Nightrage: Insidious

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Nightrage: Insidious
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Nightrage: Insidious
Melodic Death Metal
Lifeforce Records
September 27th, 2011
Release length: 53:14
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Nightrage is a band that seems to always be reinventing themselves one way or another. With each album, the band’s sound typically goes into another direction, and whether that’s to include an obvious impression from another band, or trying to give off their own unique atmosphere or sound, it’s typically done well enough that their worst attempts are still somewhat enjoyable. Insidious marks this Melodic Death Metal act’s fifth full-length offering, and once again the band’s music has changed somewhat, becoming a stronger, more unique entity compared to their previous album Wearing a Martyr’s Crown and the many In Flames style references that could be found under the skin of their creation. But just what does Insidious have in store for their listeners?

First of all, the audio is a bit surprising for a Lifeforce Records release. Typically this label issues sleeker, sharper], modern sounding releases, and Insidious just isn’t one of them. The audio here is actually not the best, having more of a foggy sound to it, not making it raw or muddy, but just not as clear as you would like it to be. The guitars sound great but that fogginess seems to hold them back a bit and not really give them the leads a cleaner sound to make them catchier, or the rhythm sections that heavier vibe to match the good bass that sometimes seems lost in the mix. The drums here are pretty strong, but again with the audio the way it is, they still are nothing too fantastic. The bass kicks have a little click to them that probably is a little stronger without the aforementioned issue in the quality, the snares are loud and become pretty important to the album, though sometimes drowning out the bass kicks somewhat, and then you have the cymbols that are pretty loud and, despite the problems, do a good job filling things up in the final mix. Vocally, it’s your typical screaming approach with some random clean singing thrown in for good measure from time to time, and yes, much of the clean singing is handled by Evergrey vocalist Tom Englund once again.

Sadly, this may sound or come off as a bit generic, but it works for the band’s mixture of Melodic Death Metal intensity, and what sounds like some heavier Metalcore hooks thrown in at times, though never crossing that line to call this album a hybrid release of the two styles. Of course, that’s kind of how the album does seem to kick things off. While this album does keep some of the more modern Nightrage sound, but mix it with the more atmospherically driven compositions of their debut period, sometimes it can feel a little more basic then anything. “So Far Away (Intro)” is a beautiful song that uses the audio quality and it’s obvious fault to it’s advantage, creating an emotional, slow paced instrumental piece that feels airy and somber before kicking in with their my stylish music of “Delirium of the Fallen” that feels hindered a bit by the foggier atmosphere and less of a deeper, bass driven sound that it greatly would have benefitted from. This song has more of a Melodic Death Metal foundation and sets up the album nicely. But, once you got the song “Insidious,” you still to pick up on the more Metalcore-esque riffs in the band’s music through some toned down hook-driven guitars that one may expect from any Metalcore act currently in the market. It’s not bad at all, and while this isn’t the strongest example on Insidious, this song at least makes you aware that those kind of ideas will be present.

Luckily the Metalcore-esque hooks are kept to a strong minimum through the album. Much of this effort comes through as solid Melodic Death Metal that, while not that original or unique, really is enjoyable and drips with the emotional atmosphere Nightrage often likes the toy around with, but hadn’t really touched lately. “Hate Turns Black” is an exceptional track with an energetic performance, catchy riffs that maintain a nice edge and intensity to them, and the melodic bits are catchy with a fantastic chorus you can’t help but bang your head along to, transitioned in so well that the more melodic shift sounds genuinely natural and in no way awkward or forced. “Sham Piety” takes a much stronger early Melodic Death Metal approach to the music, having a bit of a slower pace, and it’s a little refreshing to hear a well orchestrated and performed throwback to the days when this style was really starting to grow, though again it feels like listening to an early In Flames track. But it’s about this time you start to pick up on the fact that much of the tracks here start to follow that same similar pattern of more intense material with a heavier melodic chorus, often transitioned well enough that it feels natural to the progression of the song. “Poisoned Pawn” is just another catchy song, but this time does have some more Metalcore-ish traits musically during some of the bridges despite the somewhat old-school Melodic Death Metal sound. It’s an envigorating track with an energetic performance, but the only complaint here is the sudden momentary pause that doesn’t feel natural, as if edited down from a longer pause for a more awkward sudden jump back into the music.

While there’s enough variety to the album that the songs stand apart from one another, there’s nothing on here that really stands out much aside a few songs. “Sham Piety” is one of the more catchier songs here and is definitely a track that stands out, and “This World is Coming to an End” has a stronger intensity behind it then many of the other tracks on the release. However the one song on Insidious that really stands out the most is “Hush of Night.” This song does something a little different, which is including some acoustic guitars in against the more intense Melodic Death Metal guitar work of the chorus. It actually becomes quite addicting and proves to be a fantastic idea, and hopefully one that will be revisited on future albums, but not abused in any way. Another nice touch of this album is how the band handles the guitar solos. Most of the time, they feel more as if they branch off from the melodic chorus, such as with “Poisoned Pawn,” but then you can have some really intense and fast paced solos that can be a little more awe inspiring such as wtih “This World is Coming to an End.”

