Thursday 12 October 2023

Night in Gales - The Black Stream (2023)

Country: Germany
Style: Melodic Death Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 29 Sep 2023
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I'm not going to be flippant and post a skimpy one paragraph review saying that this eighth album from German melodic death metallers Night in Gales is melodic and deathly, but that is kind of what it boils down to. Throw it on and it's unmistakably melodic death metal. After it ends, eleven songs and three quarters of an hour later, there really isn't much more to say. It's kind of a melodic death equivalent to *insert random Cannibal Corpse album here* in the brutal version of the genre. This is textbook stuff, but it's nothing more than textbook stuff.

So, don't expect anything new to be found here at all, the only variance to the band's core sound a surprisingly long intro to The Black Stream, but, boy, is this elegant stuff. It's a pristine example of a sound that's hard hitting and heavy but also quintessentially melodic, down to its very essence. I couldn't escape the melody for a single second, the guitars running up and down melodies, always moving, but it never gets soft except for that peaceful single intro.

The very opening of the album, as Tears of Blood kicks off, is the precise opposite, a harsh, abrasive noise that reminds of a Merzbow album, but it's gone in ten seconds and, once it gets past that, it continues to be elegant melodic metal throughout with the harsh edge of fast drums and growled death metal vocals to perpetuate the contrast. So, from one perspective, this is a genre perfected with every moment doing exactly what it needs to do. If any of these songs popped up on the radio, I'd enjoy and think to myself that it was exactly why I like melodic death metal.

However, from another, it boasts very little imagination. Once through one song and into another, enjoying everything but forgetting it almost immediately, I thought that this would drift into the background. I was surprised to find that it didn't, but it's the same songs that stand out each time through.

Transition to Doom has a little more perkiness to it and the second half finds a neat groove. Much of the joy is in the guitarwork from Frank and Jens Basten and their stellar delivery continues into Final Place and Laughter of Madness, which may be my favourite song here. The best guitarwork is later though, in the solos on Return to Chaos, which absolutely shine. The other reason that I love Laughter of Madness is that it's also elevated by the vocals of Christian Müller, which hits the spot majestically, aided I think by echoing backing vocals. He's solid but relatively generic otherwise.

Then there's everything else.

The problem is that I'm starting to stretch to say anything, whether positive or negative. I brought up Cannibal Corpse as a comparison, because I enjoy them too but find it very difficult to tell each of the songs on their albums apart. They cease to be collections of songs and become long slabs of a particular genre instead. If we enjoy the genre, whether it's the brutal death of Cannibal Corpse or the melodic death of Night in Gales, we're going to enjoy their albums. We'll sit back or dive in and love the immersion. If we want something different, we're never going to find it with either of these bands and we'd probably be better off skipping past them and looking elsewhere.

So, if you love pure melodic death, add a point to the rating. If you want originality, then drop one instead.

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