NergardI really thought that said Nerdgard! I know I’m not alone, you had to double check didn’t you? But before you think the name is some kind of visor for computers, or a bigger kid looking out for the brainy ones at his school, it’s actually someone’s name – a Norwegian multi-instrumentalist, composer and talented chap called Andreas Nergard. A very well connected chap he is too, enticing (amongst others) the likes of Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear), Elize Ryd (Amaranthe), Nils K. Rue (Pagan’s Mind) and Michael Erikson (Circus Maximus) to lend their vocal talents, as well as a host of guest guitarists to noodle away on just his second full-length album to date.

Touted under the tag of Melodic Rock/Metal, there is plenty for fans of the genre to enjoy. Sometimes though, it all comes down to personal taste, and where as I have some friends who would probably do cartwheels over the Melodic Rock side of things (more of them later), it’s when things lean towards the Metal that my own interest is piqued. The “Metal” doesn’t happen on the album as much as I would personally prefer, but if you have Ralf Scheepers guesting, then you’ve got to write something he can get his gnashers in to, and Ralf gets to chuck his weight around nicely on the opener ‘Light and Shadows’. It’s a brave opener at just over eight minutes (the longest track on offer here), and benefits from it’s progressive touches and excellent sprinkles of piano in the middle section, nicely sandwiched by heavier passages at either end. A good start, but then it becomes increasingly evident that maybe this release in it’s entirety might not be quite my thing.

It’s that personal taste thing again y’see. So I sought a second (and third) opinion and, on the promise of a rather nice Australian Cab Sauv, my friends descended on my house, drank the place dry, and assured me that there are some great moments of Melodic-ness on “A Bit Closer To Heaven” (three bloody bottles of wine to tell me what I already knew – thanks guys…). I personally suspected there were 5 ballads on the album in total, but (here, y’see, I’m learning things all the time) I am assured there are only really 2, the rest being Melodic Rockers of a high quality (‘Let It Come’ and the title track, being of particular note…so I’m told, the “wine-wage” gaining a little more value at last!), There’s also a nice duet where, by the end of the track (‘On Through The Storm’) the two vocalist do their damnedest to out-warble each other (impressively so too!), and plenty of choruses scattered throughout that lodge nicely in the old grey matter.

The album hadn’t finished with me yet though and the groovy ‘Help Me Through The Night’ had my interest once again. Reminding me fondly of classic Pink Cream 69 (more the Deris era than latter), with a catchy riff, nice arrangement and great chorus, this is a bit of a gem. There then follows three ballads before the close of the album. Sorry, sorry, I’m told only one of them is a ballad and the rest are as stated above. And are all catchy and memorable. And the closing ballad is very heartfelt. Yes, yes, I’ve written that…jeez, go open another bottle…

Look, this album in truth probably isn’t really Ave Noctum’s thing, it isn’t particularly mine, but it does have plenty to interest anyone who leans toward the more melodic. I personally really like two of the tracks and I can totally appreciate the excellent musicianship and craft of the others. Yeah, I suppose it’s not very professional to ‘seek help’ when doing a review, but I just wanted a second opinion to back up what I already kind of already knew. And it’s not like I said to my friends “Hey, just write your comments in a sort of review form” and then just stuck my name on the bottom…bugger, missed a trick there!

(7/10 – Andy Barker (with help)