In a year where the Steel Druhm went on a prodigious power metal binge (with all the expected morning after regret and self-loathing), one of the albums I spun more than any other was the unreviewed and therefore, possibly missed Burden of God by France’s own Nightmare. While they’ve been knocking around forever (since 1981 to be exact), I never really paid them much attention until 2008s Insurrection. Their older stuff wasn’t bad Euro-power, it just seemed too generic to spend much time with. Insurrection was a huge paradigm shift for them and it was far more stripped-down, aggressive and most importantly, heavy. It borrowed freely from thrash and even death metal to radically amp up the anger factor and while it nearly abandoned their former Euro-power trappings, the results were quite impressive. Burden of God, dials back the overall heaviness a bit, but it results in the band finding a near perfect blend between melody and aggression that really works for me. Sounding like a heavier version of Tad Morose, Astral Doors, Angel Dust or latter day Helstar, the songs have tons of thick, crunching guitars, angry, Dio-on-bath-salts vocals and some wildly hooky, earwormy choruses. This is the way I love my power metal and I wish more bands followed this particularly skull-crushing model.
You need look no further than sizzling opener “Sunrise in Hell” for the heavy guitar/big vocals/huge chorus combo platter with extra hot sauce. They nail the big, power metally, fist pumping chorus, then beat you relentlessly with it alongside some riffing so heavy, at times it veers into Fear Factory staccato abrasion. The title track steals several pages from the Astral Doors playbook and Jo Amore’s raspy and powerful vox really hit hard. Both “Crimson Empire” and “Children of the Nation” pack uber memorable, classy moments of song craft and will end up in steady rotation. The chorus of “Crimson Empire” in particular really sticks with me like leprosy while “Children” reminds me of the glory days of Vicious Rumors.
Other impressive moments include the powerful and catchy “Shattered Hearts,” the tank-like riffing assault during “The Doomsday Prediction” and the duet with Magali Luyten (Beautiful Sin) during “The Dominion Gate (Part III). All the songs work and none qualify as fluff or filler. It’s just a solid, cohesive album loaded with hooks and quality writing.
I’m a big fan of Jo Amore’s leather-lunged, raspy and powerful vocals. The guy can really belt out the notes and his edgy performance is quite unlike the typical power metal approach. His delivery really gives the material an extra shot of testosterone and makes everything more intense. The guitar work from Franck Milleliri and new axe Matt Asselberghs is often heavy-as-hell and at times sounds industrial. They have a knack for crafting good riffs and tasteful transitions and most of the songs have winning moments scattered about.
All in all, Burden of God is a really satisfying dose of power with a much appreciated extra dose of heaviness. Well worth checking out for all fans of power, but likely to appeal to metal fans generally as well. I may have to revisit Nightmare‘s huge back catalog to see if I sold them short over the years. These last two albums have been rock solid!
Tracks to Check: “Sunrise in Hell,” “Crimson Empire,” “Children of the Nation” and “Shattered Hearts”