Nightmare - Dead Sun - (8.5/10)
Published on February 3, 2017
Nightmare have undergone many transformations over their lengthy existance. From prog-tinged hard rockers back in the ‘80s to the melodic metal powerhouse they became following following their reformation at the end of the last millennium, the French act have always strived to deliver some of the heavy/power metal genre’s most consistent, if not wildly inventive, offerings. Since their last release, 2014’s The Aftermath, which some (including your reviewer) might argue represented the pinnacle of their prowess, the band have undergone some fairly fundamental changes. Dead Sun sees the introduction of vocalist Magali Luyten and a decisive turn toward a more traditional heavy metal sound.
Dead Sun might seem at first as though it were a simpler beast than its predecessors, but it isn’t. The more traditional, rock-aligned, approach deployed on this record gives the initial impression of being perhaps “stripped back”. However, there is a deceptive amount of subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) variation to be found throughout. “Tangled In the Roots” features underplayed orchestral synths in its background, while the record’s centerpiece, “Seeds of Agony”, employs electronic keys and, ahem, a “kiddie choir”. Children’s choir’s have become somewhat of a cliché, cringe-worthy element within the critical sphere. Yet, while it’s pompous for sure, they’ve never really bother me that much and Nightmare make better use of it than most, actually managing to elevate the already lofty number; and while I maintain the use of an air-raid siren is unforgivable, again, Nightmare manage to pull the trite element off, on the record’s title track, without causing any real offense.
It’s virtually impossible to fault any of the performances on Dead Sun. Luyten lacks the range of her predecessor, the band’s ex-drummer Jo Amore. However, by bringing her own, distinct approach to the fore, she manages to put her own spin on things without having to compete with what came before. Her vocals are much more in kind with those of bluesy ‘80s rock acts like Whitesnake (see: “Indifference”) than they are with those of anything that might convincingly have a “power” prefix put before it, and her sometimes gravelly rasp gives the band a relatable “down to earth” quality unavailable to her overreaching forebears. As good as, Luyten and the rest of her band are however, it’s fellow-newcomer Oliver Casula who stakes his claim to being the record’s MVP. The heavier tracks on Dead Sun, like “Red Marble & Gold” and “Serpentine”, remain the record’s best, and much of that has to do with Casula’s pounding drum work.
Featuring: Kelly Sundown Carpenter of Darkology and Zierler (ex-Outworld, ex-Beyond Twilight)
Dead Sun is a record built around soaring, catching melodies and biting riffs. While it doesn’t go for the jugular as often as Nightmare’s last couple of outing might have, there’s a clear degree of thought and effort that has gone to the album’s composition, resulting in a record deceptively broad in scope and whose consistency is simply undeniable. Shame about that cover art and logo treatment though.