Review Summary: Nocturnal Rites forge a new and enticing sound for themselves while still bringing the cheese and the heat. The result: heavy metal fondue. Yummy.
Warning: this is an album in which long-haired Swedes play a polished and pristine blend of power and classic heavy metal. Contains: blistering guitar solos, majestic keyboards, a rock-solid rhythm section and a charismatic and commanding vocalist (yeah, I know. But let me finish). Before you scoff at the idea, it would behoove you, my readers, to check any prejudices at the door, throw on that pair of gaudy rocker shades you bought once upon a time thinking that they would make you a chick magnet (I assume that everyone else shares this experience. If not, you ought to have. If you're female, this is a POWER METAL band. You must have clicked on the wrong review or something), take a few swigs of your favorite brand of liquor, perhaps discard those confining undergarments (that especially goes for any female readers who chose not to heed my warning), and take a good listen to Nocturnal Rites' 2008 release entitled The Eighth Sin. Originally a melodic death metal band turned standard power metal, turned somewhat more interesting power metal band, it looks as if Nocturnal Rites have found a relatively unique sound that has the potential to catapult them to international notoriety.
The first song begins with a simple, groovy chugging riff and pounding drums that builds to a brief but explosive musical passage with slick semi-symphonic keyboards, a catchy guitar lead and the rest of the band working in tandem to produce an impressive sonic landscape. The singer comes in and belts the opening lyrics of the song with a robust and gravelly voice that exudes confidence and masculinity. The chorus is very melodic with high backing vocals and exudes a conceptual sparkle of flamboyance wherein the singer melts faces with exquisite and earth-shattering high notes, and the keyboards simultaneously demonstrate sophistication and subtlety. The drums more than adequately provide a rhythmic framework for the melody and the bass is actually audible and well-played. The lead guitarist is clearly above and beyond the curve and his guitar solos are fast and technical with unique melodic ideas and phrasing. Sweep-picked arpeggios are integrated seamlessly into enthralling moments of guitar heroism, and while the conceptual premise is hardly ground-breaking it is befitting of the song and a piece of delicious ear-candy, not only on Call Out To The World but throughout the entire album. These are songs crafted by seasoned artisans and they are proof that Nocturnal Rites aren't content with mediocrity. Songs like Never Again, Not The Only, Tell Me, Not like You (that's like half the album right there) deliver the cheese but also the musicianship. Unique and fresh keyboard riffs, solos, and symphonic elements complement the rest of the band and often elevate the songs in their own right. The guitars are the typical heavy mid-tempo (relatively speaking. This is power metal after all) palm mutes, pinch harmonics, and shreddy fills and give the songs a thick, saturated sound. The drums are top-notch and always accentuating the rest of the band, and obviously the singer is exceptional; he has power, tone, range, and feeling and does it effortlessly.
Nocturnal Rites have been in the music business for decades and they certainly know how to make a consistently appealing and entertaining album. They recognize that no power/heavy metal album is complete without a cheesy ballad. 'Me' fills that void with a big heaping spoonful of sap and cheese (yummy) that is a change from the usual grandiose delivery of the album. It's a stripped-down piano ballad that highlights the lead singer's voice and combines it with a lovely female voice for a tear-jerking (or knee-slapping depending on your disposition) moment. The album closes with Pain & Pleasure, a digression from the glam and sparkle of the antecedent tracks that sounds positively diabolical with screaming guitars, creepy violins, and a dramatic vocal performance. In two songs, Nocturnal Rites have wisely closed their album with a much appreciated change of pace from the raging heavy metal anthems that characterized the first half.
Now that I have lauded Nocturnal Rites on their musicianship I must chide them a little. The lyrics are simplistic and generic compositions about the tumult and challenges of relationships and everyday life. Yeah. I'll just say that these guys are very lucky that this music is such ear candy or else they would be run out of power metal town, pitchforks and torches in hand (likely a few enchanted maces and fireball scrolls). At least they don't say "baby" at all, lest they be lynched for real. Despite the lackluster poetic content and vocal melodies that rely a little too heavily upon raw aesthetics, there are plenty of hooks and a few clever lines that are made viable by the immaculate lead vocalist. This guy could sing radio jingles and make them sound legitimately metal.
While I can't say in good faith that the sound found on The Eighth Sin is anything world-shattering, Nocturnal Rites have done a superb job of writing a thematically convincing, melodically enticing album that is loads of fun for those who relish cheese, extreme overproduction, and The Shred. It's not a brand new sound but it's a difficult one to pull off and these guys succeed in making it their own and melting many faces. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go ice mine for a bit. Owwwww