Nightmare – Aeternam (AFM Records)Sunday, 18th October 2020
Naturally twisting things up into slightly more modern power/heavy pastures with their last album from 2017 Dead Sun, changes are afoot once again in the Nightmare camp. Drummer Niels Quiais joined the group in 2018, while current singer Madie (Marianne Dien) took over for Magali Luyten last year. The core songwriters with guitarists Matt Asselberghs and Franck Milleliri plus bassist Yves Campion forge forward on this eleventh studio album Aeternam – continuing to prove that this is not a legacy act but a quintet willing to be competitive in a relevant, current marketplace that enjoys crunchy, aggressive tones along with melodic, power riffs and solid vocal melodies.
Obvious comparisons will be made between Magali and Madie – both singers a little different in their range and natural delivery. Madie comes from a more pop-oriented angle versus the metallic roar of Magali, still very strong though when necessary to carry some emotional, upper note needs as the atmospheric “Crystal Lake” illustrates while floating in a more symphonic/gothic prism during opener “Temple of Acheron”. Machine gun precision as far as the riffs and tempos give the material that added Arch Enemy-ish aggression against natural Judas Priest, Firewind, and Mystic Prophecy-like influences, while the solos incorporate a mix of tremolo-picking tricks against fluid arpeggios and emotive licks that serve the nature of each song. The thrash-like, heads down charge within spots of the title cut should promote headbanging delight, although the chorus has arena-oriented harmony aspects while the bluesy to fluid lead break elevates the energy of this highlight cut, Madie again rearing back for some fantastic high notes towards the conclusion. Experienced bands know that you can’t play in one specific way to maintain interest for the entire record, so the blackened-oriented tremolo picking against a conventional, slow marching template during “Downfall of a Tyrant” showcases a left-field angle of old meets new musical thoughts that works well, the extra background choirs against the pulsating keyboards and double kick action sharp. Closer “Anneliese” has a male/female duet vocal component that gives it a darker texture, extreme vocals and orchestration accents plus circular, building guitar passages and haunting sequences make this a perfect heavy ending of the record.
Nightmare in 2020 is not the Nightmare of the 1980’s – they have younger members that use their strengths and experience to advocate for a newer, stronger, slightly more modern outfit and at the same time still represent the heavy/power metal style well. Aeternam is an ideal follow-up to Dead Sun, and hopefully will continue to gain favor for its diverse and dynamic outlook to the genre.