Looking back through the echelons of time, there are not too many times when the Greeks and the Swedes came together for, well anything. While one (no prizes for guessing) lies partially within the arctic circle and has given arise to some of the biggest and best names in the genre known as death metal, the other lies in the Mediterranean and, save for bands such as Septic Flesh and Firewind has not really contributed that much to the metal scene at all. Furthermore, this band play the much loved or loathed sub-genre known as melodic death metal, a name bastardised after the turn of the millennia with the invention of metalcore. In fact, Nightrage could be considered a guilty party in this department, their 2007 effort “A New Disease is Born” having a much more modern sound about it, mostly due to the inclusion of vocalist Jimmie Strimmell who then went on to create the utter ***fest known as Dead By April. And where 2009’s “Wearing a Martyr’s Crown” was certainly a return to their Lindberg/Gus G days, it still sounded rather flat and uninspired, save for the brilliant “Collision of Fate”. So, really there are two questions here that need to be answered. The first is can this band make the Greek metal scene really stand out and two, put simply, is this album any good?
Well, the answer to this is really a fifty fifth of maybe and yes. The Greek metal scene, much like that of say Spain came along really a few years too late. This allowed rising areas such as Sweden and Germany to get a head start and will thus make catching up to these two giants virtually impossible. However, “Insidious” has enough decent material on here to at least ensure that it may garner a bit more attention than it already has. Now the first thing to note about the bands fifth studio effort is that it is very much a Nightrage plus friends effort. A plethora of artists, be it past members (Gus G and Tomas Lindberg) or fresh faces (Apollo Papathanosio and Tomas S Englund) have managed to fit onto the record, yet surprisingly the main act is still the main focus. By limiting guests to backing vocals, one verse or one guitar solo the songs generally do not feel too cluttered and thus make for enjoyable listening. Thankfully, the shared vocal duties are much more dumbed down on the rest of the album than the title track would have you believe, “Delirium of the Fallen” in particular being a great opener that still gives Papathanosio his due in a well sung, soulful alternative chorus part. Elsewhere, “Wrapped In Deceitful Dreams” still shows the technical prowess of all three guitarists involved without the rest of the band fading into the background, Englund once again popping up with another excellent clean vocal part.
In fact, the biggest surprise here is in the final three tracks, which despite being separate in the track-listing can be effectively seen to as one progressive, melodic suite featuring no harsh vocals whatsoever. Englund gives a powerful yet emotional performance in the best of the three “Solar Corona” that is undeniably Nightrage yet has a new perspective to their sound covered by bands such as Dark Lunacy and Gates of Ishtar. Its predecessor, “Solar Eclipse” has an undeniably epic sound to it akin to a lower-budget adventure film, an idea continued with “Emblem of Light” that closes the album of brilliantly.
It is not all fun and games though, as there has always been a reason why Nightrage has never truly been able to even break into the most revered artists in melodic death metal. While the guitar riffs are largely enjoyable and prove that this more modern sound can still work perfectly fine with minimal electronic interference, the vocal department is easily the most distracting and off-putting part of this release. Replacing Tomas Lindberg was always going to be a tough job but they have hardly found the best possible alternative in Antony Hämäläinen, who’s Lindberg style hardcore barking gets very tiresome when the guitar riffs become much less memorable, such as the horrible “Hush of Night” where his voice overpowers absolutely everything. A look at the tracklist will also immediately raise doubts about the album. Clocking in at 55 minutes with 15 tracks for melodic death metal? Hardly a tempting prospect when coupled with the knowledge that, upon third listening the second half of the album is much weaker than the first with tracks such as “Cloaked in Wolf Skin” and “Poisoned Pawn” being completely redundant, middle of the road thrash fests. The production is also far from sparkling, especially on the title track and “Cloaked in Wolf Skin” as the muddy mix of guitars and drums make the vocals really relax into the background, making everything incredibly difficult to distinguish.
When all is said and done however, Nightrage’s “Insidious” is a decent album that thankfully contains more plus than negative points. Many of the guitar riffs are arguably the best of the bands career and the clean vocals in particular add some much needed dynamics to this area of the record. If the band had been able to cut out four songs and lower the harsh vocals in the mix to a much more pleasant tone, then we could have easily been looking at one of this year’s most surprising and enjoyable melodic death metal albums. Instead, we have a great album that shows its potential by the bucket load but never truly delivers.
the other lies in the Mediterranean and, save for bands such as Septic Flesh and Firewind has not really contributed that much to the metal scene at all.
This is not true.
For one thing, The Hellenic Death/Black Metal scene - Rotting Christ, Septic Flesh, Necromantia, Nightfall, Varathron, Zemial (GR), Thou Art Lord, Acid Death, Exhumation (GR) among many others - had made quite a fuss in the underground in the early-to-mid 90's.
The problem was in the promotion of these bands.
As the net wasn't quite as developed as it is today, the get-to-know process for bands was held only with tape trading.
Septic Flesh are best known, because the band made continuous tours in the US for its most recent releases.
Rotting Christ's are being worshiped in South America, whenever they tour.
As for the relatively new breed in Death/Black Metal, check bands like Dead Congregation, Order of the Ebon Hand, Naer Mataron, Ravencult among many others.
And I'm not even talking about other genres like progressive rock/metal (Aphrodite's Child, Socrates Drank the Conium) among many others) or doom metal (Universe217) or stoner (Nightstalker).
I think you misunderstood me when I made this point. I am by n means saying that there are a lack of Greek metal bands out there. Hell, if I wanted I could have made a point and said that Honduras doesn't contribute much either, for example. I meant, in the history of the genre. AMerica obvs had the Bay Arena movement, England arguably started grindcore, Scandinavia black metal, Sweden melodic death metal etc. Greece hasn't really produced a huge band that has contributed anything of real importance to any genre, although SF's latest effort was pretty dam decent
Great melodic death metal album. All the goods a fan of this sub genre should hope to hear. Strong chugging riff driven songs with aggressive harmonized rhythm and lead guitar work. A few awkward clean vocal moments hold it back from supreme excellence. It's that good.
I think this album is more 'melodic metalcore' than 'melodic death metal'.
The raspy metalcore-esque 'barks' are actually one of the selling points of this album for me. The intense Unearth style guitar riffing and melodic death metal melody work nicely together.