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(56:43, Youngblood Music Promotions)
TRACK LIST: 1. Treasure Land 4:26 2. Gush of Life 4:20 3. Red Blades 4:45 4. Rhymes 4:45 5. Fire 3:40 6. Blue 3:32 7. Gray Angels 3:40 8. Watchtower 4:10 9. Secrets 5:35 10. Black 3:58 11. Foolin' 4:48 12. Pet Stories 5:10 13. The End 2:54 LINEUP: Christian Jungebluth – guitars Daniel Fischer – vocals Michael Ehre – drums Kai Kleinewig – bass With: Marek Arnold – keyboards
Prolusion. The German quartet NITEWALK was formed back in the spring of 2009 by composer and instrumentalist Christian Jungbluth, aiming to create a diverse musical experience the band itself categorizes as Noncept-prog. "Darker Shades of Gray" is their debut album, and was released through Youngblood Promotions in 2011.
Analysis. Sometimes it's rather challenging to categorize a band into a specific corner of the art rock universe. Or even to decide whether or not one can say that a band belongs inside of it, or if they are merely engaging in musical journeys with occasional forays into this universe. Nitewalk is one such case, at least to my ears, a band that most likely does belong inside of this universe, as I experience their excursions, but one that many just as well may regard to be on the outskirts or on the other side of the border. Take the songs, for starters. Relatively brief in length, just a token few stretching beyond the five minute mark, most of them are rather straightforward creations sporting verse and chorus passages in a predictable pattern. Then again, most of them also include one or more inserts that tend to contrast in style, mood and expression, the other elements that make up the song in question, the former the mark of regular rock, the latter a common feature of progressive rock. And while the instrumentalists are steady and fairly non-adventurous, the guitarist does flaunt himself quite a bit on occasion. Albeit not very often in terms of showcasing technique, but more commonly showcasing a free flowing movement between expressions. Then there's the overall style of music explored to cater for. And in this case early 80's heavy metal appears to be something of a foundation, at least in approach and expression. Loud, bombastic riffs backed by loud drums and firm bass guitar, and with a lead vocalist who has taken more than a few queues from Bruce Dickinson, if I'm not very mistaken. But while a fairly common breed of metal is at the core here, quirky riff constructions and smooth movements to and from gentler passages with lighter toned, clean guitars and the occasional keyboard backdrop are also a part of the proceedings, in sum resulting in pieces with a more refined character than any traditional metal act from yesteryear. But the style fits the scope of that type of music from that era in expression: bombastic, dramatic and loud. What will eventually make or break interest in this production are the lead vocals though, as dramatic as the music involved, and with an emphasis on emotional rather than tonal delivery, subtly off key and off character on infrequent occasions, perhaps not more than a quarter of an octave for the former, and overly dramatic for the latter part of the description. Some find lead vocals of this kind to be intriguing and charming, but others tend to be slightly put off. And I'm very much in the latter department. A question of taste rather than quality this one, as can be said about this disc in general I guess. A fine production that will be an acquired taste, some will love it dearly while others will find it slightly challenging to understand just why.
Conclusion. I believe you need to hold affection for 80's traditional heavy metal to be able to decode and really enjoy the material provided by the German band Nitewalk on "Darker Shades of Gray". With that affection at the core, I think quite a few then will enjoy this loud, dramatic and emotional take on what arguably is best described as progressive metal – a loud, kicking and rather accessible variety of it, and one that just as easy could be categorized as sophisticated heavy metal I guess, and a CD that most likely will have its core audience outside of the progressive rock realms.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: May 16, 2012
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