Among the album are scattered vocal performances by Tom Englund, as mentioned earlier in the review. Much like his previous performances, they often come in during more emotionally driven moments of the music, which are often the slowest parts of the song, such as during “Wrapped in Deceitful Dreams.” This performance here is great and gives a nice controbution to an already catchy song, and it’s nice to hear it, but as you go on, it does start to feel tacked on after a while. “This World is Coming to an End” features another performance, which again is just a few lines appearing after the first chorus, and it works for the song but it would sound a lot better if it actually were one of the members of the band, or even the first time Tom makes an appearance on the album. This isn’t really asking too much since there are other clean vocals on here other then Tom’s random guest spots. “Delirium of the Fallen” has a brief cleanly sung spot that feels like it was meant as another guest spot that just never happened, and while the vocals aren’t clean, it feels natural to the group and not as if the music is being changed solely to fit his performance in. “Poignant Memories” also features a cleaner vocal start, mostly a whisper but it does build up into a louder singing performance, and again it works and feels more natural to the band instead of a completely different voice coming in for a few lines. It also mixes perfectly with the music unlike the many guest spots on this release.

The closing to Insidious is also worth taking note of, but this time not at all in a good way. Again the band finds themselves delving back towards the more emotional and atmospheric Melodic Death Metal sound with the three song series “Solar Eclipse (Prelude),” “Solar Corona,” and “Emblem of Light (Outro).” “Solar Eclipse (Prelude)” just feels like the start of “Solar Corona” but edited into it’s own track. It’s a nice brief piece of atmospheric music before going into the slower, more emotional instrumental that follows. These tracks feel like such a huge departure from the album though, feeling a little out of place and as if they were designed specifically to get Tom to sing in a more comfortable emotional musical setting, but again it’s just a few lines. Instead of being a random atmospheric slower section in a track, they dedicate a little less then seven and a half minutes solely to have him sing a few additional lines, and it seriously does feel like the band goes out of their way to make this happen. The song actually concludes, and then goes into another heavily atmospheric passage similar to the previous music on this track, but much lighter in atmosphere and pitch, then fades out, only to fade in once more for another brief instrumental piece that takes on more of a movie score approach that feels insanely out of place. In the time span of these three tracks we hear three small instrumental pieces, and one emotional forced passage that appears in two other tracks but enlarged to accomodate the staple guest vocalist for a few lines, essentially making the track an instrumental outside the maybe seven, ten seconds if that of contributed vocals. Had Nightrage let Insidious end with “Solar Eclipse (Prelude),” then this would have been a nice ending that ties up the album well and managed to stay in the general sound of the release from start to finish.

Nightrage, while always growing and expanding their sound, continue to do the same irritating crap they do on every album. Don’t get me wrong, Insidious is a fine album. Pretty much every song on here is great, but it still has that repetitive more intense everything and then insanely melodic chorus to just about every song on here. There’s enough variety, passion, energy, talent, and overall quality to the music to go around though, making the fifty plus minutes of the album well worth checking out. But again, the band seems to force random slower passages into their songs to accomodate the staple guest. While I’m a huge Evergrey fan and do enjoy Tom Englund’s vocals, but after five albums of random guest spots it’s just becoming more and more awkward as well as irritating, especially with Insidious since there are other good clean vocals that appear and show the band no longer needs him to handle all the clean singing on a release. Whatever the situation is, these are still the most infuriating moments, and the fact that Nightrage dedicated over seven minutes to include a few lines from him is ridiculous, and ultimately it ends up ruining what could have been a nice closing instrumental piece with “Solar Eclipse (Prelude),” instead finding the band branching it off to music that doesn’t with the album, and “Emblem of Light (Outro)” as the actual outro that feels more like something a Symphonic Black Metal band would use, not this band. But, even if you can’t look past these issues, the music here is still strong despite the audio problems mentioned, and makes for an enjoyable Melodic Death Metal offering that won’t hurt you to check out at some point.

01. So Far Away (Intro) – 1:19
02. Delirium of the Fallen – 4:14
03. Insidious – 3:43
04. Wrapped in Deceitful Dreams – 3:52
05. Hate Turns Black – 4:31
06. Sham Piety – 5:30
07. Cloaked in Wolf Skin – 3:22
08. This World is Coming to an End – 3:27
09. Utmost End of Pain – 4:23
10. Poignant Memories – 3:55
11. Hush of Night – 3:38
12. Poisoned Pawn – 3:57
13. Solar Eclipse (Prelude) – 0:35
14. Solar Corona – 5:43
15. Emblem of Light (Outro) – 1:05
Overall Score: 6/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by Lifeforce Records.