Review: Nightingale’s “Retribution”

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After having spent some time with Nightingale’s latest effort Retribution I can not even begin to express my disappointment…disappointment in most of the other incomparable and shitty albums that came out this year. (Unisonic’s The Light of Dawn being one of a mere handful of exceptions.) It’s been a long seven years since the revelation that was White Darkness, but His Holiness Dan Swanö hath finally delivered upon us all another inspiring installment of his word and song.

Retribution does not attempt to improve upon White Darkness; it’s unmistakably a Nightingale album but it’s a different album altogether. JAG does not demand to have his mind blown by each subsequent release of his favorite bands. Unlike the Trve Metal Dipshits of Internet Groupthink, he doesn’t expect every new album he hears to be a complete reinvention of music or the boundaries thereof. Everything we listen to does not need to be so incredibly extreme that “once-extreme” bands like Death and Slayer have to be reclassified as “radio friendly hard rock.”

…but, like its predecessor, Retribution is a very AOR-sounding (yes) hard rock album. Swanö’s vocals are outstanding per usual. (You won’t hear any of the growled vocals as with his Edge of Sanity or Witherscape projects. That’s not what Nightingale is about.) This album has some hints of ‘80s in it just as White Darkness had some hints of the ‘70s. So how is my mind still blown you ask? Because it’s that damned good. It’s basically the no-bullshit album you always wanted to hear but heretofore haven’t because those like it are too wanky, too proggy, too overly technical, etc. While you will find subtle elements of prog and plenty of technical proficiency by all the musicians involved, what you really have here are honest-to-goodness memorable songs. (There seems to be a real dearth of said memorable songs in most of the releases I’ve heard this year.) This album has a “classic” feel to it. Not classic in the sense of classic rock retro/rehash but rather hints of the great melodies and song-structure of songs from (better) decades of the recent past. It’a also “classic” in the sense that there is such a high level of musicianship and songwriting involved here that it just completely stands out from what similar artists are doing this year.

The album contains ten songs and clocks in at just a hair over forty-five minutes….which is long enough in my opinion. Too many bands today are releasing overly-long albums that could be good…if they didn’t overstay their welcome with pointless mediocre songs that sound too similar to the rest. Retribution is a normal-length album that is all killer and no filler.

12 - Inlay

“On Stolen Wings” kicks things off with an interesting tale about one who preys on others’ accomplishments and achievements and somehow successfully always claims them as his own. (No Steve Jobs jokes from the Fandroids and Wintrolls among you please.) “Lucifer’s Lament” follows and will surely move you to some sympathy for the devil. It’s basically about that once angelic Son of the Morning dude that fell from his creator’s grace and just longs to go home now. File that under theological theories that you didn’t hear in Sunday Scbool but would have been more interesting than the boring ones you did hear. “Chasing the Storm Away” (see embedded link below) with it’s smooth intro and the power-chorus of “Warriors of the Dawn” should be stuck in your head for days after the second listen. There’s a song about “The 27 Club” and all the legendary people who joined it…

…screw this. You don’t need JAG to break down every song. Listen to this album now as a Spotify Premium subscriber. If you can sit there and tell me, after two listens, that this isn’t one of the best albums in its class I’ll shave my head bald. That’s a promise.

If you do like it please support incredible artists and consider purchasing a hard copy either on import or when it’s released in North America next month.. Should be out on vinyl soon as well. Speaking of that, Dan Swanö did a separate master for the vinyl. For those of you who are turntable-challenged you need not worry: you can hear the vinyl mix as he’s included it as CD-extra data tracks that can be extracted to your computer. These are well-encoded MP3s @ 320 Kbps CBR.

A word about production: this is a great sounding release. Even the DR6 master (which you will hear on Spotify or by playing the CD) sounds as impressive as the less-compressed DR12 vinyl mix. Swanö is one of those seemingly rare engineers who have the skill to apply moderate compression without brickwalling the shit out of an album. The only thing I’ve heard this year that rivals or betters the production on this album is Pale Communion by Opeth. (While Pale Communion was full of sikk lixx, Retribution seems to be a just a bit short on mind-blowing guitar solos. That is my one and only slight criticism of this album.)

