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Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Reviews: Nightwish, Dynazty, Conception, Cabal (Rich, Simon, Matt & Paul S)

Nightwish: Human. :||: Nature. (Nuclear Blast) [Rich Oliver]

Finnish symphonic metal superstars Nightwish return with their ninth album titled Human. :||: Nature. Over the last few years the popularity of Nightwish has ascended to the point now where they can easily fill arenas globally. A lot of that success can be attributed to the addition of the incredible Floor Jansen on lead vocals. Her powerful and versatile vocals have greatly added to the Nightwish sound and she is easily the best singer the band have had (sorry Tarja fans).

The last album Endless Forms Most Beautiful was a solid release but I felt it didn’t play to Floor’s strengths as a vocalist sounding at times like it was written for a different singer. Thankfully that issue is very much addressed on Human. :||: Nature. which sees Floor on blistering form fully utilising her incredible range and dynamic vocal styles. The other singers in the band also get their time to shine with both bassist Marco Hietala and celtic multi instrumentalist Troy Donockley both having a song where they take the lead.

The album itself is a bit of a mammoth being a double album. The first disc is made up of nine songs over varying styles. It kicks off in truly bombastic style with the colossal Music which has the band firing on all cylinders determined to kick things off in a truly epic fashion. Definitely destined to be a Nightwish classic. This is followed by Noise which is a classic Nightwish single in that it is punchy and catchy and guaranteed to go down a treat when the band are able to tour again. Other notable songs on the first disc include the stunning Celtic folk rock of Harvest which sees Troy on lead vocals and is easily one of the most beautiful and uplifting songs the band have done. Tribal is also another highlight with its tribal rhythms and driving metal riffs resulting in one of the heaviest songs that Nightwish have released for a good while. How’s The Heart is another fantastic song driven by Troy’s celtic folk melodies and Endlessness has a progressive metal feel about it with the always fantastic Marco Hietala taking the lead on the vocals.

The second disc is made up of one vast composition called All The Works Of Nature Which Adorn The World and is a mostly instrumental and entirely symphonic piece. With spoken word narration from actress Geraldine James setting the scene this track is a very accomplished if slightly self indulgent piece. There are points which are truly epic and mesmerising sounding straight from a Hollywood movie or a David Attenborough documentary. At a duration of over 28 minutes there isn’t enough interesting material in this piece to sustain its length and whilst a bold piece of music my attention did wander throughout.

Overall I have to say that Human. :||: Nature. is a great album by Nightwish. It plays on all the strengths of the band members and each member has their moment to shine. The orchestral compositions have never sounded better and having been recorded with two orchestras sound absolutely colossal. If you don’t like Nightwish then this album won’t change your opinion about them but this should definitely satisfy Nightwish fans the world over. 8/10
Dynazty: The Dark Delight (AFM Records) [Simon Black]

This is album number seven from Stockholm–based Swedish Power Metallers Dynazty, who seem to have produced a really prolific level of output for a bunch of young chaps in a relatively short space of time since 2, but that’s what you get when experienced artists come together to create a new project. I’m not familiar with their back catalogue, but on the basis of The Dark Delight alone I can see why they are such a big thing in their native land. For a start, this is as much of a Hard Rock album than the Power Metal I was expecting, but when it does step into Power territory, it does so with confidence, rockin’ rhythms and the kind of technical virtuosity that hints that they could touch on the Progressive if they really wanted to, and they definitely sit in the same stable as the current incarnation of Stratovarius post-Nemesis.

The album kicks off with the very melodic Presence Of Mind, and really sets the direction of travel for the next fifty minutes – nice melodic harmonies, a catchy tune and some good Hard Rock NWOBHM influenced rhythms. But then Paradise Of The Architect comes along, and showcases the Power elements– we’ve got the more thundering double-bass drum-line, more intricate keyboard work, blistering solos and in your face vocals. Most of the tracks are upbeat Major chord stuff (hey, they’re never too far away from the Power Metal bucket) and not what you would expect from the tonally quite dark album art. Although From Sound To Silence has a darn good go, and it’s nice to hear they can vary the tone with a more gruff metal vocals style and its definitely one of the strongest songs on the album.

