It is rare that bands that come back after a 15-year break actually stick around and manage to sound better than ever and really add something to the Metal scene. French NIGHTMARE are one of this really rare breed, now around with their third album since their return, titled “The Dominion Gate”. Hailing from the alpine town of Grenoble, the quintet has moved from Austrian Napalm Records to Swedish Regain Records in Europe and Candlelight USA in North America, but this has not done their sound or quality any bad.
Within the Power Metal genre there are only a few bands that actually manage to stand out from the big flood of bands and here, too, NIGHTMARE are part of this rare bunch of bands, as they have managed to find their own sound (I can’t compare it to their early works, of course, as I have never heard them), with a darker atmosphere and a pretty unique way of using the choirs to enhance this particular atmosphere they have kind of carved their own niche and for the third time now they convince with this sound, further refining it without copying themselves.
What NIGHTMARE offer us on their third album has basically everything you could hope for from an album such as this, heaviness, atmosphere, power, feeling, epic choirs, well balanced and with very memorable melodies, what more could you ask for? “The Dominion Gate” begins fast and dark in “Temple Of Tears”, with a big, epic choir in the chorus, which has turned into a trademark factor of the Frenchmen, as well as Joe Amore’s pretty characteristic voice, a really good decision for him to give up the drums all these years back and taking over the microphone.
But contrary to many other Power Metal bands NIGHTMARE know how to loosen things up, as with “Messenger Of Faith”, which conjures up the same dark atmosphere, just with less speed, while the great “The Dress Maker” combines a very morbid story with an equally morbid atmosphere. And then it continues – hit after hit: “Circle Of The Dark” continues this as a driving song, followed by the at times surprisingly heavy ballad “Haunting Memories”, before “Heretic” pulls out all stops with a really big, epic chorus, while “The Dominion Gate” also features some female vocals, them all together showing the true creativity of NIGHTMARE’s song writing brigade.
The production by Terje Refsnes is crystal clear and accentuates the intricacies of the compositions, while still keeping the necessary edge to give the listener a nice crunch in the guitars and overall atmosphere. “The Dominion Gate” is a very nicely unclichéd Power Metal album with great and intense atmosphere, great musicianship and great melodies, so if you pass this album by, don’t blame it on me! (Online May 14, 2006)