Nocturnal Rites - The 8th Sin

Year of Release: 2007
Label: Century Media
Catalog Number: CM 8340-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 41:49:00

So it was sometime in... well, my notes suggest 2010... that Nocturnal Rites were on the bill for some festival or another and, well... let's just say, I often have grand intentions of giving coverage to bands by way of a review of their music -- and especially so when something has been waiting in the wings a while. Such was the case here, and if you are a fan of the band, you already know that this title has been waiting in the wings a good long while longer than just 2010! The band is currently working on their follow up (as of this writing) and are scheduled for several festivals this spring and summer, so... well, it almost looks like I planned it this way.

I still think their name suggests a style of music they're not -- back in 2002, I expected that I'd hear doomy, dark or black metal, not progressive power melodic metal. My thoughts, as 2007's The 8th Sin spins, is that the melodic rock element is stronger than before (than Grand Illusion, too, which I was also spinning). Especially with the power-ballad-like track "Not The Only," there's some influence from either the same operatic well that Queensrÿche drew from, or from Queensrÿche themselves. The smoldering "Till I Come Alive" is one that channels Queensryche and Kamelot.

I think the group has edged more towards MOR than metal. Looking back at my reviews of two earlier releases, I find many of the comments I'd made then about them could be said here about this - Royal Hunt, White Lion, etc. But, it seems too silky smooth. Oh, don't get me wrong on this, the chugging guitars give the music some heft and muscle and can still bite and cut with sharp edges (in fact, they verily growl on "Pain & Pleasure"), but 8th is more "sing-songy" than even Grand Illusion.

On The 8th Sin, what I like especially -- and not just with Nocturnal Rites, but with others in this genre -- is that Jonny Lindqvist doesn't sing across the melody, but with it. Too often I find some great instrumental melody , but the vocalist is just singing flat across it, giving no shape or variance to their delivery (thankfully there's no "cookie monster"/"winds of hell" singing here. Kudos for that alone, me thinks) . In that respect, Nocturnal Rites aren't much different from the more pop-minded metal that seems to have lost favor here in the US, but seems to thrive in Europe. This is a bit meatier than the hair metal of that era, and the retro-looking hair metal of today. I just imagined this being performed by Bon Jovi and it'd work. A bit chunkier, a bit more ornate at times, but � yeh � an 80s groove is there.

Except for maybe "Tell Me" and "Not Like You," which are more kick-ass rock n roll, with meatier, snarlier vocals than your average rock tune. The guitars are a bit sharper (and on the latter, a tad shrill at the beginning), but it's got a driving rhythm. Guitars appear all over "Not Like You," whereas elsewhere the soloing seems confined to a fixed point of time during a song. Incidentally, it wasn't until I read a comment stating such by a reviewer nicknamed Radagast (the review posted at Metal Archives) and paid attention to the timestamp that I noticed it might be true, that the guitar solos come at the exact same moment in each or most tracks -- somewhere around the 2-plus minute mark, by my reckoning. Anyway, "Strong Enough" starts out meatier still, certainly in the sharped edged percussion and grinding guitars.

To the other extreme, you might say "syrupy" about the balladic "Me," although it sounds quite nice, with a romantic sweep. But you might think of Europe ("Carrie" comes to mind). It comes with the requisite piano/vocal intro, emotion expressed by Lindqvist voice almost breaking at certain spots and then the addition of a female vocals (I know not who; she sings well enough) for that added... element. Nice, yes ... but also formulaic. And, oddly, it's not a love ballad, so... it's not really a duet, per se; more a mixed gender harmony... but it doesn't really add anything substantive to the track. Again, it sounds nice, the voices work well together, but...

So, what else besides Lindqvist's vocals do I like? Well, I have to say the power in the arrangements, certainly in the opener "Call Out To The World." The drums and percussion are propulsive without just hammering it at you with the overuse of double-bass. A little of it is ok, to hit home musical point, but to rely on it shows a lack of skill to my ears. Ok, not everyone can be Neil Peart, but what I like about progressive music (which this is, if on the fringes of) is the inherent dynamism that any type of progressive rock necessarily must have. Drums should do something other than bash-bash, Owe Lingvall seems to get that (not there isn't any bashing going on). And the keyboards (which aren't credited) are placed well in the mix, helping to give shape to the music, rather than being somewhere outside it. They trumpet during the galloping "Leave Me Alone" adding a bit of regal feel to the track.

Nocturnal Rites bring a bit of a modern element to their mix with a digital-percussion synth effect, a synth element applied briefly to the vocals as well; there's a bit of this on "Till I Come Alive" and to begin "Strong Enough." Whereas there's a certain warm to the album, this add a bit of a chill to the proceedings.

The 8th Sin is attractive without being wimpy, and, I might add, lyrically it's also not simpering or whiney... but... don't look for anything truly profound in the lyrics. Actually, to be honest they sound better than they look, by which I mean, the tenor and delivery is better than what the sequence of words actually are.

See, here's what funny about this though. If you just listen and don't really think about what is being sung, you'd swear these were all sad lost-love songs; that it's all about some romantic breakup. But it's not. It's about loss, to be sure, but not a romantic loss, but a loss of something else - self, direction, faith. There's nothing profound in lyrics, as I said, no keen observations. But one surmises from what is there a great deal of regret about causing the death of a friend, which could be literal or metaphorical... or even, I suppose, biblical ("Never Again" is a kind of confessional) ... There is not one shred of hopefulness, redemption or anything of that sort, by the way. It's all very dark... and I kind of like that, too. There just seems to be something wrong and artificial about "shiny happy people" (as REM sang). They make me suspicious.

All in all, while The 8th Sin is well produced and appealing from a purely listening point of view, this is not the jewel in their crown. Now, I have to admit that while I do like this album, I couldn't definitively distinguish one track from the other. I mean, yes, I could tell one track from the other, but... other than a few exceptions, what one says about one, applies to so many others. To say the music ranges from the power balladic "Not The Only" to... well, truly everything is a power ballad, it's just the degree to which the balance between power and ballad are exoressed.

Call Out To The World (3:49) / Never Again (3:19) / Not The Only (5:17) / Tell Me (4:13) / Not Like You (4:25) / Leave Me Alone (2:59) / Till I Come Alive (3:46) / Strong Enough (3:13) / Me (4:13) / Pain And Pleasure (3:53) / Fools Parade (Outro) (2:37)

Jonny Lindqvist - vocals
Fredrik Mannberg - guitars
Nils Norberg - guitars
Nils Eriksson - bass
Owe Lingvall - drums

In A Time Of Blood And Fire (1996)
Tales Of Mystery And Imagination (1997)
The Sacred Talisman (1999)
Afterlife (2000)
Shadowland (2002)
New World Messiah (2004)
Lost In Time (2005)
Grand Illusion (2005)
The 8th Sin (2007)
Phoenix (2017)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin SE

Added: February 19th 2012
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1549
Language: english


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