A Nightmare We Don’t Mind Seeing All the Way Through
There isn’t much permanence in music. An artist’s discography serves as a road map of his or her success, or lack thereof, wherein each album marks a stop along the way. There are very few bands with a roadmap riddled with stops and stints, but the ones still traveling have gotten enough clout to still be making the trips. Outside of groups like Black Sabbath and the Rolling Stones, not many other bands can say their careers have enough pushpin markers. Nightmare, however, can.
When thinking of power metal (and especially French power metal), Gojira usually come to mind; yet Nightmare have sustained life outside the dreamworld for four decades now. Though bassist Yves Campion is the only remnant of Nightmare’s past, the band’s string of talented lineups have kept them going so strong. The latest iteration, which sees a new vocalist and drummer, have brought Nightmare back in the most powerfully metal of ways with the pummeling Dead Sun.
Brazen and forceful in sound, Dead Sun runs through 11 tracks of duel guitar shredding, a variety of harsh tempos and strongly melodic harmonies. “Infected,” as the first track, quickly establishes an instrumental execution that surpasses the band’s age. We are also introduced to the aural assault that is Nightmare’s new vocalist, the most integral facet of Dead Sun’s onslaught. Hitting notes comparable to those of M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold circa pre-Waking the Fallen, Maggy Luyten (of Beyond The Bridge, Beautiful Sin, ex-Ayreon) has a range spanning from husky gruffness to symphonic peaks that don’t detract from the collective sound. Strong female vocals are commonplace in the States, but seem to be more surprising overseas. In a sense, Luyten’s vocal power functions as an additional instrument. “Ikarus” features strong drumming and bass, but it is the coupling of Luyten’s rasp and choral harmonies that take these rhythms to the next level.
Mixing Luyten’s voice with Nightmare’s tendency towards thrash makes tracks like “Inner Sanctum” and “Serpentine” some of the strongest on Dead Sun. And for more of a ballad, “Seeds of Agony” still holds some weight outside of its usual offense. What takes away from this track, however, and if one is unable to forget it, takes away from Dead Sun entirely, is the corniness that comes with the opening sample on the title track and an element found in “Seeds of Agony” itself: children. “Dead Sun” opens with the sound of children playing and “Seeds of Agony” features a children’s choir singing the chorus. It is an all too played out maneuver and the cheesiness faults an otherwise well put together album.
Aside from this youthful addition, Dead Sun shows Nightmare are just as strong as ever. With the face of metal changing so frequently and the faces of their band members changing almost as much, Nightmare currently have a solid lineup that might be surprising, but not at all off-putting.