(Here’s DGR‘s review of the latest album by the melodic death metal band Nightrage, which was released a bit earlier this month by Despotz Records.)
It’s been a weird review batch given that February has granted a small collection of classically inclined melodeath acts.
Nightrage have had a surprisingly long-running career. They can count themselves as among a small handful who have had a surprising number of lineup changes throughout many years, yet through force of sheer stubbornness have somehow managed to continue not only to exist but also to put out quality melodeath releases.
Yes, nowadays they’re on the lighter side of the metal scale but Marios Iliopoulos has been a hallmark of consistency throughout his musical career and also criminally good at writing earworm guitar leads. Nightrage have been an ever-present underdog, even after having some famed vocalists and guitarists pass through their lineup. They’re a sleeker band now but one that hasn’t really seen too much movement in recent years in terms of people coming and going – save for the drummer position – meaning that the Nightrage you see now has become a pretty solid musical landmark, and one that since 2015’s The Puritan and 2017’s The Venomous have been terrifyingly good at the surgical strike of a melodeath song.
Abyss Rising makes no moves to change that.
This latest album sees Nightrage achieve what most hallmarks of metal consistency have, which is that they’ve become an effective shuffle band. You can now take their entire discography and mix the whole thing up, run it, and generally have a pretty good time. Groups like Hate, Amon Amarth, and Revocation are but a few of those sorts of bands with sizeable discographies – and a wide genre spread – that can be mixed up and never have anything that could feasibly fall below a ‘seven’ or so.
Abyss Rising sounds like the speedier sibling of 2019’s Wolf To Man. They share DNA, much as The Puritan and The Venomous felt like they were tied together prior to them, but Abyss Rising seems to have a taste for putting its foot to the floor a little more often. You wouldn’t guess it given the album’s second song “Swallow Me” – which boy howdy are there a lot of things that could be inferred there, and which is a stompier, guitar-lead showpiece of a song – but Nightrage generally keep things moving at a quick clip here. Abyss Rising has thirteen songs and wraps itself up in under forty minutes with three instrumentals – one of which is the closing epilogue piece to the whole affair.
Nightrage are a lot of fun when they go into ‘no bullshit’ mode. When they’re a short and quick shock to the system, they excel. You let the now longest-tenured Nightrage vocalist Ronnie Nyman roar out some lines, blast out the ground behind him, and let your guitarists shred away, and you have the makings of a damn good melodeath neck-snapper.
“Pest Ridden Tide”, which comes way in the latter part of Abyss Rising‘s track listing, is practically a grind song by these standards. yet it flows just as well into the album’s closing instrumental. “Dance Of Cerberus” is another one that is the musical version of slamming an open bag of sugar straight into your face. Yes, it’s probably awful for you but damned if it doesn’t taste great. “Dance Of Cerberus” is one of those that happily pulls off every sort of two-step melodeath trick in its near-four minutes and it’s also meant to go straight to the pleasure dome of the brain.
While many of the songs in the front half of Abyss Rising were lucky enough to receive some sort of video, either lyrical or fully filmed, “Dance Of Cerberus” is easily one of the best choices as a lead-off for the album. There’s also an argument to be made for “Cursed By The Gift Of Sight” as well, for being one of Abyss Rising‘s latter half-steamroller songs.
We come to the same conclusion with Abyss Rising as we did with Wolf To Man prior: Nightrage have a very clearly defined and written-out formula, and in its current incarnation it’s been fun listening to them as they refine it. Abyss Rising adds another collection of good songs to an already sizeable discography and it’s one where you can have hundreds of different guitar melodies humming in and out of your head for days on end.
They’ve become a well-oiled machine at this point and it’s good to see that with this newest album the Nightrage crew still have a lot left in them, sticking stubbornly (and smartly) to what they know works, especially in a genre where it has become common to reach in a million different directions in an effort to make yourself more distinct. Nightrage just seem capable of doing that by pointing to their whole body of work and the fact that by now they’ve become an underdog pillar of consistency for the style.