REVIEW: NIGHTRAGE – “Wolf To Man”
‘Wolf To Man’ marks the well-anticipated return of melodic death metal band Nightrage with a collection of fluid, driving, and somewhat unpredictable songs.
Taking a turn to seemingly express themselves a bit more outside their typical bag of tricks, the band shifts rather effortlessly between spacious and groove-driven to furious blast beats, then back around to their signature style of soaring melodies and hooks. It’s nice to hear Nightrage working to keep things fresh and very obviously opening themselves up to different styles and influences. With the now full-time addition of former touring musicians Francisco Escalona on bass and Dino George Stamoglou behind the drums, the band is poised to maintain an energetic push into their upcoming tour schedule.
The album opener, “Starless Night” is a great example of all of the above coming together in a pleasing and cohesive way. A slow doomy groove is established, flanked with spacious and epic guitar lines that soon melt away into a total thrash assault capped with catchy melodies. As always with Nightrage, the guitar work is dynamic and full of life, the drums are skillful, and the vocals are searing and aggressive. It’s an excellent synopsis of all the aspects that are yet to come.
The title track and first single “Wolf To Man” has a bit of a swaggering and swaying feel to it that becomes a bit ominous at times. Monk choir-laden choruses and ritualistic chanting bring the intent of the song into clear focus. According to the band, “Homo Homini Lupus Est’ is a Latin quote that loosely translates in to “Man is wolf to man”. A line depicting the predatorial bloodlust of man in the role of being its own greatest enemy. Here in the lyrics described from the angle of a beast, a wolf on the hunt for its prey.” It’s a really good song, but not the best on the album.
One of the highlights on the album is “Desensitized”. While it does seem to have a bit of a more accessible or commercial feel compared to the rest of the tracks, it checks all of the appropriate boxes to engage the listener. Fantastic melodies, tactful drumming, aggressive vocals, and exceptional guitar work are a huge attraction here and blur lines enough to appeal to fans of various metal genres.
The album really hits its stride at the midpoint, with the exception of “The Damned”. The vocals here just don’t feel right. Brash and almost grunge rockish at points, they stick out like a sore thumb in comparison to the rest of Ronnie Nyman’s performance on “Wolf To Man’. This song just feels unnecessary.
The orchestrated attack of “By Darkness Drawn” hits all of the pleasure points that fans of melodic death metal feed on, but feels a bit safe in terms of sonic exploration. “Arm Aim Kill” is a riff-laden fist-pumper that gives way to the fantastic thrasher “Gemini”, another stand-out track.
“Disconnecting The Dots” is where things get slightly more restrained and eloquent. Full of beautiful melodies, powerful vocals, and heavy riffs, it’s an epic ride.
The album closes with the instrumental track, “Lytrosis” in typical heroic melodic death metal fashion. In a nutshell, reverby finger plucked and climbing solo soaked Viking fuel. It makes a nice capstone to the album in the same way that a cold bowl of ice cream might after devouring a spicy meal.
With the unleashing of ‘Wolf To Man’, Nightrage has presented a thoughtful and intriguing conceptual work that explores the various dark and mysterious facets of humanity as told through visual-inducing lyrics, memorable melodies, and tight-gripped heavy hooks and rhythms. For new and veteran fans of the melodic death genre, this is one that I can see being on repeat for some time to come.