Night – High Tides – Distant Skies Review

Nobody will remember this, but back in 2017 Night’s album Raft of the World found its way onto my year-end list. This Swedish cadre of retro-rockers wormed their way onto my playlists with a catchier-than-it-should-have-been brand of 70’s hard rock, drawing influence from bands I love such as Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy. They started out as a NWoBHM-worshiping group, and have evolved over the years into a very classic hard rock act. High Tides – Distant Skies sees the band shed nearly all of their metallic influences, save for some proto-metal riffing, in exchange for the classic rock of Blue Öyster Cult and, yes, Dire Straits. Does it all work, or is this another throwaway retro act?

Well, it shouldn’t work and yet it does. “Shadow Gold,” the opening track, is a perfect album summary. This could very easily be pulled from the most recent High Spirits album. A groovy rhythm line backs a catchy vocal melody, all with a familiar and engaging arrangement. Heck, the song even comes complete with a harmonized guitar solo and a drum solo, which is the epitome of the 70’s. “Burning Sky” again sounds like recent High Spirits, with its driving hard rock beat and almost proto-metal guitar lines. The harmony vocals set this song apart, though, as they do often throughout High Tides – Distant Skies. Both guitarists – Oskar Andersson and Sammy Ouirra – handle vocals, and yes, at times they take some getting used to, but their overall tone has an undeniable charisma, and the harmonies are spot on.

Oh, that Dire Straits reference I casually dropped up above? “Crimson Past.” A laid-back beat, strummed acoustic chords, and slinky Knopfler-like lead breaks make this song sound a lot like that rootsy band of yore. This song makes me smile and tap my fingers on the bar top – maybe because I’m olde. “Lost in a Dream” invokes Blue Öyster Cult to genuine effect, while single “Under the Moonlight Sky” does the same, albeit in a completely different manner. Both songs have that sort of geeky coolness the BÖC are famous for. And while it isn’t the Idle Hands song of the same name, “Give Me to the Night” is a fast-paced rocker that features machine-gun riffing and vocals that more than keep up. Overall, Night deftly straddle the line between hard-rocking and grooving, and despite the fact that I keep telling myself it shouldn’t work so well, it does.

Vocals have improved since Raft of the World, an album where the singing could grate on one’s nerves by the end. Here the guys sing with more restraint and magnetism than before, making each track eminently listenable. Having worked with the same producer (Ola Ersfjord, who has also produced Primordial) since that album pays dividends, as the band’s performance is captured in raw but polished fashion, with great balance in the mix and some frankly excellent guitar and bass tones. Touring with bands such as Ghost and Dead Lord seems to have contributed to Night’s songwriting prowess, as even the weaker songs on High Tides – Distant Skies are saccharine fun that are worthwhile listens.

The unpretentious charm that exudes from Night is what sets them apart from other retro-rockers. One really gets the feeling that these guys don’t give a crap what others think; they’re playing what they love and if we love it or not, it’s up to us. High Tides – Distant Skies is a light-hearted, good-humored, charming slice of retro classic rock that I don’t really find myself yearning for, but at the same time can’t bring myself to turn it off when it pops up on the playlist. Albums like this one and the upcoming Brother Firetribe could make September the feel-good month of this weird year.

Rating: 3.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: The Sign Records
Websites: |
Release Worldwide: September 11th, 2020

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