Have you ever found an album that changed your life or, at least, changed the way you listen to music? An album so good that, when it ends, you just can't wait to play it again from the beginning? So have I. Unfortunately, "Napalm Nights" by Nocturnal Breed is not that album.
I really don't like to speak ill of any musical act, no matter the genre. For me, music is magic. It is the great unifier. It brings people who would otherwise have nothing in common together. It overcomes language barriers and misunderstandings. It can make you smile and it can make you cry. It can move you to action. Music as a medium is wonderful.
That being said, not all music is great.
Nocturnal Breed is a Norwegian thrash band that originally formed in 1996 with lead vocalist/bassist S.A. Destroyer being the only continuous member. The band has seen roughly 10 other musicians over the course of their existence with previous member, lead guitarist I. Matzor, returning for this album. The other players on "Napalm Nights" are drummer/vocalist Tex Terror and guitarist V. Fineideath.
The album starts off with a tune entitled "The Devil Swept The Ruins". Not a bad way to start an album and a clear indication of what's coming on the rest of the album. If you like this song then you'll like the rest of the record. The style is, as they say, an acquired taste.
The vocals are shredded, to say the least. They tend to stay at the higher end of the scale and are not what you would call melodic. I don't think I'm too far off to call them "screechy".
Parts of the record appeal to my love of old-school thrash. The instrumentation is straight outta 1986. The guitars have that same sort of phasing effect found on most mid-80's Combat releases. For whatever reason, I was immediately reminded of early Impaler (the American, not the British, group). The solos on "Napalm Nights" are blistering and right out of the thrash playbook.
It's the same story on the drums. No jazz-fusion influences to be found here. Just straight up, early-influenced thrash beats.
Some of the highlights of the album include "Speedkreig", "Dawn Campaign... Flamethrower Ridge" and "Dragging The Priests", all of which contain some pretty impressive guitar work and go a long way toward cementing Nocturnal Breed firmly in the thrash category. But, again, the vocals were a turn off.
As a special treat, Nocturnal Breed has brought in some friends on this album in the form of E.A. Rattlehead on guitar and Nocturno Culto adds his guest vocals to the mix. What they've added to which tracks is information that I'm not privy to so I can only assume Nocturno is the lead vocalist on "The Bitch Of Buchenwald" where the vocals suddenly switch from screechy to Lemmy-esque, albeit Lemmy with a cold.
For my money, "The Bitch Of Buchenwald" is the hit single from "Napalm Nights". It borders on bluesy but still retains that classic thrash feel.
And, really, that's what this album is; classic thrash. It's almost TOO classic. With all due respect, the production sounds like it was recorded on 80's era recording equipment. The bass is all but inaudible save for a few solo parts. Even the guitar sound hangs in the mid to high range. Combine that with the relatively high-pitched vocals and Houston, we have a problem.
There are most certainly those among you who would say, "Wizard, you're out of your freakin' mind. This album rocks". And I can't completely disagree. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder or, in this case, the listener. Nocturnal Breed a band that just doesn't happen to be in my wheelhouse. Is it metal? Absolutely. Are there a couple of songs on the record I would add to my queue? Most definitely. Am I impressed with the album as a whole. I'm afraid not. It seems I have not yet acquired that particular taste.