Nightmare – Dead Sun (AFM Records)Thursday, 5th January 2017
Arising in 1979, French heavy metal band Nightmare gained a decent underground buzz through 80’s efforts like Waiting for Twilight and Power of the Universe. Suspending activities for 11 years, the resurrection saw drummer Jo Amore take over on vocals with his brother David slotting in the vacated drum throne and releasing seven more studio albums from 2001-2014, including favorites like Cosmovision and 2007’s Genetic Disorder. The biggest test to stability took place following the departure of the Amore brothers shortly after The Aftermath release in 2014 – as who would appear on vocals and drums, with bassist Yves Campion the sole original member left in the quintet?
Enter Beyond the Bridge singer Maggy Luyten and drummer Olivier Casula – the former still active in this German progressive metal band, and a first for the group in terms of female vocals – while the latter has seasoning in numerous underground death, progressive, and symphonic black metal acts. Dead Sun may be Nightmare’s tenth studio album, but represents a new rebirth, establishing how sonically and stylistically these musicians choose to propel themselves to their audience. The songwriting and tone still scream heavy/power metal, but there are clear dynamics taking place that use more modern/ extreme elements to diversify the attack.
Olivier has the kick speed of masters like Scott Travis and Mike Terrana down pat- one listen to the Firewind-like “Tangled in the Roots” illustrates his solid pocket grooves to maniacal bursts of power in the blink of an eye. Collectively darker, black metal strains enter the fold during the opening riff strains for “Inner Sanctum” – before again the song turns on more of a commercial, mid-tempo veneer where the guitar hook and Maggy’s lifting melodies capture you aurally like the best work of Dio. “Seeds of Agony” features quiet winds, an introspective guitar opening that is quite Celtic in atmosphere, plus a children’s choir to make this one of Nightmare’s most ambitious songs to date, all in a tidy 5:22 arrangement.
Overall you get the feeling that the guitars have this kinetic charge that takes the material into Arch Enemy pastures – but the template remains more in the Judas Priest/Dio vein, especially leaning towards the Painkiller days. Maggy’s delivery during the rhythmic/harmonic driven “Sleepless Minds” keeps Nightmare firmly in the power/heavy metal trenches – as Dead Sun gives vitality to a long-running band needing some fresh blood for idea development. Easily one of their best albums front to back – maybe this time change can welcome a younger, wider audience to the fold.