Niviane – The Ruthless Divine (Pure Steel Records)Tuesday, 1st December 2020
They often say you have a lifetime to develop your first set of material – yet the true test of a band’s worth is when you come out with a second record in a shorter, finite time period. California’s Niviane made a strong first impression in the power metal world with The Druid King in 2017 – moving on to Pure Steel Records for this follow-up The Ruthless Divine. Officially a sextet with the permanent addition of keyboardist Aaron Robitch, these eleven songs continue to develop a sound that takes equal inspiration and sweat equity from the American and European scenes as far as atmosphere, mechanics, and musicianship, providing an hour-long plus journey into magical, mystical power with elements of light and darkness for atmospheric enhancement.
The dual guitar table setting of Gary Tarplee and Mark Miner provide the adequate, firm foundation necessary to drive home many musical hooks through their solid rhythm interplay and killer lead accents and breaks. Mandatory headbanging will occur when taking in the Savatage meets Dio-esque “Crown of Thorns” while the militant, cultural-driven mixture of Priest-like rhythms against Brainstorm-esque crunch for the follow-up “Dreams Crash Down” should keep the swirling masses satiated. Aaron’s role as a keyboardist may not necessarily be major league as it would in a symphonic act, but his tasteful orchestration can add that extra darker/haunting nuance that pushes the Nevermore-esque lower electric crunch for “Fallen from Elysium” into another highlight track. It seems that Norman Skinner pushed his multi-octave range and higher, piercing screams into another gear through this record – confident on where to go, he is one of the best US singers going today, expressing emotion and passion through every verse and chorus. Additional choral/ chant work sets a sweeping montage for the 7:40 “Sinking Ships” – the galloping nature of the arrangement perfect for Dio-era Sabbath fans along with Iron Maiden and Iced Earth followers.
A warrior-clad, sword-wielding gentleman for the cover also provides enough insight into what you’ll expect sound-wise for The Ruthless Divine. A proper continuation of what Niviane delivered the first go around – those who love US finesse with European dynamics and impressive riffing, musicianship, and tasteful lead breaks will be very pleased with the execution / songwriting here, proving that the genre’s best days aren’t relegated to decades past.