Nocturna – Lucidity
Location: Norfolk, England
Lucidity is a strange beast of an EP. It comes out of its cage whimpering and whining with a lame intro comprised of ambient noise, an echoed guitar track, and occasional drum beats that don’t do much to set the stage for the following performance. Things kick up though, as the guitarist switches from the pointless noodling to some hard and fast riff work, which blends in well with the keyboards, as they build off one another. Things run more or less smoothly until the vocalist makes an appearance sounding like a cross between a wimpy James Labrie and John Arch. It’s not just that it’s a strange style, it’s that the vocals feel out of place, failing to match the rhythm of the music.
The performance does improve considerably in the second half of Lucidity (following the aptly called “Interlude“). Nocturna pull together for a relatively impressive performance in the end, with the guitarist pulling some exciting tricks out of his sleeve, percussion slamming in with fast and precise work, and the vocals growing some balls and reaching a solid range while staying in step with the music.
Overall, there are a lot of rough patches in Lucidity for Nocturna to work out, particularly in the vocal department, but there are also parts that kick ass and excite. While their first outing may not have been fantastic, there is enough effort and skill present to keep me interested in what they’ll bring out next.
Avoral – War Is Not Over
Label: Club Inferno Entertainment
Italy’s Avoral want to make epic music. That much is clear. It seems to be, however, that they are not completely sure as to how they want to do it. There are plenty of Celtic instruments thrown into the mix (I get hints of bands as dissimilar as Eluveitie and Heidevolk), as well as some death metal growls, straight-forward heavy metal riffing, and the narrative style of the likes of Blind Guardian and Rhapsody.
This attempt at doing everything in a fairly limited space (this debut album barely clocks 40 minutes) makes the listening experience feel like everything was thrown in a bit haphazardly. It’s not that the sound is necessarily bad (although the horrible tin-can production does not help in that department) just that it’s hard to know what exactly they are trying to do.
While for some bands an eclectic sound can be an asset, it does need to be joined by a common element. While vocalist Ged should be the man in charge of that job, his voice is just not up to the task. In what sometimes comes off as an attempt at imitating Grave Digger, the delivery is at times bad enough to make you wince. His Chris Boltendahl sometimes sounds more like Alestorm’s Christopher Bowes, and that’s never a good thing.
Vocals alone are not the only clear throwback to Grave Digger, as the music often seems to be also aimed in that direction. Sadly, the execution is not good enough, and the melodies just sound generic (the instrumental intermezzo “The Dark Cave Melody”) sounds like any of the dime-a-dozen royalty free “heavy metal backing track” that you can find on Youtube) making the whole effort feel quite mediocre.
Back in their homeland, Avoral have opened for the likes of Dark Moor and Haggard. Sadly, right now I can’t see them going beyond a “local opening band” slot.
Morost – Solace in Solitude
The strength of Solace in Solitude lies in the structure of the album as a whole and within the individual songs. Morost build and develop their sound through twisting the tempo and shifting the tone in a competent and disciplined manner, creating a feeling similar to Opeth’s Orchid. From the instrumental, the guitars possess a dirty quality that contributes to the vibe and atmosphere as they shift between long, slow, melodic passages and speedy, crushing riffs. Keys reside in the background, providing a menacing undertone to match the dark and heavy work of the guitar, while percussion keeps in step with the rest of the band, speeding up for some passages, slowing down for others, and throwing in a few quirky beats here and there. Vocals come in the form of a full frontal growling assault that is less guttural and more feral, with a degree of consideration taken for enunciation.
One of the downfalls of the album is the mix. The guitar and vocals are pushed right to the front, with everything else taking a backseat to the wall of sound; this is unfortunate, since some interesting riffs and melodies pop up and sneak by undetected. It feels like a lot of unique ideas were created, but Morost tried to cram too many of them into the work and were forced to tune it down to keep things from becoming a jumbled mess. A classic case of the eyes being bigger than the stomach. Despite the subpar mix, the sound is still interesting with an evident amount of thought put into its shape and direction. Perhaps next time they will give equal attention to what content will be beneficial instead of jam packing twists to the point where they need to be tucked away into the background.
Overall, Morost bring forth a strong effort crippled by a few creative decisions. Solace in Solitude is a solid effort from a band that knows how to develop their concept, but try to implement too many of them into their work. With some fine tuning and careful attention to detail, the next piece of work from Morost could be great. They’re definitely worth keeping an ear on.