03 - Booklet

Retribution is a terrific album and pretty much everything one could hope for. We’ve come to expect nothing less than sheer brilliance from Dan Swanö and he has yet to let us down. (9.5/10…no flushing.)

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All photos in this post are my own and/or scanned/edited from the artwork of the physical media.

  • Great review, Dan Swano is a man whose music I’ve been meaning to binge straight through for a long time. I know a few Edge of Sanity albums, but that’s it

    • Edward #negrod4eva

      He’s on the same list I keep Twilight Force. I’m gonna do it!

      • I need to get you that power metal playlist I mentioned. Maybe I’ll have some free time tonight

        • Edward #negrod4eva

          If you make one, I will listen to it.

          (within reason of course, lol)

          • I’d listen to it as well. I’m a big fan of power metal but I haven’t listened to it as long as death metal and only know the big acts, some of the B acts, and a couple C acts. I still am probably missing out on some of the really awesome bands. I recently bookmarked about 50 power metal bands to check out during free time.

          • Edward #negrod4eva

            I like your inclusion of “Void” in your username.

          • I thought it’d be appropriate. I’ve been listen to music filled with much of the void as of recent.

  • Edward #negrod4eva

    Great review, JAG. I’ve mentioned that I am actually pretty painfully clueless when it comes to ser Swano but that is something that can be remedied somewhat easily.

    • Check out Witherscape. More balance between cleans and death vox.

      • Edward #negrod4eva

        Witherscape, is that an album or a band?

        • Band.

        • I figured it would be a bit closer to your thing. Try out the album The Inheritance. They have a new EP out too but it’s largely covers and stuff building up to a new full-length LP in 2015.

          • Edward #negrod4eva

            Sacrocurse – Unholier Master

            Witherscape – The Inheritance

            check!

            Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck

      • VVorld Peace

        I can back this suggestion.

  • lolz
    GL

  • Gurrp

    But Jay, how am I supposed to like it if there are no death growls or blast beats?

    • Tyree

    • VVorld Peace
      • Welcome to the jam.

      • I got on reddit this morning too

        • Really? Isn’t it like your second day at a new job?
          /Performance review: Poor

          • Pleb, some of us wake up and eat breakfast before we leave

          • Death

            Breakfast is for scrubs

          • Tyree

            Breakfast beer bro.

          • Edward #negrod4eva

            *breakfast burrito

          • Tyree

            *Diarrhea

          • why eat a bunch of separate things when they can be contained within one beautiful container??

          • I wake up early and eat breakfast at my desk : (

          • 🙁 I am only 10 min away, so I even go home for lunch, it rules

          • Stockhausen

            I did that last year when I didn’t work 50 minutes away. Lunch at home RULES.

          • SERIOUSLY IT IS THE BEST THING EVER

          • Stockhausen

            On some days I would have a solid two hours before I had to teach again (part time university teaching: best schedule ever, but the pay reflects it), and I would enjoy a relaxing lunch beer.

          • Lunch beers = sleepy afternoon for me, which is super not good

          • Stockhausen

            My afternoon last years were mostly teaching Chinese exchange students how to play drumset, all of whom had a tenuous-at-best grasp on basic English. The lunch beers were sometimes necessary for me to not bite into a cymbal and slit my throat with the jagged edge.

          • That’s incredibly metal.

          • Stockhausen

            Oh yes, yes indeed.
            “Alright, play exercise five for me.”
            “?????”
            “Exercise 5”
            “?????”
            “That one right there.”
            “?????”
            “Play the one I’m pointing at.”
            “?????”
            “This is your, but really my, last chance.”
            “?????”
            *bites off half of nearest cymbal, shoves both halves together on either side of throat, chuckles at the word decapitated cuz death metal, is decapitated*

          • That’s how i feel when I have to sing difficult pieces next to terrible basses who can’t sight read

          • BLVKKBEVRD THE EPONYMOVS

            <— can't sight read very well

          • Edward #negrod4eva

            50 minutes one way erryday?

          • Stockhausen

            Indeed. On the plus side, I’ve gotten to listen to a lot of great music this year. Howard Dean feels me on this one.

