I’m sure it took some people by surprise when Dan Swanö cut the first NIGHTINGALE album in 1995. After all, here was a guy known for the pioneering Death Metal band EDGE OF SANITY and now he’d just released a solidly melodic piece of Progressive Metal. Twelve years later, EOS is long gone, Dan Swanö has become a ubiquitous player in the Metal scene, and NIGHTINGALE has released its sixth full-length, evolving from a one-man project to a two-man project to a full band and outliving the three-album limit Swanö had originally set.
My favourite NIGHTINGALE albums have always been far-and-away 1997s “The Closing Chronicles,” followed by debut “The Breathing Shadow.” “I” (2000) and “Invisible” (2004) didn’t really make impressions on me, while 2003’s “Alive Again” rubbed me the wrong way with its softness. So where does this album fall into NIGHTINGALE’s history?
From the beginning it’s clear that “White Darkness” has continued the band’s evolution into a highly melodic sound that owes more and more to 70s Prog Rock. Compared to previous releases the material is markedly less dark, Swanö’s vocals less sad, probably because the ‘Breathing Shadow’ story that obligated them ended with the first track on “Alive Again.” I actually am often reminded of any of Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s projects (AYREON, STREAM OF PASSION, etc), though certainly less epic. They both have the same sort of modernized retro Prog sound.
“The Fields Of Life” starts out as you’d expect a NIGHTINGALE opener to. Don’t ask me to explain that, but it’s a compliment. Best song of the album here, with a catchy chorus and strong resonance. There are two slower tracks on the album, though neither quite qualify as ballads; “One Way Ticket” and the title track.
As I wrap this review up, I’ve come to the rather unfortunate conclusion that the reason that “Alive Again” didn’t sit well with me and the reason this album, despite its strengths, doesn’t have a higher score is that NIGHTINGALE’s shift to a brighter sound has undermined it a bit. “Wounded Soul” tries to get that dark edge back, but doesn’t quite do it right. The reason this is an unfortunate conclusion is that makes this rating more subjective than it should be. So. If you’re a NIGHTINGALE fan, you know what to expect and you should enjoy it. Within the band’s discography, “White Darkness” is a middling album, but that still makes it rather good.
(Online September 22, 2007)