Review: Nightingale’s “Retribution”
After having spent some time with Nightingale’s latest effort Retribution I can not even begin to express my disappointment…disappointment in most of the other incomparable and shitty albums that came out this year. (Unisonic’s The Light of Dawn being one of a mere handful of exceptions.) It’s been a long seven years since the revelation that was White Darkness, but His Holiness Dan Swanö hath finally delivered upon us all another inspiring installment of his word and song.
Retribution does not attempt to improve upon White Darkness; it’s unmistakably a Nightingale album but it’s a different album altogether. JAG does not demand to have his mind blown by each subsequent release of his favorite bands. Unlike the Trve Metal Dipshits of Internet Groupthink, he doesn’t expect every new album he hears to be a complete reinvention of music or the boundaries thereof. Everything we listen to does not need to be so incredibly extreme that “once-extreme” bands like Death and Slayer have to be reclassified as “radio friendly hard rock.”
…but, like its predecessor, Retribution is a very AOR-sounding (yes) hard rock album. Swanö’s vocals are outstanding per usual. (You won’t hear any of the growled vocals as with his Edge of Sanity or Witherscape projects. That’s not what Nightingale is about.) This album has some hints of ‘80s in it just as White Darkness had some hints of the ‘70s. So how is my mind still blown you ask? Because it’s that damned good. It’s basically the no-bullshit album you always wanted to hear but heretofore haven’t because those like it are too wanky, too proggy, too overly technical, etc. While you will find subtle elements of prog and plenty of technical proficiency by all the musicians involved, what you really have here are honest-to-goodness memorable songs. (There seems to be a real dearth of said memorable songs in most of the releases I’ve heard this year.) This album has a “classic” feel to it. Not classic in the sense of classic rock retro/rehash but rather hints of the great melodies and song-structure of songs from (better) decades of the recent past. It’a also “classic” in the sense that there is such a high level of musicianship and songwriting involved here that it just completely stands out from what similar artists are doing this year.
The album contains ten songs and clocks in at just a hair over forty-five minutes….which is long enough in my opinion. Too many bands today are releasing overly-long albums that could be good…if they didn’t overstay their welcome with pointless mediocre songs that sound too similar to the rest. Retribution is a normal-length album that is all killer and no filler.
“On Stolen Wings” kicks things off with an interesting tale about one who preys on others’ accomplishments and achievements and somehow successfully always claims them as his own. (No Steve Jobs jokes from the Fandroids and Wintrolls among you please.) “Lucifer’s Lament” follows and will surely move you to some sympathy for the devil. It’s basically about that once angelic Son of the Morning dude that fell from his creator’s grace and just longs to go home now. File that under theological theories that you didn’t hear in Sunday Scbool but would have been more interesting than the boring ones you did hear. “Chasing the Storm Away” (see embedded link below) with it’s smooth intro and the power-chorus of “Warriors of the Dawn” should be stuck in your head for days after the second listen. There’s a song about “The 27 Club” and all the legendary people who joined it…
…screw this. You don’t need JAG to break down every song. Listen to this album now as a Spotify Premium subscriber. If you can sit there and tell me, after two listens, that this isn’t one of the best albums in its class I’ll shave my head bald. That’s a promise.
If you do like it please support incredible artists and consider purchasing a hard copy either on import or when it’s released in North America next month.. Should be out on vinyl soon as well. Speaking of that, Dan Swanö did a separate master for the vinyl. For those of you who are turntable-challenged you need not worry: you can hear the vinyl mix as he’s included it as CD-extra data tracks that can be extracted to your computer. These are well-encoded MP3s @ 320 Kbps CBR.
A word about production: this is a great sounding release. Even the DR6 master (which you will hear on Spotify or by playing the CD) sounds as impressive as the less-compressed DR12 vinyl mix. Swanö is one of those seemingly rare engineers who have the skill to apply moderate compression without brickwalling the shit out of an album. The only thing I’ve heard this year that rivals or betters the production on this album is Pale Communion by Opeth. (While Pale Communion was full of sikk lixx, Retribution seems to be a just a bit short on mind-blowing guitar solos. That is my one and only slight criticism of this album.)
Retribution is a terrific album and pretty much everything one could hope for. We’ve come to expect nothing less than sheer brilliance from Dan Swanö and he has yet to let us down. (9.5/10…no flushing.)
All photos in this post are my own and/or scanned/edited from the artwork of the physical media.