"Grand Illusion"

(Century Media)

01. Fools Never Die
02. Never Trust
03. Still Alive
04. Something Undefined
05. Our Wasted Days
06. Cuts Like a Knife
07. End of our Rope
08. Never Ending
09. One By One
10. Deliverance

RATING: 7/10

Welcome to the "Grand Illusion". Oh come on, you know I had to do it. No surprises here, Sweden's NOCTURNAL RITES continue doing what they have done so well for 10 years, that being the creation of standard (though not run-of-the-mill) power metal that takes cues from (who else?) HELLOWEEN, yet emphasizes glossy and eminently catchy melodies to a greater extent. Perhaps a little too bright and shiny for some of the purists, based on a sound that often falls closer to the melodic hard rock side of the line, the roaring riffs, soaring guitar harmonies, and double-bass muscle will have no one mistaking NOCTURNAL RITES for anything but metal band.

As for the "Grand Illusion", those decrying the formulaic and utterly predictable nature of the proudly written verse-chorus-verse arrangements (I am not one of them) would do well to take a step back and reconsider such a stuffy point of view. The band has done more than written an album with one video-worthy track ("Fools Never Die") and nine space-fillers. Instead, it is no exaggeration to say that most of these 10 tracks could stand on its own as a single. That alone speaks to the band's mastery of its craft. Never so melodically polished as to be nauseating (though a couple of songs come close), the album is more than adequate from the standpoint of rocking hard and lighting up the sky with screaming guitar fusillades. Johnny Lindqvist's silky smooth voice is tailor made for these arena-sized anthems. Yeah, there are one a couple of tracks that fall in so-so territory, such as "Cuts Like a Knife", but that there are no car-swallowing potholes down this road.

NOCTURNAL RITES has obviously made a few friends over the years, as Stefan Elmgren (HAMMERFALL), Jens Johansson (STRATOVARIUS), Henrick Danhage (EVERGREY), and Kristoffer W. Olivius (NAGLFAR). "Swedish world champion cross-country skier" Per Elofsson (huh?) bends a few strings on "Never Trust" too. Most of you either love this stuff or hate it. "Grand Illusion" will not sway your opinion one way or the other. Solid album.


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