Those readers who have been following the metal scene for a few years are quite probably acquainted with French heavy/power act Nightmare; those who have been with us a bit longer are almost certainly aware that said band’s stretch from 2001 to 2005 saw a dead excellent trio of albums from a creative, traditionally-influenced powerhouse performing at the height of its skill; and those fossilized relics who were following the European underground in the mid-80’s may even recall the band’s pair of comparably prehistoric records from those early days. Today’s review, that of Öblivïon’s Resilience, will everywhere be compared to Nightmare’s “classic” era of the 00’s decade due to the involvement of Jo and David Amore and Steff Rabilloud. The former pair – brothers – were core members of that band, and Rabilloud had a brief stint as keyboardist (though he performs guitar with Öblivïon). The project is rounded out by a duo of experienced French metal musicians: bass virtuoso Markus Fortunato (Fortunato, M.Z.) and guitar player Florian Lagoutte (Forsaken World).
The immediate concern on every Nightmare fans’ mind is, of course, “how does this compare with albums like Cosmovision and The Dominion Gate?” Well, let’s address this directly and fairly: Öblivïon is very honest about being more hard-rock and traditionally heavy metal-inspired than the Amore boys’ involvement in the erstwhile heavy/power icon. However, there’s a lot of familiar sounds happening on Resilience, and they’re not all courtesy of Jo’s glorious signature roar. The listener is scalded early with fast tracks like “Honor and Glory” and “Bells from Babylon,” both of which burn with a familiar energy and hints at a darker tonality. However, cheerful, upbeat tunes like “In the Arms of a Queen” and “The Race is On” sound almost alien coming from Amore’s throat – though not without a very special vibrancy all their own.
Jo Amore has always fallen into the small and unique vocal camp inhabited by the likes of Nils Patrik Johansson and our beloved Jørn Lande: a powerful voice with ample gravel to it, controlled with precision and able to delve into a gentle croon when necessary. Though Amore’s croon is certainly not a match for Lande’s, he has just as much energy at full throttle. Resilience sees him able to deliver some of his most striking melody lines to date (that part of the press release is true, actually), and Öblivïon is certainly more a chorus-focused effort than Nightmare was. The instrumental work does not suffer in the slightest, however, and while there’s nothing I’d declare “progressive,” the routine tempo shifts, adept bass work, frequent sequential guitar runs, and occasionally staggered rhythms make for enough technicality as to be appreciated as a true merit of the work.
As Resilience marches through to its conclusion, a trend appears. While the first four songs are readily identifiable as power metal, the segueing power ballad “I Thought I was a King” gives way to songs of a slightly different character. “Evil Spell,” while vigorous and moderately fast, turns up the neoclassicism and shifts focus toward the instrumentation, resulting in a delightfully Iron Mask-like track. “Punished by the Crowd” adopts a more simplistic, martial approach, while “Dreamers Believers” finishes the journey off with further deviation from a couple more interjecting power metal tunes. This makes for what, at a casual glance, might seem a top-heavy album. In reality, the deeper cuts on Resilience offer a variety and freshness that’s welcome after the initial sonic assault.
I’d be hard-pressed to pick a truly weak link on this album, and so I’ll stick with “I Thought I was a King” for the mere fact that I always enjoy making sport of slower, less inspired tracks. There are one or two others that are less memorable, but the vast majority of the material here ranges from good to great, and Resilience proves ultimately to be a sterling return to form for the ex-Nightmare boys and company, as well as a distinguished album in its own right. I would compare the style of Öblivïon most closely to middle-era Tad Morose, the power metal side of Iron Mask, Impellitteri, and maybe some At Vance, and recommend it to the same audiences. This one’s a welcome addition to the fold in 2018 that should appeal to a pretty wide selection of the heavy/power crowd.