too. This sounds pretty good to be honest, but for me it’s a one listen, enjoyed and then forgotten sort of thing.

  • Swordborn

    Hmm, Per’s influence really shows. I’m pretty intrigued to see where this goes for a full album. Seems safe for the more prog-disposed longtime fans to nab.

  • METAL OTTER

    I love how the 8th album is titled “The 8th Sin” and the 9th album is titled “Phoenix”, stylised as “Phoen-IX”.

    • Nukenado

      Oh shit! That’s pretty sneaky.

  • Panagiotis Krokidas

    Boring album…

  • herrschobel

    wtf is happening ? there wasn’t´t a single record that interested me in the past 3 Weeks….you guys are letting me down…

    • Master of Muppets

      I gave you people Arallu, and with like a jillion Aladdin references along the way, no charge!
      Just creep my Bandcamp and check out anything in my collection. It is known across aeons and universes beyond comprehension that my taste in music is the best ever, if I buy something you should too.

      • herrschobel

        well at least I enjoy the reviews themselves for their fine poetry and smart assery …is that a word ?

  • Johan

    Jonny is god damn treasure. Powerful, melodic, instantly recognisable (in the good way). I really liked 8th sin (I like all their albums since Shadowland) and while Phoenix wasn’t a slam dunk it’s still damn good. I agree that I wouldn’t mind if the band experimented more with the heavier sound on The poisonouss seed.

  • Sophocles

    Great hooks, together with Cryonic Temple’s new album

    • Swordborn

      Cryonic Temple will never be as it once was, but I enjoyed the new album a surprising amount. Great songwriting, even if it’s ploddy and the lyrics are pretty bad.

  • Master of Muppets

    How long have you been waiting to use that opening line? If you don’t already, you need to incorporate that phrase into day to day Steel-speak, ideally as a stock response when asked “How are you?”

  • AnnieK13

    I did not expect to like this but dang really enjoying the embedded track.

  • Bryan Stroup

    I’ll listen to this later, but Nocturnal Rites was actually the first Euro power metal band (other than Helloween) I had ever heard in the late 90s, and also the first indication that that kind of power metal wasn’t for me.

  • Tofu muncher

    My friend has been pestering me for weeks about this nice little album. Am still waiting you guys reviewing Evil Invaders’ latest, you lazy.

  • ApstlMatt

    I’ve never seen the words “carefree” and “graduate student” in the same sentence.