What do you do when two of your main creative forces in a band leave to pursue their own goals? In Swedish/Greek melodic deathers Nightrage's case, invite them back in for guest spots on their 5th album Insidious, providing 15 tracks of trademark Gothenburg with no fewer than 5 extra musicians. Although this can seem a bit much on first listen, subsequent repeats mean that they neatly fall into place, along with a couple of surprises.
After a typical relaxed intro, the album proper gets underway with a recognizable melodic riff, thick rhythm work and Hämäläinen's mid-range scream in “Delirium Of The Fallen”, before doing a U-turn with Apollo Papathanasio jumping in with some acoustic guitars and his pleasant voice. It's not the strongest of openers, but the next two more than make up for it. The title track is one of my favorites, a faster and more controlled blast as Tomas Lindberg intertwines his legendary voice with Hämäläinen. Tom S. Englund also puts in a couple of passionate appearances, and carries the entirety of the stunning closer “Solar Corona”, in a complete shift in style to a metallic Pink Floyd, bookended by two slightly irrelevant classical tracks designed by John K of Biomechanical.
After a solo spot on Wearing A Martyr's Crown, Gus G returns for more, adding some technicality to the mid-paced “Wrapped In Deceitful Dreams”, while Mörck proves he still has chops after Amaranthe's début with some great leadwork such as on “Poignant Memories”. The album does come off as a little front-heavy, as all the acoustic sections and most of the guest spots are on earlier songs, resulting in the band's own efforts (“Utmost End Of Pain”/“Hush Of Night”) coming off as slightly weaker. Hämäläinen is a good vocalist but too close to Lindberg, which can grow tiresome, and ultimately I'm left longing for the days of the latter.
Those who picked up Arch Enemy's Khaos Legions will spy many a similarity here, if a slightly more accessible version. Insidious comes highly recommended to anyone who still loves the Gothenburg sound, or indeed the lighter side of melodeath in general. 15 songs does feel a bit like overkill, but fans will certainly claim this as a return to form for Nightrage after Wearing A Martyr's Crown. However, the next album will be more likely to determine whether the musical crutches are still required, or whether Nightrage 2.0 can strive ahead.
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Angel's rating: 3.75/5