Nocturnal Rites – “Phoenix” (AFM Records)
After 10 years away, Nocturnal Rites are back! Seemingly inexplicable to the band themselves, after the release of their 8th album back in 2007, these Swedes fell off the radar for an unplanned hiatus and were sadly missed by many, myself included. Playing a rich blend of beautiful, flowing melodies backed by a heavy back end, Nocturnal Rites soon came to mind of many towards the end of the century and continuing into the millennium years through hit albums like “Shadowland”. Now comes “Phoenix” and I’m really pleased to say that all 11 tracks here are in the same quality style as before and notably, the additional of new guitarist Per Nilsson (Meshuggah, Scar Symmetry) really makes his powerful presence felt be it in complementing founder guitarist Fredrik Mannberg’s heavy riffing on ‘Used To Be God’ or adding his own mark through rich, beautiful soloing on ‘Repent My Sins’ – awesome! Elsewhere, like on ‘Welcome To The End’, Nocturnal Rites add some suave orchestrals both subtly and occasionally making a more prominent foray tastefully complementing and also bringing an interesting contrast to Owe Lingvall’s speedy power drumming. Personally, I think it brings the band’s millennium sound into current modernity, along with an epic element found on ‘The Ghost Inside Me’, proving that while being more mature, the band aren’t afraid to try new things that work. Of course, the biggest factor for me is that the passion and emotion be it through those bountiful melodies or Jonny Lindqvist’s still soulful voice are resplendent throughout the material – and in no small measure – making this crucial comeback release a fine, if long overdue return!