Released: 2007, Lifeforce Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
When Nightrage first emerged in 2003, they were saddled with the tag of “supergroup” and with good reason. Tomas Lindberg (ex-At The Gates and The Crown) and Evergrey’s Tom S. Englund on vocals, Gus G. (Firewind, ex-Dream Evil, ex-Mystic Prophecy, ex-Arch Enemy) and Marios Iliopoulos (ex-Exhumation) on guitar and The Haunted’s Per Moller Jensen on drums. SWEET VENGEANCE was an outstanding debut that landed on many best albums list for 2003. The melodic death format was revitalized and the band was seen as more than just a star-filled side project. Jensen and Englund left for 2005’s DESCENT INTO CHAOS, which wasn’t quite up to snuff with SWEET VENGEANCE but still showcased some killer leads and Lindberg’s trademark vocals.
So what happened here? Only Iliopoulos remains from the first album (Fredrik Nordstrom’s production wizardry on the first two albums has been replaced with the equally impressive Jacob Hansen) and even though he was always the primary songwriter, A NEW DISEASE IS BORN sounds less like a band that helped shape the melodic death genre and more like the countless hacks that have ripped off the riffs, vocals and overall feeling associated with it. The major problem is new vocalist Jimmie Strimell. Generic to the core, Strimell’s bellow and occasional use of emo-styled clean vocals overshadow the riffs and leads and without Gus G. there to battle it out with Iliopoulos, things just seem to have gone down a few notches on the excitability scale. The album is not without its bright spots but when compared to SWEET VENGEANCE and DESCENT INTO CHAOS, A NEW DISEASE IS BORN is simply an exercise in mediocrity and the sound of a band struggling to find its identity.
“Spiral” opens with a bruising thrash riff but the chorus is littered with clean vocals that will surely irritate many. Wavering between Scar Symmetry and every swoopy-haired metalcore act that has polluted the scene over the past three years, one cannot help but question Iliopoulos’ choice of Strimell and the musical direction taken here (think the uproar heard ‘round the world when In Flames released CLAYMAN). The pattern continues on “Reconcile” with vocals that go from the harsh barked verses to clean choruses that derided the integrity of bands like Soilwork in many people’s eyes. Iliopoulos does show off some spiffy licks at the end, though. Things finally get rolling on “Death-Like Silence” with a killer guitar solo and melodic riff. Even the slower tempo of “A Condemned Club” works by adding some acoustic guitars and accessible melodies. Strimell redeems himself slightly on “Scars of The Past” by keeping the clean vocals at bay and using them in a more reserved manner and Iliopoulos simply shreds here. Unfortunately, the only fleeting moments in the next five tracks worth mentioning are the occasional guitar flourish but otherwise, they flow into one another with a startling familiarity and sameness. It isn’t until the ripping thrash riffs of “Spiritual Impulse” that things begin to deviate from bland melodic death. Iliopoulos gets to shine on the guitar instrumental title track but it really is too little, too late.
Marios Iliopoulos put Nightrage on the heavy metal map by aligning himself with some pretty big names in the biz and delivering a smoking debut album. But that was four years ago and while the rest of the original members have moved on to focus on other projects, Iliopoulos has been left to fend for himself and piece together a band that can maintain the quality of that first, big album. While the departure of Lindberg, Gus G., et al would surely leave many struggling, Iliopoulos has soldiered on as best he can with mixed results. SWEET VENGEANCE and DESCENT INTO CHAOS had an identity and a direction that was clearly laid out whereas A NEW DISEASE IS BORN seems to be caught between its melodic death roots and the copycats that have twisted and diluted it into what has become metalcore. Granted, there are no breakdowns here but that overall feeling of “tough guy” attitude produced by Strimell’s vocals just oozes metalcore. The jump from Century Media to metalcore-laced Lifeforce Records surely doesn’t help to dispel that line of thought, either. Fact of the matter is, without the high-profile names and skills of Tomas Lindberg and Gus G. to augment Marios Iliopoulos’s obvious musicianship, A NEW DISEASE IS BORN simply drifts off into the sea of followers rather than soldiering on as the leaders they once were.
KILLER KUTS: “Death-Like Silence,” “A Condemned Club,” “Scars of The Past,” “Spiritual Impulse”