Released: 2015, BattleGod Productions
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Nergard have returned with another grand theatrical piece in 'A Bit Closer To Heaven' which is the follow on from their critically acclaimed first full release 'Memorial For A Wish'. Spearheaded by Andreas Nergård, a young Norwegian song-writer/composer, with the assistance of many other highly rated and talented musicians, he was able to bring a remarkably sad and poignant concept to life with such vivid imagery and raw emotion that captivated listeners and fully launched a multi-genre spanning collaboration which was as scintillating as it was adventurous. With this new album Nergard have attributed similar musical components but have toned down some of the varying extensive progressions of songs resulting in more condensed compositions. This allows for a more concentrated effort and has given a platform to focus on the impact of the emotive subject matter whilst also delivering on the musical elements, providing a more effective means of capturing the listener's interest.
Nergard have overcome many genre set barriers as they align many conflicting yet translatable forces together throughout this album. The opening track serves to be an example of their ability to traverse several genres as they exhibit their tendencies of explosive force coupled with breakdowns of melody using alternating instrumentals and vocal harmonies. 'Light And Shadows' provides a large dosage of heavy up-tempo thrash guitar parts throughout, heavily palm muted tremolo riffs coupled with double kicked blast beats illustrates the recessive anger that lays beneath the surface. As far as in terms of heaviness of material throughout this album, the opening track holds most of the traditional trademarks and a more electro/synthetic path is explored in latter songs. 'Fall From Grace' is an initiate of the more clean vocals and clean vocal harmonies throughout the album. This is where the album begins to drift from its initial fury and then subsides to more emotive and ballad focused material.
Nergard could be accused of pursuing a highly commercial sound especially as the vocals are full on clean as well as being accompanied by the varying female vocalists harmony, however, there is a prerequisite to maintain this function to fulfil the emotional requirements of the songs meaning. There are accompanied rhythm guitar parts that are aligned to a classic 80s style and some of the solos are nothing short of exemplary which, in all fairness, salvages a tie to the overall metal style but they are not the main focus and serve only as a small portion to the overall theme of the album. Songs like 'Help Me Through The Night' begin with and flow as a more powerful melodic body with more emphasis on guitar and other elements such as the bass line becoming more apparent which aides with the more groove based elements of the song. It serves as one of the more memorable tracks that has true resonance and staying power.
The various musicians that help make Nergard have tremendous ability which they prove to be highly transferable when meeting the certain requirements of each song. The transition between the emphatic 'Help Me Through The Night' to the more tempered and clean styled 'I Will Find You' shows just how adaptable these musicians are. The title track returns to a heavier body of guitar work but again this is not the main focus and the vocal harmonies take control of the song serving as the driving force of the song. As the title may suggest this is the moment where there is a break from the anger and sadness felt throughout the album as it peaks before clarity is shapen and the album comes to a point of realisation and focus. The last song of the album brings a softer edge back and brings a sense of closure to a highly emotive and thought provoking piece of music.
'When All I Want Is You' is dominated by an operatic scale of vocals from Sunniva Unsgård which strike a chord instantly, providing an atmospheric climax to the album. The song has some nice guitar parts including a closing solo that effectively uses bends and pitched harmonics to peak the emotive feel of the music one last time on the album and it closes the album with good effect. Overall you have to be very patient and have time for the softer things in music to appreciate all the effort that has gone into this album. The end product is very well produced however it does come off a tad over-polished which can detract from its leanings on the metal side of the music. The mixing of all the various parts is exceptional and leaves no room for error in terms of flow and seamlessness. Overall this album would not suit those who enjoy the heavier things in life and music but Nergard are a genre spanning formation and are more open to criticism for this trait. Some people can't be please and Nergard can come off as trying to branch out just a little too far with their music so they may not appeal to the broader metal community. There is always that niche though and Nergard fit into their own little segment which may soon catch on and spread out to a wider audience, maybe even outwith the metal community. Time will tell but Andreas Nergård is now working on his third collaboration and there will be plenty of eyes and ears focused on any upcoming announcements from a very talented composer/song writer.
REVIEW BY: PETE MUTANT