When it comes to power metal, there are only a handful of bands sticking to a tradition of heavy, mind-melting riffs while also bringing their sound into the 21st Century. NOCTURNAL RITES is one of those bands, and their eighth full-length, appropriately titled The 8th Sin, is rife with the kind of visceral energy that helped bring the genre to the forefront in the mid-to-late ‘80s.
While the band’s origins lie within the corrosive death metal sound of guitarist Fredrik Mannberg’s Necromonic project in the early ‘90s, the band quickly shifted toward a more melodic aesthetic with the addition of a new drummer and second guitarist. When the group found a new singer, Anders Zackrisson, a few songs were recorded to tape and NOCTURNAL RITES was born. After being picked up by Dark Age, the band released their raw, critically lauded debut, In a Time of Blood and Fire. What it lacked in production value, it certainly made up for in attitude and aggression. These two characteristics gave NOCTURNAL RITES enough international clout to gain Century Media’s attention. The band’s sophomore effort, Tales of Mystery and Imagination, was picked up by the label for European distribution. Featuring a more traditional metal approach with the addition of Nils Norberg, who replaced Mikael Soderstrom as the band’s second guitarist, the album sold well and catapulted an extensive tour alongside Overkill and Nevermore.
NOCTURNAL RITES recorded one more album with Zackrisson (The Sacred Talisman) before he was replaced by Jonny Lindqvist, a dynamic vocalist with impressive range. Lindqvist carried the band into the new millennium on his vocal debut and made his presence felt immediately on the band’s fourth full-length, Afterlife. The introduction of more layers, including a heavier 7-string guitar sound, combined with the group’s strong melodic tradition to give NOCTURNAL RITES a new, more powerful resonance. On 2002’s Shadowland, Lindqvist and the band improved upon the foundation they built two years prior by focusing more intently on songwriting. While retaining the heavy feel of Afterlife, they revisited the speed metal of their first two albums to create more memorable melodies. Although they may not have known it at the time, Shadowland, with its riveting choruses, cutting riffs and powerful drums, was the blueprint for modern NOCTURNAL RITES.
After several high-profile tours with NWOBHM legends Saxon and like-minded power metal fiends Hammerfall, the band’s efforts culminated in NOCTURNAL RITES’ most diverse album at the time, New World Messiah. While the band had been working toward more epic song structures since Lindqvist joined the band, this album proved to be the turning point. Now having toured together extensively, the members had grown accustomed to recognizing each other’s strengths. The progression from In a Time of Blood and Fire to New World Messiah was truly remarkable. NOCTURNAL RITES’ seventh album, Grand Illusion, was clearly an extension of that progression and saw Lindqvist at his most aggressive.
In fact, perhaps most representative of the NOCTURNAL RITES experience is Lindqvist himself. Since he joined the band in 2000, his range has allowed Nils Norberg (lead guitar) and Fredrik Mannberg (guitar) to explore more progressive territory. The riffs have gotten heavier, the choruses catchier and the songs tighter. The Ã¢â‚¬Å“metal with melody" tag has been used to describe the band on more than one occasion, but don’t let the phrase fool you. With a voice as sharp and commanding as Lindqvist’s, it’s difficult for the band to sound anything but powerful.
Metal Maniacs described NOCTURNAL RITES as "the power metal band for people who don’t like power metal," and while this statement is only partially true, it does reflect the band’s evolution in sound. While they quickly progressed from death to speed metal, it was with power metal that the band found their musical talents most useful. Above all, The 8th Sin is proof of that perfect evolution.