Musical trends come and go, listening tastes develop over time and whilst someone may have not been able to get enough of the melodic death metal, Swedish shred of bands such as Arch Enemy and At The Gates in the 90’s many old fans would have moved on by now. Some bands refuse to lay a previous style to rest though, long after it has gone out of style and Nightrage are one such example of a group not giving up on the glory days of the past. Before anyone jumps in shouting “but…” yes of course Nightrage are led by Marios Iliopoulos a Grecian and are not strictly Swedish, they even have a new bassist from Venezuela. Still, play them to the average death metal Joe and you wouldn’t take them to task for guessing country of origin in the slightest. Whilst some bands peak very early on though and become repetitious and shadows of their former selves, some manage to maintain the hunger, hooks and prowess of the past and for me Nightrage seem a prime example of that fact. They are not the sort of band this reviewer would normally grab from a list and want to write about but I have been doing so since right back to debut album ‘Sweet Vengeance’ in 2003 and I am not about to stop now as this band have never let me down. I am a bit out of sorts realising that I last checked in on them with ‘The Puritan’ in 2015 and completely somehow missed last album ‘The Venomous’ a couple of years later. Perhaps time has gone by too far and ‘Wolf To Man’ might not have the bite and bark I so fondly remember then? Ah sweet, I need not have worried, these are no wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Apart from perhaps the opening weeping guitar line on the album there’s nothing cheesy about Nightrage, once throwing that classic motif and curveball out there its business as usual and the band slam themselves into things with relish and utmost conviction. ‘Starless Night’ is the first of 12 tracks and once it opens the throttle it doesn’t stop going, feral, savage and hungry. Even more important the whole 44 minutes is an invigorating thrill ride full of sharp hooky riffs that never let up and well and truly latch in your head. This really does hark back to the glory days and whilst so many have laid down by the wayside it’s a delight to listen to and reminds why I got so much into this sort of sound in the first place via albums like Black Earth and Slaughter Of The Soul. Ronnie Nyman provides a good rough and satisfying bark to proceedings sounding suitably wolverine on the title track with the rest of the pack fast on his heels. Scorching leads and some great instrumental breaks allow songs like this to breathe and they quickly become firm friends, never outstaying welcome but simply getting down to work and rapidly moving on to the next number. The sparkling leads on ‘Embrace The Nightrage’ is a point on exactly what I have been saying thus far and having the balls to name a track like this and not delivering on it would be wrong, thankfully they deliver the goods in spades.
My other firm love are still and always will be Dark Tranquillity and stylistically some of the motifs especially on tracks like ‘Desensitized’ are so true to them that I had to check and see if there were any guest appearances at play. I would absolutely love to see the 2 bands on the same tour. Each and every track here has its own strong identity and sense of style, it continually shifts shape and offers something of its own. It’s tempting to write about each of them, Arch Enemy and their past sense of melody is invoked on ‘God Forbid’ and pinch yourself vocally here Nyman does a brilliant Lindbergian snarl on the pile-driving ‘By Darkness Drawn’. At precisely 3;33 and full of rousing gang shouts and cries of “We are the dead,” ‘The Damned’ at odds with its title is nothing short of life-affirming and a brilliant track loud enough to raise its subject title from their tombs.
I could easily go on but frankly am too engaged in the ancient ritual of banging the head and playing air-guitar (badly). ‘Aim Aim Kill’ yep this album does just that and if frankly an absolute delight. If you are hungering for the musical shred of a couple of decades ago delivered with panache and the energy that it truly used to seethe with look no further, this is a veritable banger of an album. UK fans catch them at Warhorns in what is fast looking like the best festival of the year on our shores.
(8.5/10 Pete Woods)