October 5, 2017 Nocturnal Rites – Phoenix (Album Review)
Beginning in the mid 1990s, Sweden’s Nocturnal Rites built a worldwide following and established themselves comfortably within the Heavy Metal universe. Recognized by fans internationally, their first decade and a half saw the band go through several lineup changes but nothing could slow down Nocturnal Rites as they went on to release eight studio albums, starting with 1995’s In a Time of Blood and Fire. They even toured the globe with the likes of Nightwish and Hammerfall, played to massive audiences at festivals such as Wacken Open Air, but it has been 10 years since they released The 8th Sin.
Fast forward to 2017, following a decade long, unplanned hiatus, core members Vocalist Jonny Lindqvist, new Lead Guitarist Per Nilsson, Guitarist Fredrik Mannberg, Bassist Nils Eriksson, and Drummer Owe Lingvall announced they would be returning in the fall with their ninth studio album, Phoenix, via AFM Records. Phoenix took flight on September 29, 2017 in Europe and will do the same on October 6th in the U.S. market. So what can fans expect after the lengthy break of Nocturnal Rites?
Staying true to their signature sound, Phoenix comes in with nothing less than the melodic Power Metal sound for which Nocturnal Rites are famous. Every song has a huge, epic feel kicked off by the opening number, “A Heart As Black As Coal.” Simply an upbeat, mid-tempo tune, this is the perfect way to prepare the listener for the next 47 minutes of mayhem. From there, they quickly move into “Before We Waste Away,” a great track rightfully selected as the album’s lead single because this fist-pumping anthem fits perfectly for a live show.
“The Poisonous Seed” is next, and Nocturnal Rites’ followers will love the pulsating double-bass drums, boat-loads of melody, heavy breakdowns, and a pounding drum solo to finish off the song. The march of Metal continues with “Repent My Sins” and “What’s Killing Me” before gifting “A Song for You,” a really cool track which sounds like it may be dedicated to the people that have always believed in Nocturnal Rites.
Later on, a real head-banging tune, “The Ghost Inside Me” explodes, showing the band at their best as it flows into “Nothing Can Break Me” and the somber “Flames.” Next to last is the bonus track to the limited edition version, “Used To Be God,” which speaks of a person who is finally taking a good look at themselves, determining if they have chosen the right path. Last but not least, “Welcome To The End” is blisteringly fast and rockin’, putting the final stamp on Phoenix, closing the album out the same way it began.
Not enough? Well, collectors will enjoy a limited edition digipak and vinyl record featuring one bonus track as well as a Nocturnal Rites patch exclusive to the digipak. Overall, a ten-year absence certainly did not find Nocturnal Rites losing any ground on their mission to tear things up. Lindqvist is at his best on Phoenix, and the same can be said for the tremendous guitar work of Nilsson and Mannberg, both of whom destroy on every track. Eriksson and Drummer Lingvall also do not skip a beat, providing a hell of a rhythm section.
Simply put, Nocturnal Rites are proud to be back! Lindqvist commented, “Looking back and realizing that ten-years have passed since we last released an album is kind of mind-boggling. We never planned for this hiatus, time just sort of flew. Luckily, we never stopped writing songs and we always knew we’d finish this album. I think the final injection was when Per Nilsson joined the band. He truly is an exceptional guitarist and brought the element we missed since Chris left the band to join Sabaton in 2012.” The band followed with, “We can’t wait to share this new album with everyone. It’s been long overdue. Needless to say, it feels great to finally be back.” For a triumphant and welcomed return, CrypticRock gives Phoenix 4 out of 5 stars.