on 26 September 2011
If the only flaw an album has is that its maybe about 5 minutes too long, you've usually got your hands on something pretty damn special. Nightrage's 5th, Insidious, is just that.
For the first time ever, the band has kept the same line up from the last album, 2009's stellar Wearing a Martyrs Crown, and it really shows on Insidious as everything good about that album has been re-sculpted and reinvigorated into Insidious, just that little bit better. Everything about this album, from the musicianship to the song-writing and the performances themselves, is of such a consistently high level that I was stunned throughout.
First and foremost, Insidious is a six-string monster of an album that worships devoutly at the holy temples of the guitar solo and the almighty riff. Wearing... saw the boys up their game considerably in terms of technicality, and Insidious continues to follow suit. Riff after riff after riff after bloody great riff, a torrent of torrent of fret board mastery and frequent flashes of virtuosity constantly erupt with passion and panache. The combination of melodic death metal and balls out power metal (Firewind, Evergrey, Lost Horizon) has only gotten better with age, while we also see the band showing some classic rock leanings this time as well. Guitarists Iliopoulos and Morck are superb throughout, trading slick leads, swift-fingered riffs and bone-crunching chords like no tomorrow. They might even have `out-Ammotted' the Ammott brothers this time. It's hard to think of another guitar duo that take care of business like Iliopoulos and Morck do on Insidious, and I will go on record saying that Insidious absolutely wipes the floor with Khaos Legions. Fast and furious cuts like the title track, Utmost End of Pain, Hate Turns Black and the utter monster that is Cloaked in Wolf Skin win the day, showing that nigh-on flawless mix of speed, power and melody that we've come to know from these boys. However, more moody tracks like Sham Piety and Solar Corona prove Nightrage are far more than one trick ponies. I also really dig the busy fingers and Inflames-ish melodies of Hush of Night. The band leans a little heavier on the power metal and melodic metal side of things than usual, with Poignant Memories being the only really Gothenburg-sounding track, but the unrelenting fury of Antony Hämäläinen's napalm vocals and Johan Nunez's sandblasting drums ensure that things never get soft or weedy. Again, like Wearing... the band mix everything up nicely in terms of speed and aggression, with flawlessly placed tempo changes and some great mid-paced sections and acoustic respites between the hammering double bass and blast beats.
But it's not all fancy riffs and needless technicality - there's a living, breathing heart to Insidious, which beats by the passion of the delivery, the quality of the writing, and the ever present, em, presence of catchy yet utterly indispensable melodies. Wrapped in maelstrom of fury is a really soul that's bound to resonate with all but the most jaded of metal fans. The songs flow wonderfully through tempos and mood changes, while the sound is aggressive but uplifting at the same time. Nightrage have pretty much struck gold here... a few tasteful guest appearances from Gus G, Apollo Papathanasio, Tom Englund and original vocalist Tomas Lindberg only make a great album greater.
Wearing a Martyrs Crown pulled Nightrage out of the melodeath ranks and into the top contenders, and Insidious solidifies their status in the cream of the current crop. Yes, they do have that classic Gothenberg tinge; however, there are enough other influences (power metal, thrash, classic rock) to keep Insidious from being `just another melodeath album'. With the sheer level of technicality, the picture-perfect production, wonderful guest performances and solos so high they threaten to tear holes in the ozone layer, Insidious makes a strong case for best melodeth album of 2011. I'm always wary of using the word `perfect' to describe albums. Everyone knows that no music can be truly perfect. But in terms of relative perfection, i.e. not being able to think of anything better while listening to it, Insidious is a relatively-perfect melodic death metal album and a gem in an already star studded 2011. A stellar effort from a band that's hitting its peak potential, Insidious deserves a place next to the Jester Race and Slaughter of the Soul. This will definitely be in my top 5 of 2011.