NUCLEAR BLAST ALL-STARS sounds like an interesting project on the surface, and, in a way, it is. But in other ways, at least the “Into The Light” half, feels more than a bit contrived and forced. You see, Nuclear Blast saw fit, as a way to celebrate its 20th anniversary, to release two albums, one highlighting its Melodic, Heavy and Power Metal artists, and one highlighting its Black and Death Metal artists. As many have said, this is Nuclear Blast’s version of ROADRUNNER UNITED. What we have with “Into The Light” is the Melodic/Heavy/Power Metal side, an album composed by RAGE guitarist Victor Smolski, featuring vocal contributions from several different Nuclear Blast artists. The results, as expected, are quite the mixed bag.
Since each song on “Into The Light” is different, for the most part written to match the vocalist, a song-by-song quick glance is in order:
“Dirty Wings” (featuring EDGUY’s Tobias Sammet) – This is a somewhat awkward romp through Hard Rock/Melodic Metal. The track has similarities to Sammet’s main band, but is less inspired and certainly not as much fun. Unfortunately, Sammet himself doesn’t seem all that into it either.
“Terrified” (featuring RAGE’s Peavy Wagner) – Not surprisingly, “Terrified” is probably the best flowing, most natural sounding song on “Into The Light”. It’s heavy and very fitting for Peavy’s voice, and could easily fit on any RAGE album, but that’s what you’d expect from bandmates working together.
“Ruling The World” (featuring SONATA ARCTICA’s Tony Kakko) – Generic Power Metal is the best descriptor for this track. It’s got a little more speed than the first two songs, but never reaches SONATA ARCTICA’s earlier speeds. The biggest disappointment is that the track doesn’t allow Kakko to show of his vocal abilities.
“Death Is Alive” (featuring KRUX and AT VANCE’s Mats Leven) – “Death Is Alive” is the album’s sort of oddball track, as it sounds more modern and has a bit of a progressive flair. There are some pretty wicked chants in the bridge that worth a listen and Leven turns in the most varied and impressive vocal performance of the album.
“Bloodsucker” (featuring DESTRUCTION’s Schmier) – It’ll come as no surprise that this is far and away the Thrashiest track on “Into The Light”. Schmier adds a great dose of venom to what is otherwise a simply okay song.
“Slaves To The Desert” (featuring BLIND GUARDIAN’s Hansi Kürsch) – As a BLIND GUARDIAN fanboy, this is the track I was most looking forward to hearing. Unfortunately the song doesn’t really fit Kürsch’s unique voice, and simply comes off as too sterile. Kürsch does a nice job of carrying a mediocre song, but it should have been so much more.
“A Perfect Day” (featuring HELLOWEEN’s Andi Deris) – A mid-paced stomper perfectly suited to Deris’ voice is what you get with “A Perfect Day”. Definitely one of the album’s better and most fun tracks.
“Eternally” (featuring COMMUNIC’s Oddleif Stensland) – Knowing COMMUNIC’s music, one would expect this track to at least tip towards the progressive side of things. Instead, we get a near ballad that never quite allows Stensland to show off his powerful pipes.
“Inner Sanctuary” (featuring TAROT and NIGHTWISH’s Marco Hietala) – Spiritually closer to TAROT than NIGHTWISH, “Inner Sanctuary is a decent stomper. Hietala is a vocalist that can really let loose and sound pretty wild, but he never goes for the throat on this track, which is a bit of a shame.
“In The Picture” (featuring Tarja Turunen) – Former NIGHTWISH front-woman Tarja just might be the biggest draw for some on “Into The Light”, as she has quite a fanatical fanbase. Unfortunately, “In The Picture” simply isn’t grand enough for her voice, so the track falls a bit flat.
So there you have it. Ten tracks, none reaching a level of greatness, but some at least coming off as good. It is nice that Smolski seemed to at least try to compose each track to fit the vocalist, but most of these tracks would have been cutting room floor material for each vocalist’s main band. There are also times when “Into The Light” simply feels like a solo album for Smolski, as he tends to let his guitar heroics outshine the song. Regardless, “Into The Light” is a fun listen since it gathers so many talented vocalists into one recording. But keep in mind that it’s far from perfect.
(Online November 24, 2007)