Originally written by Harley Carlson.
In every musical walk of life, even when a specific style has evolved from one extreme to the next, it will always eventually come full circle and return to its roots. From the early pioneers of melodic death metal like At The Gates more than a decade ago to the ever-growing horde of European acts that have imitated them ever since, the blueprint has hardly changed. American bands followed in suit and threw their own hardcore twist into the music that mathematically added up to metalcore. As an overwhelmingly stale barrage of both sub-scenes flooded the planet, Nightrage came along and placed a sizable gap right smack in the midst of our all too comfortable course, forcing us to take notice.
Their debut outing Sweet Vengeance, hailed as one of the genre’s finest moments after The Jester Race and Slaughter Of The Soul, saw the band flawlessly merge melody and might in such a way that spun a quaking cyclone that was an exhaustingly intense experience. While the defunct At The Gates were guaranteed their place as Gods among men, In Flames had long fallen from the throne, leaving the seat open to a worthy successor. Many wondered if Nightrage (with Tomas Lindberg at the helm) had what it took to be crowned the new Gothenburg champions. Proving they were far beyond competent and possessed the know-how to reshape the present while reverting back to the original sound, anything seemed possible.
In 2005, much has changed within the Nightrage faction, primarily in the lineup. Whereas Per M. Jensen was bound to The Haunted and acted exclusively as a session drummer on Sweet Vengeance, bassist Brice Leclercq left the band to join in the ‘rebirth’ of Dissection, another legendary Swedish act. With two vacancies to be filled, the core unit (Marios Iliopoulos, Gus G, and Tomas Lindberg) recruited and appointed ex-Septic Flesh skinsman Fotis Bernardo as the official Nightrage drummer, while Cipher System’s own Henric Carlsson was selected to handle low end duties. Now, with a solid squad, the band was prepared for their Descent Into Chaos.
On their second and highly anticipated venture, we find that the new Nightrage effort is both impressive and disappointing in nature. The band is much tighter as a whole in their execution of the songs, however, there are large gaps of uninspiring moments every so often. When I listen to Descent Into Chaos, I feel it was somehow Americanized behind the scenes, like metalcore played an influential role in the album’s creation. Granted, this album is a lot more appealing than most metalcore releases, it still doesn’t feel completely right. No, there aren’t any piledriving breakdowns, so all you moshcore kiddies who were about to orgasm, put your tool away. Nightrage seem as if they are giving a big middle finger (and maybe a slight nod) in what could be taken as a metaphorical ‘Anything you can do, we can do better!’. This sort of rivalry has gone on between America and Europe since the beginning of time, so it’s really nothing shocking.
“What do fans of the first Nightrage disc have to look forward to”, you ask? Well, while Descent Into Chaos isn’t quite as definitive of a release, it is still good old fashion Swedish melodic death played by the book. Melody is still the name of the game, though the aim here is undoubtedly a pummeling thick heaviness that is guaranteed to knock you on your ass. A booming rhythm section backs the dueling twin guitar harmonies that the genre just couldn’t do without, while Tomas Lindberg’s belligerent shriek sets the mood for the occasion.
All in all, this is almost what you would expect the follow up to Sweet Vengeance to sound like. An extra treat sees a guest appearance by Mikael Stanne of Dark Tranquillity fame on the track “Frozen”. Unfortunately, his clean vocal segments are brief and sound more like Killswitch Engage than those of anything he has ever done in DT. While Descent Into Chaos is essentially a fine album, I am fearful for the future of Nightrage. The direction they are leaning may mean failure for the next album as far as what fans of the genre have come to expect. Naturally, everyone will have their own opinions, though.