Sunday, December 28, 2008

Review: Nightrage - Descent Into Chaos (2005)

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Descent Into Chaos

When the Greek melodic Death Metal outfit Exhumation disbanded, guitarist Marios Iliopoulus enlisted several notable musicians well-versed in the Gothenburg style to form the supergroup Nightrage. Featuring the venerable Tomas Lindberg (At The Gates, The Crown) behind the mic, workaholic guitar wizard Gus G. (Firewind, Dream Evil), The Haunted's Per Jensen behind the kit, and Brice Leclerq (Dissection) on bass, the Greco-Swedish outfit released their debut album Sweet Vengeance to critical acclaim in 2003. Two years later the band returned with Descent into Chaos, though Jensen and Leclerq were replaced by Fotis Benardo (Cradle of Filth, Septic Flesh) and Henric Carlsson (Cipher System) respectively. Although I've not heard Nightrage's debut album, the consensus among those who have is that Descent into Chaos is the lesser of the two releases in terms of quality. Be that as it may, the band's sophomore album is still a powerful dose of Scandinavian Death Metal overflowing with technicality and ferocity.

Nightrage has the luxury of containing two talented powerhouses in Gus G. and Lindberg. Gus is unquestionably one of the strongest axemen on the scene today, preferring substance over show. Like all of the projects he's been a part of, his impact on Descent into Chaos is significant. Paired with Iliopoulus, Gus' traditionally styled riffs wreck havoc throughout the album, from the high technicality displayed during "Being Nothing" to the crushing riffs of "Silent Solitude". "Solus" is a mid-paced instrumental track that serves to showcase both guitarists' versatility through soulful solos and heavy twin-guitar harmonies. Fredrik Nordstrom (Dream Evil) makes an appearance on this track to offer up some airy keyboard passages as a bit of added atmosphere.

Lindberg is, well, Lindberg. Those acquainted with his performances in the various bands he's been involved with will know exactly what to expect from him on Descent into Chaos. An instrumental figure in defining the Gothenburg style of Death Metal, Lindberg doesn't stray an inch from his familiar throat-ripping howls. On occasion he adopts a bit of a barking delivery style akin to more modern singers in this genre, but for the most part he varies little. For me, this actually brings the listenablity of the album down a notch since the vocals are so one-dimensional. The one instance of vocal diversity occurs during "Frozen" when Dark Tranquility's Mikael Stanne provides some very brief clean vox during the chorus. Involving cleanly sung moments more often would definitely have enhanced the appeal of Descent into Chaos, so it comes as a bit of a surprise that they're used less often than on Nightrage's debut.

While the vocals can be considered a bit monotonous, the album's musical variation keeps things entertaining. "Being Nothing" and "Omen" are by far the fiercest tracks on the disc, featuring some highly technical and speedy riffs along with some thundering blastbeats from Benardo. The menacing guitar leads atop traditional power metal riffs make "Silent Solitude" a highlight, but the standout track for me is "Frozen". The song begins with a short atmospheric guitar intro that leads into some extended soloing and more frantic blastbeats before settling in with excellent dual-guitar riffs ala Judas Priest. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, Stanne's brief appearance brings some much-needed variation to the vocals - if only for an instant.

Fans of uncompromising melodic Death Metal will undoubtedly enjoy this album, but for the casual listener it's just a tad too one-dimensional to be remarkable. Gus G. and Iliopoulus give stellar performances, as does Benardo, but aside from the flawless technical delivery there's really not a lot to hold your attention over repeated listens.

Track Listing
1 Being Nothing 3:10
2 Phantasma 3:32
3 Poems 3:00
4 Descent into Chaos 3:05
5 Frozen 4:04
6 Drug 4:06
7 Silent Solitude 3:33
8 Omen 3:44
9 Release 3:08
10 Solus 6:44
11 Jubilant Cry 4:45
12 Reality vs. Truth 3:36
Total Runtime 46:27

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