Released: 2009, Lifeforce Records
Metal music has long been an international brotherhood, and Nightrage is band that exemplifies this fact with Greek and Swedish members. Fans of Swedish death metal are already familiar with Nightrage and their first two albums, which are still considered among the finest of the genre. The third album, A NEW DISEASE IS BORN managed to divide some fans, as the band switched labels and vocalists. The new album, WEARING A MARTYR’S CROWN has again seen some lineup changes as Marios Iliopoulos is the only original member, while everybody else is new.
One of the chief criticisms of A NEW DISEASE IS BORN was that vocalist Jimmie Strimwell failed to deliver the brutality or acceptable clean vocals that fans were accustomed to in the past. Enter Antony Hämäläinen, who brings back the deep throaty brutality and power as opener “Shed the Blood” quickly reveals. Hämäläinen’s vocals are certainly adequate and a return to form for Nightrage, but as always, it is the guitars that are the most important pieces of the musical puzzle in Swedish death metal. Marios and newcomer Olof Morck sound revitalized, ripping off melodic riffs and equally fiery solos.
One of the main gripes I have had with Swedish death metal recently has been the blandness and lack of catchiness with the riffs, as evidenced by recent releases by Séance and Darkane. On this album, Nightrage has managed to create riffs that are once again catchy, melodic, and full of technical prowess. One of the finest examples of this is the main riff to “A Grim Struggle”. Equally impressive, is the fine integration of acoustic guitar passages in many of the songs, carefully placed so that they supplement and enhance the songs such as the title track, which features a stunning guitar solo and in the brief intro to “Mocking Modesty”. The production is crystal clear which makes many of the note dense riffs stand out perfectly.
Overall this album is mostly a triumph but there are times when the lack of variety in vocal styles and the speedy tempos lead to a sense of “Hey, I’ve heard this before!” In fact, the main complaint I will make is that this really has been done before, by In Flames and many other bands. That does not detract from the quality of this album, but it is a warning that if you are a fan of this genre then there is nothing ground-breaking here. However, the song writing is tight and focused, while the performances are at a high level. Old fans of Swedish death metal should be able to appreciate this for its comfortable predictability, as it is a step back into Nightrage’s early past, while new listeners will no doubt be in awe of the high level of musicianship.