ALBUM REVIEW: NIGHTRAGE – ABYSS RISING (DESPOTZ RECORDS)

Masters of the modern melodic death metal sound, NIGHTRAGE, succeed again with their latest album, Abyss Rising. The album instantly kicks into high gear with the blistering opening riff of the title track. From the very first note, it’s clear that NIGHTRAGE have finally found the lineup of musicians, and the camaraderie that founder Marios Iliopoulos had been searching for the better part of the band’s history.

Things drastically changed for the band’s sound when vocalist Ronnie Nyman took the mic on 2015’s The Puritan, at first establishing a juxtaposition between the band’s classic melodic death metal sound and almost hardcore/metalcore esque harsh vocals, but ever since 2017’s The Venomous, Ronnie’s unique vocal style has come to incorporate the signature “grit” we’ve come to expect from European melodic death metal vocalists, while he maintains his own brand of harsh vocals with the same consistency. Most recently, however, Ronnie has been introducing new and exciting ways to layer clean vocals with his harsh vocals in sporadic bursts. At times, these clean/harsh vocal blends come across as a third guitar adding to an already infectious melody. Listening to Ronnie’s vocals evolve over the last seven years has been truly enjoyable for me, having been an avid listener and fan of NIGHTRAGE since 2007’s A New Disease is Born.

The forthcoming NIGHTRAGE album, Abyss Rising (to be released via Despotz Records on Friday February 18, 2022) has seen its fair share of COVID-19 related setbacks, but thankfully, it’s finally ready for our ears. The album completes a trilogy of records detailing the inevitable demise of mankind. This trilogy began with 2017’s The Venomous, was continued with 2019’s Wolf to Man, and now concludes with Abyss Rising, which is in my opinion, the most well-conceived effort, or perhaps the “magnum opus” of the three.

The riffs, melodies, harmonies, and solos presented on this latest record truly showcase the epic partnership between guitarists Marios Iliopoulos and Magnus Soderman (who joined in 2017). Over the course of the last three NIGHTRAGE albums, a crystal clear evolution can be heard in the band’s sound, conveyed by the almost audible camaraderie on these records. For a collaborative band to work, you need the “right” group of members to bring your vision to life in solidarity. Just knowing NIGHTRAGE’s history with lineup changes going all the way back to 2000, it’s hard for me to review Abyss Rising without reviewing The Venomous and Wolf to Man as well, and considering this trilogy of records as a single solidification of what NIGHTRAGE has become as of 2022.

Songs like the title track/opener, “Swallow Me”, “Nauseating Oblivion”, “Dance of Cerberus”, and “Falsifying Life” (all singles released prior to the album release), showcase some of the best collaborative riffs and melodies ever put on a NIGHTRAGE album. So many melodic death metal bands are guilty of redundancies in their songwriting formulas after a few albums, as MDM is such a “niche genre”, however, the duo of Marios of Magnus has truly contradicted this idea and brought a nice, steaming pile of fresh meat to the table when it comes to the guitar writing on Abyss Rising. The pair have also found common ground when it comes to heavier, traditional death metal-sounding riffing, as apparent in songs like “Cursed by the Gift of Sight”. This is a song that absolutely crushes in the lower register, utilizing a more diminished approach before highlighting the track with some amazing melodic hooks using a few different scales (almost sounding like a combination of harmonic minor and Maqam theory). Guitar wise, Marios and Magnus have explored such a variety of approaches to heavy riffing and melody alike on Abyss Rising. It’s truly a refreshing, interesting listen all the way through.

2019’s Wolf to Man also saw the introduction of a new rhythm section (bassist Francisco Escalona and drummer Dino George Stamoglou), giving NIGHTRAGE exactly what they needed to complete this incredible trilogy of albums properly: a solid backbone. Dino brings a youthful liveliness to the drums which had been absent on a number of previous records. Together, with Francisco, the pair call forth a bombardment of fun dynamics to every song they touch. They know when to stay “in the pocket” and when to break off on a tangent via intricate fills at transitional points, or perhaps just a thrash-esque speed race to the finish line of a riff.

There isn’t a single dull moment on this album if you’re a melodic death fan. Anyone fond of the “Gothenburg sound” initially captured by At the Gates, Dark Tranquillity, and In Flames in the 1990s should absolutely love NIGHTRAGE’s Abyss Rising. The seemingly endless cascade of great riffs, guitar harmonies (both clean and distorted), and masterfully blended harsh vocals alone should make even the most elitist melodic death fan smile.


Title: Abyss Rising
Format: Album, Digital, CD, LP
Release date: February 18th, 2022.
Label: Despotz Records
Publishing: Despotz Music
Territory: Worldwide

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