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Nocturna - Of Sorcery And Darkness review


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Band: Nocturna
Album: Of Sorcery And Darkness
Style: Gothic metal, Symphonic metal
Release date: April 2024

01. Burn The Witch
02. Sapphire
03. Noctis Avem
04. Creatures Of Darkness
05. Midnight Sun
06. First Disobedience
07. Seven Sins
08. Through The Maze
09. Strangers
10. Last Day On Earth

I spent a lot of time in my review of Nocturna’s debut album referring to Nightwish, but while the band still clearly belongs to that symphonic power metal lineage, they are successfully forging their own identity with Of Sorcery And Darkness.

One thing that I’ve come to notice when trawling through the weekly releases is the sheer volume of symphonic and/or power metal coming out of Italy, particularly with the band or lead vocalist on the album covers; Alterium and Elettra Storm are just a couple of recent examples that come to mind. Nocturna also fall into this category, yet they've really stood out to me against their many compatriots. Perhaps part of it is the pedigree of having Frozen Crown’s Federico Mondelli involved in the songwriting, which is a cut above most of their peers, but the collaborative efforts of the dual vocalists Grace Darkling and Rehn Stillnight also make a strong impression. Daughters Of The Night was a respectable debut with a handful of great tracks, but this sophomore release is arguably a step up.

There’s a few elements that contribute to this. First, while there were songs clearly rooted in power metal on the debut (including arguably the standout song, “Blood Of Heaven”), this new record is arguably closer to being outright categorized as power metal, particularly due to the rampant early songs “Burn The Witch”, “Noctis Avem” and “Creatures Of Darkness”. At the same time, though, the ‘symphonic’ part of their symphonic power metal also feels more actualized; in hindsight, the extent of the debut’s symphonic elements were the use of keyboards and Stillnight’s operatic vocals, but on Of Sorcery And Darkness, there are extensive choral arrangements, and also more fleshed-out orchestrations. The interlude track “First Obedience” really shows this off; it almost reminds me of a Studio Ghibli soundtrack song.

In terms of any other changes that draw my attention, Darkling’s powerful mid-range vocals feel more prominent on the album this time around; Stillnight’s operatics were arguably the dominant style on Daughters Of The Night, but Darkling frequently is given centre stage during the verses on this new album, and demonstrates her gravitas in the process. As a result, the dual vocalists feel slightly more effectively utilized this time around. It’s the combination of all the things I’ve mentioned above that push Of Sorcery And Darkness ahead of its predecessor.

If there’s one area in which it does perhaps fall short, it is in the absence of a song that has quite grabbed my attention in the way that “Blood Of Heaven”, “In This Tragedy” and “The Trickster” did on the debut, but on the flip side, this album makes up for it in consistency. Flying out of the gates with the stampeding “Burn The Witch”, Nocturna’s speed, propensity for effective guitar hooks, good use of dramatic choirs, and intelligent trade-off of the two vocalists is established in style. “Creatures Of Darkness” offers more of the same, while sandwiched in between is “Sapphire”, a nice catchy effort that dials down the intensity to a more trad heavy tempo while remaining effective.

The influence of Nightwish on Nocturna still remains evident; the chorus in “Midnight Sun” feels particularly reminiscent of the Finns’ earlier work. However, it’s not a comparison that I find myself tempted to make as frequently this time around. After this song and the subsequent interlude, there’s perhaps a slight drop in the album’s quality, even if the harpsichord flourishes on “Seven Sins” and intriguing intertwining of Stillnight’s operatics and the guitars on “Through The Maze” sustain interest. Nevertheless, Of Sorcery And Darkness manages to finish strongly; first, “Strangers” has a really pleasant energy to it, through the warm and steady verses, energetic chorus and dainty piano break, and then “Last Day On Earth” slows things down for a sad, tender finale that places Stillnight center stage, managing to invoke a sense of balladry without becoming dull.

Power and symphonic metal aren’t my favourite genres by any stretch of the imagination, but there are occasionally bands that stand out and capture my attention, and based on the evidence of their two albums so far, I feel that Nocturna are clear of a lot of their competition in both genres. This is a tight record fill with good-quality, enjoyable and engaging songs, and anyone with an affinity for these styles would do well to set aside some time to check it out.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 6
Production: 8

Written on 17.04.2024 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments: 1   Visited by: 6 users
14.05.2024 - 18:31
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
I like this band, but I am afraid non band whit female vocals in a genre will be higher as Nightwish. Unless current memb5whit out Tuomas form Wish night and play old Nightwish music.
I stand whit Ukraine and Israel. They have right to defend own citizens.

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