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Released: 2000, Century Media
Changing lead vocalists can result in the death of a band or at least a decline in popularity with fans. You only need look at Iron Maiden or Motley Crue to see the outcome. This was my fear for Nocturnal Rites. Afterlife is the first album to feature new vocalist Jonny Lindqvist who replaced the very talented and distinct vocalist, Anders Zackrisson. So the big question is - Have they pulled it off? Well on first listen I thought that they hadn't, that the magic was gone. This is the initial reaction many have to a band making a change that you can plainly hear. This is not like the change from Rob Halford to Ripper Owens where there are not DRASTIC differences. This is a big change, one that has taken me about a dozen listens to this CD to swallow. Now that I've familiarized myself with the new vocalist I am able to focus on the songs and not how much the two vocalists are different. Lindqvist has a melodic voice and can hit high notes but he has a rawer edge to his vocals. He's a great singer but I still miss Anders Zackrisson who had a stronger, higher, clearer more distinctive voice.
Despite the vocalist change I have really gotten into the CD. The songs are extremely well-written and sounds, in a number of places, like the material on their 1999 release The Sacred Talisman. This was most noticeable on "Wake Up Dead" and "Temple of the Damned" which have fast-paced memorable riffs with great vocals. There are some new things to be found on Afterlife such as some down-tuned sounding riffing which comes off as heavier yet less melodic than their other material. Lyrically the band is steering away form the lyrics about kings, warriors and dragons in an attempt to update themselves. Personally, I had no problem with their image or lyrical style both before and now. The bands strongpoint for me is lead guitarist Nils Norberg who's soloing is to put it mildly - fucking godly! Not only does he shred, have an excellent lead guitar tone, play tasty leads but what he plays is memorable! There's not many soloists out there who beyond being a great lead player can write leads that stick in your mind and Norberg is one of those rare players.
The band's bio proclaims that Nocturnal Rites are not of the Maiden / Helloween ilk when it comes to power metal but are more in line with bands like Riot and Rainbow. I guess that's somewhat true, although I'm sure all those bands were influences. This album has a slightly heavier feel to it but heavier is not always better. If I had to choose between Afterlife and last year's release The Sacred Talisman, then the latter would win hands down. So if you have yet to check out this band start with that. I have two of Nocturnal Rites earlier releases and Afterlife is probably their second best CD. It's one that's been growing on me with each listen and with more time maybe I will like it as much as The Sacred Talisman.
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