          • My commute is only 45 one way – but the best part about it is the music, too!

            GL

          • Edward #negrod4eva

            My second job, my part time job, is forty minutes one way. I totally understand and also use it as an opportunity to listen to full albums (or most of them, anyways). I caught a lot of stuff I meant to catch driving to and from that job.

          • 10 minutes by dragon or ….??

            GL

          • My dragon is a 2012 Black Mazda 3. I haven’t named him yet

          • Stockhausen

            MAZDOR!

          • BLVKKBEVRD THE EPONYMOVS

            MAZDATHRAXX

          • DEAD

          • mazda bros. high five!

          • BLVKKBEVRD THE EPONYMOVS

            I had another one I needed to use:

            MAZDRAUG!!!!

        • VVorld Peace

          Caught me. But seriously, that beetlebro is tossing some slamz.

          • Someone SERIOUSLY needs to put Jim Ross’ wrestling commentary over this

      • Gurrp

        THIS IS INCREDIBLE.

    • OldMetalHead

      I was just thinking “Wow this has to be the most thing I’ve heard on this website”.

  • Gurrp

    I first heard Swano’s work on Incantation’s Vanquish In Vengeance, which he mixed and mastered. Good stuff! I have Moontower on my hard drive, but I haven’t listened to that or any of his Edge of Sanity albums.

    • Listen to all things Swanö. Don’t go to your deathbed with such soul-crushing regret.

      • CT-12

        Yo dude, I know I’ve sort of been whoring out mentions of this album on TOH (<- if that's even a real sentence), but after reading what you're into from your article, I'd really recommend checking this album out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0QPHtYHRSM

        • This reminds me of something I’ve heard before…can’t put my finger on it. Pretty cool. I’ll check out the whole album.

          • CT-12

            This album is basically an extension of Anacrusis as Kenn Nardi (main songwriter) couldn’t get the other guys from the band on board to record for the album, so he just did it himself.

  • BLVKKBEVRD THE EPONYMOVS

    *Waits for Dawkins & Nightingale collab. so @metaphysicalanus:disqus can talk shit about it.
    *Goes back to r/atheism

    nice writeup, JAG

    • Death

      I never talked shit about Dawkins, m’lday

      • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

        M’lday is different from a regular day exactly how?

        • Death

          I’m never re-clawing you again bitch bear

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            That’s okay. I getting new claws form the K-mart sale any day now.

          • BLVKKBEVRD THE EPONYMOVS

            There’s Kmarts in Finland? There’s barely a Kmart left in America.

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            It’s actually a different k-mart and called a K-market.

          • BLVKKBEVRD THE EPONYMOVS

            Is it equally a depressing sight when you walk in?

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            I don’t know how depressive it’s in there but it is peetty fucking depressive here.

          • BLVKKBEVRD THE EPONYMOVS

            Kmart in America pretty much died out when Wally World started taking over. Kmarts can only be found in the most desolate and grimy places now. Typical Kmart shoppers have 2 or 3 less teeth than the average Walmart shopper.

          • Death

            Not even close to that.

          • BLVKKBEVRD THE EPONYMOVS

            For instance, the nearest Kmart I can think of is in Franklin. A place which the FBI/locals call “Cranklin.”

            Grimiest of the grime.

          • VVorld Peace

            We still have one here. I have no idea how it survives. There are like 5 Wal-Marts in town.

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            Oh god.

          • Death

            Shit’s expensive there. S-markets and Prismas are a lot better choice

          • Death

            I forbid you to do so!

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            Forbid shmorbid

          • Death

            You’re grounded mister!

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            Eijeijeijeijeijei

          • Death

            GO TO YOUR ROOM

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            *Saad Face, trundles into his room, slams the door shut*

          • Death

            What am I gonna do with this kid? Maybe I should ask SYL for some parenting tips

          • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

            NOOOOOOO! NOT THE CAGE!

      • BLVKKBEVRD THE EPONYMOVS

        I was just yankin’ your chain, m’lord

      • currently listening to Coffins on Io. if i had given this more listens, it could have made my top 10.
        Death >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

        • Death

          This makes me nipples feel good.

