Nightmare – Encrypted Review

Encrypted: The Darkest, Most Atmospheric Album by Nightmare Yet...

Released By: AFM Records

Release Date: June 7th, 2024

Genre: Heavy/Power Metal

Links: https://nightmare.band/

 

Line Up:

Barbara Mogore – Vocals

Franck Milleliri – Guitars

Matt Asselbergs – Guitars, Backing Vocals

Yves Campion – Bass, Backing Vocals

Niels Quiais – Drums

 

Tracklist:

1. Nexis Inferis

2. The Blossom of My Hate

3. Voices from the Other Side

4. Saviors of the Damned

5. Wake the Night

6. Encrypted

7. Incandescent

8. White Lines

9. Borderlines

10. Eternal Winter (2023 Version)

 

 

As much as things change, they also stay the same. Such is the case for the French heavy/power metal band Nightmare, who have certainly undergone significant changes over the past decade, with multiple lineup changes and three new singers in as many albums. Yet, their core sound remains largely the same. I’ve always enjoyed the band’s brand of hard-edged, thrash-infused power metal with an extra dose of aggression compared to most others in the genre, and with their 12th full-length album, Encrypted, the band has only pushed their sound further, adding new elements while maintaining their core sound as always.

Nightmare has always been a hard-hitting, very guitar-driven band, and this trend has only become stronger and more obvious with each new album. Dual guitarists Matt Asselbergs and Frank Milleliri are very much the driving forces behind the band’s music, delivering some of the darkest, most aggressive-sounding guitar work in the heavy/power metal scene. Over the past few albums, the band has progressively added more thrash elements to their sound, and this continues with Encrypted, where some of the guitar work is incredibly aggressive and energetic. Yet, there’s still some nice melodic guitar work to be found, alongside fantastic, very technical solos and atmospheric sections. In fact, this is probably the band’s darkest, most atmospheric album to date, with the guitars constantly having a dark, creepy tone, while keys and symphonic elements are occasionally used for extra flavor. Like on the past couple of albums, the symphonic elements play a secondary role, noticeable at times but used on only a few tracks, always overpowered by the guitars and vocals, which are the clear focus of the album.

Despite consistently producing great albums throughout their career, Nightmare has struggled to keep a vocalist for the past decade, with each new album since the departure of longtime frontman Jo Amore featuring a new singer. The latest to take up that role is Barbara Mogore, and like her two predecessors, she does a fantastic job. Her normal singing voice is very deep, sometimes light and melodic, while at other times more powerful and even downright ferocious. She carries choruses very well and is probably my favorite vocalist the band has had since Amore. One thing she does that no other Nightmare vocalist has done is perform harsh vocals, and she absolutely kills it with some incredibly deep, dark, and aggressive-sounding growls that add a new dimension to the band’s already diverse and intense sound. While past albums have certainly been dark and aggressive enough that melodic death metal elements would have likely worked, this album takes things to a whole other level. The inclusion of these elements further separates them from other bands in their field. Clean vocals and thrash-infused heavy/power metal are still the band’s main focus, but the MDM elements show up more often than expected, and for the band’s first attempt at such a sound, they pull it off brilliantly.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Lhote

One thing I love about this album is how the band manages to blend their many different aspects into individual songs, something they pull off multiple times here. Some songs are more straightforward, such as “Nexus Inferis” and “White Lines,” largely focusing on maybe one or two aspects, but there are also tracks like “Incandescent” and the title track, which go all out and deliver a full-frontal assault from many different angles, constantly changing things up. It’s quite impressive how many ideas the band can manage to fit into these tracks. There’s a good variety to the tracks, with most songs containing at least occasional faster sections, as well as some thrashy parts, and every track is fantastic in its own way. Production is also excellent, with guitars and vocals at the front of the mix, clearly demanding the listener’s attention from start to finish, though everything else can also be heard clearly, and it all comes together very well.

The album kicks off with an instant classic, “Nexus Inferis,” one of the more straightforward thrashy power metal tracks on the album. Following a long, atmospheric guitar-driven intro, the heavy riffs quickly kick in, and the track moves at a fast pace with a classic thrashy power metal sound, mixed with powerful vocals throughout the verses. The chorus slows things down and is big and grand, with a dark, oppressive yet melodic sound that allows Mogore plenty of room to shine. The instrumental portions are speedy and aggressive, clearly the highlights of the track, though the vocals are also excellent. Overall, it’s a fantastic opener. The intensity only picks up further with the show-stealer “The Blossom of My Hate,” which is easily my favorite on the album. It starts off with a very thrashy main riff before slowly mixing in some more melodic guitar leads just before the opening verse, though the verses themselves are some of the heaviest sections on the entire album, with a mix of thrash and MDM, giving listeners their first taste of Mogore’s awesome harsh vocals. The chorus keeps things moving at a fast pace and is mostly melodic, with some great, powerful clean vocals, though some growls are thrown in for extra flavor. The bridge is perhaps the most intense section on the entire album, starting off light and melodic, with some beautiful clean vocals, before turning into outright symphonic death metal, with very intense drums and sinister guitar work to go along with more harsh vocals. This eventually leads into a fantastic, speedy guitar solo section.

