HardReviews 6
by Martin Popoff

Nocturnal Rites - Grand Illusion
(Century Media)

Had a chat with the Hammerfall guys about Nocturnal Rites. We all agreed we were almost reverent fans, but then also agreed time seems to have passed them by, and that they are possibly the most under-rated, bad luck sort of band in power metal's back pages. They need to get out more, tour North America, 'cos their sound is every bit as regal as that of Evergrey, Eidolon, Tad Morose, Morgana LeFay and Nevermore. That is their ilk, even if the synths are front and centre and melody rules. Five of the band's ten years have featured the soaring but cask-strong vocals of Jonny Lindkvist - his thespian presence converts these songs clarion. A progressive vibe turns the tale mysterious, yet Nocturnal Rites never indulge themselves to the point where you feel lost in reverie. One hopes that the (baffling!) young demographic of power metal fans out there realizes the murky, complex classic power metal in this - a sort of void-toiling '90 to '96 thing - rather than dismiss it as dated. It's not old, it's timeless, and almost underscoring that, guys from Hammerfall, Stratovarius, Naglfar and Evergrey guest (as well as a famous Swedish skier!) show up to pay homage and give Nocturnal a little boost, which they friggin' deserve right about now.
Rating 8

The Thieves - Tales From The White Line
(Liquor And Poker)

You know, it's proving that it takes an encyclopedic metal mind to execute effective simple hard rock - Michael Amott and Spiritual Beggars is the perfect example; Fireball Ministry too. On the other hand, Tokyo Dragons, Dirty Americans, and before that, Buckcherry, Laidlaw, Silvertide, and now The Thieves... you come at it from not a metal place, and you just sound blah, mixed with a little sensitive. Bandwagoning is also an inevitable thought, given that so many of today's hot pencil-necked bands are mixing the part of post-punk that was guitary with... sheesh, grunge, lo-fi and '90s alternative? But man, if Appetite For Destruction is as dangerous and rootsy as you get (that album is way more contrived and synthetic than it gets credit for), it's gonna sound like it was made on the TV like INXS.
Rating 4