    • Gurrp

      I thought it was Nightwish and Dawkins
      And Paris Hilton

      • BLVKKBEVRD THE EPONYMOVS

        You are correct.

  • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

    This beats the living sheit from the new Kriegsmachine and rivals Mgla as well.
    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-t58A_78E9E

    • Tyree

      Déjà vu

      • Nordling Rites Ov Karhu

        But only a feeling?

  • W’s sentient phone

    I dig the artwork.

  • Stockhausen

    I…I can’t find a single skronk. NOT ONE. What am I supposed to do??

    But seriously, I do dig Chasing the Storm Away. The whole album hasn’t grabbed me, but that’s a catchy tune.

    • Edward #negrod4eva

      No skronks? Not music.

  • BLVKKBEVRD THE EPONYMOVS

    I donno if I’m in the mood for Nightingale today, but I know that I have had the newest Young and in the Way on blast since the other day. I can’t believe I missed this album. Would have made it on my top 10 maybe (at least an honourable mention) if I hadn’t. Also, mother fuckin’ NC bands rule.

    http://youtu.be/DN-NKXIf_Z4

    • “Weep in my Dust” is such a killer song.

    • Okay I like this.

      • BLVKKBEVRD THE EPONYMOVS

        Fruckin gritty ass-crust from Two Rivers’ home town.

      • Tyree

        The band name <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

        • Which is why I have avoided the shit out of it until now.

          • BLVKKBEVRD THE EPONYMOVS

            This. I avoided the band for so long, despite having so many tell me they were good.

          • Tyree

            Yup. I’m guilty of the that as well.

          • BLVKKBEVRD THE EPONYMOVS

            I do hate their name, but their logo is pretty dope (reminds of nordic runes)

        • Edward #negrod4eva

          I still haven’t listened to them. Well maybe I heard a song. It isn’t because the band name sucks (which it does, you’re right) but… I dunno why. I remember FFB pumping them up a bit.

    • Sheeeeiiit. That’s crusty.

      • Tyree
        • BLVKKBEVRD THE EPONYMOVS

          a little too much punk and not enough bm in this for my crust

          • Tyree

            Crust is punk though Bevrdo.

          • BLVKKBEVRD THE EPONYMOVS

            I meant that i prefer my crust with a splash of BM. sry

          • Tyree

            Gottcha.

          • BLVKKBEVRD THE EPONYMOVS

            that being said, if i started up a new project, it would probably be a blackened-crust band.

        • Lacertilian

          that was nice!
          I get a vibe like Titas ‘Policia’ (covered by Sepultura).

  • Based upon my listen to “Chasing the Storm Away”, this seems like my kind of album. I’ve enjoyed a great deal of Swano’s work though, I need to listen to more of it. I still haven’t listened to most of Edge of Sanity’s albums. I listened to Witherscape a while back but wasn’t into at the time (last year was my thrash metal enthusiasm year). I’ll give that and Nightingale’s new album a listen as soon as possible.

    • Good shit, man. Lemme know how you like it. Definitely check the last Nightingale album “White Darkness.” Freaking masterpiece, it was.

  • Miguel Serra

    Awesome review, amigo! Need to check this band! I liked Witherscape

  • Scrimm

    ALL HAIL DAN SWANO! I need this.

  • Simon PhoenixKing

    So I take it you really like Dan Swano, JAG?

    This album does sound really good though. It has sort of a folk like melancholy to it that I like. Though Shadowman is still favorite Nightingale song.

  • tertius_decimus

    Awesome album! Dan never disappoints. My favorite song is The Voyage of Endurance.

    Of course, Retribution isn’t so astonishing as White Darkness but keep in mind that most material for WD was written back in times of Unicorn (pre-Nightingale) deep in the middle of 90’s, the time when Swanö was releasing new stuff with machine gun tempo. Almost all of them were siqq as fuqq! Since songs for Retribution are new you can notice mellower touches but that’s not a disadvantage by any means. Immaculate musicianship is here and is on a level only few can come close. All in all, I agree with every word in the review and highly recommend Retribution to give a run. You’ll be very happy that you did so.