Things calm down only slightly with “Voices from the Other Side,” a more mid-paced track with a nice balance between calm and heavy sections. The verses are moderately heavy, with some fairly subdued thrash riffs mixed with powerful vocals, and there’s some nice melodic guitar work leading into the chorus, which is fairly dark and aggressive with more thrashy guitar work and a rare use of male vocals, giving the track a slight gothic feel. The bridge brings in more thrash elements, and some of the instrumental portions towards the end are quite intense. Lead single “Saviors of the Damned” is one of the more straightforward tracks on the album, mostly a mix of aggressive, mid-paced thrash and melodic heavy metal, with an intense main riff giving way to fairly light and melodic guitar work during the verses and chorus, accompanied by one of Mogore’s lighter vocal performances. However, she still shines throughout, especially on the chorus where she slowly picks up more intensity, leading to a fairly creepy gang vocal section at the end. More harsh vocals are used during the bridge, which fluidly mixes heavy and melodic sections, with Mogore brilliantly combining her two vocal styles. Things calm down a bit more with “Wake the Night,” a more classic-sounding heavy metal track. It has a strong atmosphere throughout, as well as some excellent backing vocals during the chorus, but it’s a fairly light track overall, with more subdued riffs throughout the verses, while the chorus is light, melodic, and catchy. The heaviest part of the track comes during the solo section, which features some excellent power/thrash-style guitar work. Overall, though, it’s perhaps the calmest track on the album.

One of the more complex tracks is the title track, which opens up with some rather complex, prog/power sounding guitar work before slowing things down a bit for a rather intense, thrash-infused opening verse. The chorus speeds things up and is very melodic, with Mogore using her higher register quite effectively, though it grows in intensity throughout, leading to a fantastic growled section towards the end. From this point, the track keeps alternating between light, cleanly sung sections and intense, growled sections for a while, eventually leading to an instrumental section with some very chunky guitar work that honestly reminds me of Evergrey at their absolute heaviest moments. Later on, some epic symphonic elements are thrown into the mix before a fantastic final run through the chorus. Indeed, there’s a lot going on here, but it’s all pulled off so perfectly, it’s an absolute joy to listen to. The high quality continues with “Incandescent,” which opens up with some very technical guitar work before briefly slowing things down for a heavy, dark opening verse. Once again, harsh vocals are thrown in, and the track takes on more of a death metal feel for a bit before leading into a slow, atmospheric chorus. It’s another track that throws many different elements at the listener, with the harsh vocals once again being a highlight, along with a fantastic, speedy power metal-infused instrumental section, with perhaps some of the most classic power metal sounding moments of the entire album.

Perhaps the most straightforward track on the album is “White Lines,” a very classic heavy metal-sounding track, with a nice mix of heavy and melodic guitar work throughout. It moves at a fairly slow pace throughout the verses, which are fairly light and subdued compared to most tracks on the album, while the chorus is slightly heavier but still quite melodic and very catchy. It’s not one of my favorites on the album, but it’s a nice break from all the chaos that came before it. The last original track, “Borderlines,” once again provides a nice mix of thrashy power metal and melodic heavy metal. It opens up with a speedy, thrash-infused instrumental section before slowing down a bit during the opening verse, then going full throttle for a brief death/thrash section, and then slowing down once again, leading into a calm, light, and melodic chorus with some fantastic clean vocals. Once again, the track provides a perfect mix of clean and harsh vocals, as well as heavy and calm sections, and it’s one of my favorites on the album. Closing out the album is a new recording of “Eternal Winter” from their 2009 album, Insurrection. For the most part, it’s faithful to the original, largely maintaining the same sound but with Mogore’s vocals replacing Amore’s. However, some harsh vocals are used in the second verse, which changes things up quite a bit. Overall, it’s a fun re-recording that gives an idea of what the current lineup sounds like playing one of the band’s classics.

Sometimes, it’s hard for a band to keep delivering great new material while constantly bringing in new singers with each album, but Nightmare continues to be an exception, staying true to their sound and finding ways to adapt to each new vocalist they bring in while also adding new elements. Encrypted is perhaps the band’s best album since their magnum opus duo The Dominion Gate and Genetic Disorder, continuing with their dark, aggressive brand of thrash-infused heavy/power metal, while fully utilizing the talents of new vocalist Barbara Mogore and fluidly adding in some death metal elements to take their sound to a whole new level. Some longtime fans may be thrown off by these elements, but for me, they work perfectly and only add to the band’s fantastic sound without getting in the way whatsoever. Anyone who has never heard the band before would be well-advised to give this album a listen for some of the most intense heavy/power metal out there. I really hope the band can finally keep a vocalist around this time and fully build on this with their next record.

 

Ratings: 9/10

Written by: Travis Green

My Global Mind – Staff Writer

Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.

 

 

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