Nightmare - 'Dead Sun'

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Nightmare - 'Dead Sun'

Most impressive.

These French Heavy Metal stalwarts may be approaching their fortieth anniversary, but you'd never guess from the youthful, fired-up contents of 'Dead Sun', the tenth record of their career. Maybe it's to do with some re-invigorating line-up changes or merely the result of this world generously serving up an endless supply of misery to fuel the fires of artistic expression. Regardless, the results are impressive, most impressive.

Fans will be familiar with how Nightmare's sound has evolved from the NWOBHM attack of their early days to a more contemporary aesthetic boasting strong Power and Symphonic Metal touches. Although not a tectonic shift, the departure of vocalist Jo Amore and his drumming brother David has shaken things up a little bit.

'Dead Sun' is still pleasingly aggressive and full of rebellious, dissatisfied angst. Their old-school Metallica/Anthrax riffs, fierce guitar solos and cataclysmic drums (new boy Olivier Casula is outstanding) remain, only now bolstered by mainstream powerhouse hooks that are well executed by ex-Ayreon singer Magali Luyten.

'Tangled In The Roots' eviscerates those who are nearest, but not necessarily dearest, its world-class chorus akin to standing on a windswept cliff and staring down the apocalypse. 'Red, Marble & Gold' unleashes a Teutonic fist-punching refrain that recalls Accept and 'Seeds Of Agony' is emotionally stirring as Luyten, and a rather cheesy kids' choir, sing "we hold the ashes of stolen tomorrows".

Luyten has definitely given the band more of a stentorian, anthemic grandeur. In fact, her delivery is so visceral and varied that, from tearing her tonsils apart ('Infected') to belting out scorching melodies ('Of Sleepless Minds') and the odd Death Metal growl ('Ikarus'), you wouldn't even know it was a woman singing.

Some people have criticised Nightmare for having the audacity to write more melodic choruses, claiming they're trying to be commercial. That's ridiculous. Yes, it's slightly more accessible but the drilling bass drum propulsion of 'Starry Skies Gone Black' or pummelling tempo changes and speed demon soloing of 'Inner Sanctum' aren't likely to be sandwiched betwixt Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift on Radio One's play-list. Even though that would be seven shades of awesome.

Simon Ramsay

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