Heartless Madness has a great pounder of a rhythm line, some highly finessed guitar work and a great radio-friendly melody line that should win some new punters in. Personally I love the northern Celtic sounds of The Man And The Elements, with its Scottish hammer-on riff beautifully underlined with a solitary straight power chord in the verses and a really simple but effective chorus that feels like the lovechild of Maiden’s The Clansman and Gary Moore’s Over The Hills And Far Away, and this baby runs away with the crown as the song where every cylinder under the hood is firing in perfect Metal harmony.

The production on this album is absolutely spot on, with a solid back of the epiglottis-rattling heaviness in the rhythm section, blistering guitars when you need them, keyboards that don’t overstate but excel at just the right moments and an absolutely superb vocal performance from lungsman Nils Molin, captured and presented just where it needs to be in the mix. It took me a while to get this band, but now I have I can’t stop listening to this album, so after 4 months here at Musipedia of Metal, welcome to my first top score Dynazty. 10/10

Conception: State Of Deception (Conception Sound Factory) [Matt Bladen]

Conception are the band that vocalist Roy Khan, made his name in before he joined Kamelot in 1998, it's also the band he made his return to metal with after leaving Kamelot. His return came on 2018's My Dark Symphony EP, we reviewed this favourably so I was interested to hear what the Norwegian bands first album since 1997 would sound like. Well other than an improvement in production techniques they have basically picked up where they left off. This is meaty symphonic metal, characterized by the dramatic vocals of Khan, who has a voice that is instantly recognizable due to his time with his stint with the Americans. State Of Deception follows on from the EP with a conceptual theme running through it, highlighted by the progressive touches such as the percussion on No Rewind.

Khan's operatic vocals are always brilliant when crooning over a ballad and on The Mansion he's joined by Elize Ryd of Amaranthe for one full of emotion and drama. Now I've talked probably too much about the vocalist but I'm genuinely happy to hear him singing metal again after time away. The rest of the band slot into their respective roles as if there was no gap in proceedings at all Tore Østby still adding lots of Flamenco elements into his guitar on She Dragoon, as well as the swelling keys, it's Ingar Amlien (bass) and Arve Heimdal (drums) who take up the lower ends adding proggy rhythms to the moody By The Blues and Feather Moves. A cracking return from Conception that bodes well for further releases. 8/10

Cabal: Drag Me Down (Long Branch Records) [Paul Scoble]

Cabal have been making decidedly unpleasant sounds since 2015. The five piece who hail from Denmark features Andreas Paarup on Vocals, Arsalan Sahki and Chris Kreutzfeldt on guitar, Malte Sørensen on Bass and Nikolaj Kaaekirk on Drums. The band have released one album before Drag Me Down, with 2018’s Mark Of Rot. The overall sound of the album is a mix of Modern Hardcore, Death Metal, Sludge, industrial and Deathcore all of which is passed through the Blackened filter. Although there are several fast and blasting sections; Gift Givers opens with a very effective blast beat, the track Demagogue also boasts a blast beat section, the tempo is mainly aggressively slow and lurching. The album has an angry feel, despite the balance being towards the slower paced tracks. The anger is brought through the extreme intensity.

This is ably demonstrated by the track The Hangman’s Song which is a lurching monster of a track, spiky, staccato riffs dripping with industrial dissonance, breathtakingly angry, aggressive vocals and an overall feeling of fury and rage. The lack of a fast tempo does not detract from anger, this is about intensity rather than pace. There are places where this slow and staccato feel is replaced with a faster, style that has more flow to it. The first half of the track Tongues has a smoother feel than a lot of the material on the album. The track is still angry and aggressive and extremely dissonant, and gets more rhythmic and lurching in the second half, but the flow that it has for the opening passage gives a nice bit of variation. The album does also have a bit of a Djent/Deathcore feel to some of the tracks, there are some segments that are basically bouncing on one main note in a very rhythmic way, using guitar and bass in a more percussive way. 

The track that shows this the most is Bitter Friend which also features Matt Heafy of Trivium. The band that comes the closest to Cabal’s style on this album would be Leeched, Cabal don’t quite manage to come up to the levels of staggering intensity that Leeched have managed to achieve, but the fact that they come close is impressive. Drag Me Down is a great example of intense, angry Blackened Hardcore, it is aggressive, raging and nasty, it’s like being repeatedly kicked in the face, but in an enjoyable and pleasing way! 7/10

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