As a big fan of NOCTURNAL RITES in their more aggressive form with Jonny Lindkvist on vocals (the “Afterlife” album and beyond), I wasn’t sure what I would think of the pre-Lindkvist period. I had heard that it was much lighter, less heavy and more clichéd Power Metal, with little in common with modern NOCTURNAL RITES. So, despite being a fan of most all things Power Metal, I approached “The Sacred Talisman” with a bit of caution.
After one listen, all of my cautions flew out the window. “The Sacred Talisman” is every bit as good as any of the Lindkvist-era NOCTURNAL RITES’ albums, even though it sounds very little like those albums. Now don’t get me wrong, there are still subtle similarities, mainly in the melodies, which let you know that this is indeed the same band. But overall, this is less aggressive and at times closer to melodic metal (see “The Iron Force” and “Eternity Holds”).
“Destiny Call” gets things started as a very traditional Power Metal track, sporting a catchy, sing-a-long chorus, something that NOCTURNAL RITES uses often here (see also “Free At Last” and “When Fire Comes To Ice”). The previously mentioned “The Iron Force” is the album’s best track and rapidly becoming one my favorites of the band’s entire catalogue. This song is mid-paced and rocking, with a strong Rock’n’Roll attitude. “The Legend Lives On” is the album’s only ballad and it is very strong and emotional, reminding me of some of HAMMERFALL’s finest softer moments. “The Sacred Talisman” finishes at a more frantic pace, as three speedier tracks tie-up the end.
Vocalist Anders Zackrisson is certainly one of the key elements that set “The Sacred Talisman” (and the albums before it), apart from the modern NOCTURNAL RITES’ sound. His voice is smoother and less aggressive than Jonny Lindkvist and he has a higher range overall.
Fans of Power Metal in general absolutely cannot go wrong with “The Sacred Talisman”. Fans of the recent NOCTURNAL RITES’ catalogue are also advised to pick this up. It’s fun to see where the band has come from and you just might be surprised at how good “The Sacred Talisman” actually is. (Online January 31, 2006)