I’d sort of given up on hearing anything new by Nocturnalia. This unique Swedish heavy/psyche band presented me with one of my favourite albums of 2015 – I knew nothing about them, took a punt on something I wouldn’t normally, and was utterly charmed by “Above, Below Within”. But that was back in March 2015 and each time I checked for more activity by the band I just found that they were on hold, busy with other projects, so, a little gutted, I gave up checking and moved on. Then, this week, out of nowhere…a new album! (Yes I guess it would be ‘out of nowhere’ if I’d stopped looking, but I’m trying to build a bit of tension and apprehension here people, just go with it…).

The musicians in Nocturnalia have an amazing natural knack with melody. It’s never cheesy, never too obvious, but each song no matter what the mood or tempo, is hook-laden via both vocals and/or guitar and how they deliver it is right on my wave-length – I can’t really explain why (a bit awkward when writing a review…), they just seem to do everything right. Minor changes have occurred since the last album, the vocals are slightly less…Sting/Police-like. There’s still plenty of range to the vocals, but delivered in a classier, more controlled manner – like how Horisont have done recently, a band Nocturnalia still have much in common with. However, there is also much evidence that the band are nudging this project in a slightly more metallic direction.

This does feels like a more guitar-orientated album than its predecessor, a much “riffier” affair – maybe down to a double guitar approach – but it’s another improvement that I didn’t even realize they needed to do…until they did it! I mean, take “Winter Hymn”, a Doom Metal, riff-laden 3-minute passage with great lead-work and repeated, almost chanted vocals – the whole thing just thrown in there as the second-to-last song, just basically because it works and because they can! But there are quicker tracks alongside mid-tempo ones, all delivered in this band’s unique way..

Their potential appeal is huge – fans of Graveyard will certainly enjoy them, but equally there are elements of Lake Of Tears, Witchcraft, Budgie, latter-day Bathory, Green Carnation, Solitude Aeturnus, Tyr…there’s so much going on within this album that comparisons are very widespread, and yet… And Yet, it all sounds so simple, so effortless, so connected, so natural. The melodies, the delivery, the arrangements, the musicianship, it just flows and gels and works. It’s musical craftsmanship. Maybe a 4 year break really IS the key, to make music when you want, rather than when you have to. If that is the case then it’s a shame it will be so long until the next Nocturnalia album surfaces – but at least I know it’ll be worth the wait and by the gods, I’m going to really enjoy this one in the meantime!

(8.5/10 Andy Barker)