Nergard – Eternal White Review

From the cold lands of Norway, Nergard emerges for their third full-length release. Originally a solo project for one Andreas Nergård, this third release sees him change up his style a bit. Over their first two releases, Nergard has taken the Avantasia approach to the solo project, and boasts working with singers such as Nils K. Rue and Ralf Scheepers. This time, he’s solidified the project a bit, recruiting three other singers – Stefani Keogh, Andi Kravljaca (Aeon Zen, ex-Seventh Wonder), and Mathias Molund Indergård – to serve as a permanent basis for his symphonic metal project. The result?

We throw around the phrase “Nightwish clone” in here a lot (at least it seems like we do; I have no inclination to check my claims), but in this case it feels eerily accurate. With Eternal White, Nergard channel Century Child with some Winterheart’s Guild-era Sonata Arctica thrown in for “spice.” “Spice” is in quotation marks, by the way, because this isn’t a very spicy album – in fact, it’s played very safe, leaning on a formula that has served the Leaves’ Eyes, the Xandrias, and the Sirenias of the world well: symphonic first, metal second. From beginning to end, Eternal White is an album about the orchestra far more than it is about the guitars or even the vocals, despite its notoriety in that department.

I feel it is very important for me to state now that I don’t think any of that is a bad thing. In fact, the orchestrations on Eternal White are kind of terrific. Nergård has a clear talent for writing lush, beautiful melodies. The way he weaves them around the guitars, however, leaves a little to be desired. The guitar work on this album isn’t really anything to write home about, apart from the occasional solo (“From the Cradle to the Grave,” “Erasing the Memories”). For the most part, they chug away in the background, offering texture and a little else. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the way the album is produced and mixed does a lot to rob it of its energy. I am sure, for example, that there’s bass in this album – I’m fairly certain I heard it for a few seconds in “God Forgive My Haunted Mind” – but it has no impact. The drumming, likewise, is standard fare, but mixed in such a way as to be only barely noticeable.

As a result of these production choices, the best moments of Eternal White are the ones where Nergard isn’t trying to be a “metal” band. “From the Cradle to the Grave” might have been snatched right out of the Nightwish playbook, right down to the use of the word “cascading” in the exceptionally upbeat chorus, but it also offers some of the best orchestral moments on the album. The singers themselves don’t offer much in the way of aggression; there are some high notes and reasonably catchy deliveries, but the best moments come in tracks like “God Forgive My Haunted Mind,” where the singing is slow and deliberate, in line with the orchestra. By contrast, songs like “Pride of the North” try a little too hard to be something they aren’t – overtly metal songs. In particular, Keogh switches here from clean singing to harsh vocals and back in a passage that feels clunky, unnecessary, and mismatched with the rest of the song. The obligatory riff-laden breakdowns feel repetitive and uninspired, at least until the orchestra kicks in again and fills in the prominent gaps.

Essentially, Eternal White is an album of identity crisis. Nergard’s strengths, if this album is any indication, are in writing primarily orchestral metal where the metal elements are used as texture and as energetic companions to the music. I did suggest they were a Nightwish clone earlier, but they remind me, endearingly, of Sonata Arctica, maybe trying a bit too hard to sound like Kamelot. There’s nothing wrong with symphonic metal that’s more symphony than metal, and I wish Nergard had leaned into that a little more on Eternal White. What I enjoyed here, I really enjoyed, and what I didn’t failed to resonate with me at all, so I can only say that I truly hope for a more consistent album in the future, because I see no reason that this group shouldn’t be killing it with their next release.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Pride & Joy Music
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: May 21st, 2021

« »