April 28, 2015 Nightrage – The Puritan (Album Review)
The Swedish/Greek collaboration of Nightrage, originally from Thessaloniki and later relocating to Gothenburg, are one of the most respected Melodic Death Metal acts around, forging their reputation since their origins in the beginning of the new millennium. Founded by mastermind and main songwriter/guitarist Marios Iliopoulos and his close friend Gus G. (Firewind, Mystic Prophecy, Dream Evil, Ozzy Osbourne Band), Nightrage brought several well-known scene-musicians from bands such as At The Gates, Septic Flesh, Dissection, Evergrey and The Haunted to their ranks during the last one and a half decades. All releases since the 2003 debut Sweet Vengeance to 2011’s Insidious originated under contribution of star producer Fredrik Nordström in Studio Fredman and offered internally flawless Melodic Death/Thrash of the Gothenburg brand.
Their newest effort, entitled The Puritan, is no exception to the musical route Nightrage has chosen to march upon, but definitely shows some diversity and changes, and not only in the turning line-up carousel. With new Swedish label Despotz Records behind them, new recording studio Dug Out Productions – which includes the lauded production team of guru Daniel Bergstrand (Meshuggah, In Flames, Soilwork and many more) and George Nerantzis, as well as a new, attractive graphic design, Iliopoulos holds a lot of aces in his hand that underline the new fresh breath of air in Nightrage.
Joining the band back in 2013, vocalist Ronnie Nyman (Always War) rounds out some of the newer aspects to Nightrage’s sound. Nyman had already taken his place behind the microphone during last year’s Russian and Japanese Tour, replacing Antony Hämäläinen, who left along with guitarist Olof Mörck. The current permanent line-up is completed by the familiar bass monster of over a decade in the shape of Anders Hammer.
Instead of slipping into trendy Metalcore waters, Mr. Iliopoulos shows from the very first riffs of the opening title track where the journey is taking the listener. With fat, dirty riffing and no compromises, the band thrashes as always with a vast precision, enforced by Nyman from one melodic chorus to another, screaming with heart and soul. “With The Blade of a Knife,” the new frontman moves in a more thrash-like range in his best Soilwork manner, which gives Nightrage a necessary brutality and will raise the blood pressure in unprepared, less open-minded listeners. The melodies and big hook lines are there, as perfectly evidenced in “Desperate Vows.” Again and again Iliopoulos impresses with his filigree guitar work between brutal, tight riffing and heavy twin-leads. “Foul Vile Life” gets the listener to raise a fist from the first note to the intense chorus. The only diverting breather comes with the brief, wonderful instrumental “Lone Lake,” before the repeated songwriting collaboration with Gus G. presents the ultimate skullcrusher, “When Gold Turns To Rust.” Even this hate-anthem is bulked here and there by the melodic leads and a grandiose chorus of the overall picture painted by Iliopoulos. “Fathomless” grabs and squeezes the listener again before the closing “Kiss of a Sycophant” thematically deals with the squalidness of the human race, and should be embraced by all Melodic Death Metal apostles.
The Puritan is truly a most coherent Melodic Death Thrash album, a new path for Nightrage. These frenetic pioneers will surprise some fans who will not know what has hit them as the band seems to be undergoing their second spring. With The Puritan, Nightrage forms a queue in the squad of this gut-wrenching genre. Fans who count In Flames’ 2000 Clayman to their all-time favorites can add another treasure in a modern Melodic Death to their shelves. Certainly an exciting album and worthy addition to any collection, The Puritan is a clear surprise for Metal fans in 2015. CrypticRock gives this album 4.5 out of 5 stars.