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Music Reviews: Nightmare, Heavenly, Sabbath Assembly, Griftegård

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Another rush of music from the various sources in the lead-up to summer as my virtual and real piles get bigger by the day. Another varied collection today, but first I have to mention the welcome return of Jorn Lande to Masterplan. On the basis of the new single “Far from the End of the World” the band is back on form.

Nightmare: Insurrection

These guys are French and have been around in one form or another since 1979. What they play is heavy metal, that on this release tends toward the power metal type. Joe Amore, who played drums for the band in the 80s, has a Jorn Lande (Masterplan et al) sound to his voice, which lends itself to the music.  Masterplan is a good place to start if you want a feel for what this sounds like.

This is epic power metal with a melodic quality that is common in the European version of the genre. While this album does not necessarily break any new ground, it's certainly a competent effort. It has the right amount of soaring vocals, guitar solos, and epic music breaks. These guys opened for Def Leppard in the day, so they certainly have some history. It's possible to say they were power metal before the genre existed.

However you cut it, this is a great power metal album from France. It's good to see the band back and keeping up with the pack. In this column we welcome our power metal from where ever it might hail from.

Heavenly: Carpe Diem

This is one catchy record, big choruses and hands in the air type lyrics. The lameness of the cover is in sharp contrast to the quality of what lies therein. It's cheesy and lacks a certain camp flair more apt for the music. If you ever wondered what it would be like if Queen were more power metal than pop rock, then this is band for you. At other times it sounds like Styx in their prime, circa Paradise Theater and yes there are Meatloaf-isms about as well.

Now, for some of you, the above might make you feel a bit quesy. But all works seemingly well and the band pull it off tongue firmly in cheek. They are a French band who go for the grandiose and have a can-can like flair. There is very much an operatic feel to many of the tracks, hence the Queen mention. The fact a band is trying to add some extra flair to the power metal genre should be welcomed.

If you like your power metal varied and clever, with a touch of dramatic flair then this band might be for you. Still it's very much a love or hate type of style that will divide the power metal hordes.

Sabbath Assembly: Restored to One

On the face of it, this is female sung “praise” music of a vaguely Christian sort. Not something that would show up in this column by a long shot. However, it deserves to be here because of its hidden darkness and almost threatening nature. There is a reason for that, much of the music is redone songs from The Process Church of the Final Judgement cult of the 60s, which may or may not have had links to the Manson Family.

The album was inspired by a book written by former members of the cult. The combination of heavy rock, psychedelic over the top weirdness and gospel gets rather creepy at times. Not creepy enough, so you don’t want to listen, but just so that you know there is more to this that meets the ear. Even death metallers will find something within as the songs reflect the dualist gnostic belief of the cult which sought reconciliation between Christ and Satan.

There is something about this band that reminds you of the works of Aleister Crowley and what he got up to. I am sure Sabbath Assembly would be invited to be his house band were they to time-travel back to his time. Beautiful, creepy and heavy all at the same time. Something for one of your weirder moods methinks.

Griftegård: Solemn. Sacred. Severe.

The name means Church-less graveyard in Swedish, which presumably means it's unconsecrated as well. This is doom metal at its doomiest. Think of Black Sabbath at their dirgiest and then amp it up a bit. I am not sure if it’s the right word, but it's delightful. Never has music that sounds so miserable been so much fun. Listening to it makes you feel as if the world has suddenly ended up in a Max Payne-esque “bullet time”.

This is existential agnst on an epic scale. Music that out goths the goth types and out glooms the gloomy. Then again there is an underlying beauty about all of it that prevents it from being tagged with the “music to slit your wrists by” sobriquet. I find it all quite interesting and enthralling to listen to. That is probably based on the fact that rather than the Sabbath-like minimalism, there is a over-whelming epic nature to all of this. That said it could never been seen as over-done in any way.

Like Candlemass in its hey-day this is done to get the most out of the genre of music. No posing here, just a huge sound to the doomiest music possible.

Well that is your quirky and unexpected lot for this week. As always stay heavy and safe.

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