Given AMG and Steel Druhm‘s 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.
Lucidity 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.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 160 kbps mp3
Label: Self Released
Release Dates: Worldwide: 02.17.2015