When a band only has one good album in them (Guns ‘N’ Roses, Ghost and Hammerfall come to mind), it’s regrettable. When a band releases seven high-quality full lengths in a decade, then taps out like a weakened fighter on their eighth, it’s a damn shame. This is what happened to Nocturnal Rites with 2007’s The 8th Sin, and album which found the former power metal/hard rock stalwarts, for lack of a better term, “going pop.” Badly. After a decade of reflection and bolstered by a change in the lead guitarist role, the once-mighty Swedes return in an attempt to not only relive past glories, but revive their passion – and ours – for metal.
Unfortunately, the self-styled comeback that is Phoenix begins with electro-beats and processed guitars masquerading as “riffs” in that worst of ways, bringing to mind what could only be the spawn of an unholy union between Korn and early ‘00s Lacuna Coil. “Before We Waste Away” sounds as if it already has, and what’s most disappointing is that there’s a glimmer of potential for this tune once you sandblast off the laziness with which it’s performed… if you can. A bit of energy is reclaimed with “The Poison Seed”, the vocals of Jonny Lindqvist at least brushing against the shadow of his former greatness, however the truth be told, the groove and delivery of the music is so much akin to Nevermore that any sense of originality fades quickly. Not that keys don’t have their place in metal (Stratovarius does it right, after all), but still, whoever’s idea it was to slather their extreme use over the whole of Phoenix should be flogged in the street. “A Song For You”, with its talk of “the ones that stood their ground” is so sad it’s laughable considering Nocturnal Rites hasn’t, and doubly saddening is that new guitarist Per Nilsson could’ve been part of the band’s rebirth. Instead, he’s relegated to the oddly-placed, abbreviated solo, his talents wasted on whatever the rest of Nocturnal Rites seems to think is their second chance.
What’s most saddening about this whole affair is that this Phoenix, after ten years, has yet to rise from the ashes… if it can. “Welcome To The End”, indeed.