Alive Again: The Breathing Shadow Part IV (The End Records)
By: Vinnie Apicella
An entire album based upon that place between time and space where dreams and death collide in a crash of fantastical imagery interwoven black and fleeting thoughts of life tick away like the beating heart in its final hour-- Okay maybe that's a little deep but then so is the subject matter of this Nightingale release, the latest in the apparent sequence of thought progressions based upon the existence of shadows and the effects played upon the helpless mind at sleep. It's a very stirring record that embraces and transcends the dark reality of Black Metal and Goth, neither of which are dramatically employed here outside of lyrically, but pursued rather in a nearly progressive musical fashion that's more a cross between the majestically sewn music of Ten and the piercing, futuristic movements of a Lucassen or even a Vai, adding a wholly spiritual dimension to these worldly proceedings that are on and again infused with an organically inclined '70s flair ala Deep Purple or Rainbow. And Dan Swano, multi-faceted mastermind behind this fourth installment, three years following their last "title-less" or ("/") offering, appears to have settled in for the ride this time, having solidified the Nightingale lineup and developed an overall style that's an embodiment of the many widespread vehicular experiments he'd followed on in a lengthy career that's seen him go behind the mic, drums, and studio production knobs within and without a traditionally Metal community that's included such widespread fascination as Progressive Death Metal to Symphonic ProgPop-- and think about that last term, which I didn't coin, incidentally, but just the idea of it is pretty out there. I first heard Swano in Edge Of Sanity, which was among the artsier Death Metal projects of its time in the early nineties, incorporating the now common Gothically rich melodies and tranquility amidst an otherwise sinister expulsion that had helped really forge the optional route the genre could later follow. So Nightingale began life in 1995 with "The Breathing Shadow," and amidst about another three or four Swano projects running concurrently, but having now resolved to relax a while in what is apparently the cohesive creative influence and musical dynamic that Mr. Swano had been searching for and availed upon. "Alive Again" is less Prog, more melody, save for the exceptional eleven minute centerpiece called "Eternal" which is one of the more sonically diverse pieces in their history and simply a captivating soundscape, in both music and lyric, in spite of a usually sleep-inducing length. "Recollections" is an early piano piece that's a brief two-minute introduction into this world of "Shadows" that soon embarks on an affluent mind's perception of life, death, and what lies beyond the dark go between. "Shadowman" and "The Glory Days" are two of the higher level tracks on the record, where powerful riffs collide with catchiness and Swano's ever presently deep, evocative, and desperate vocals rise up to full display as only a chameleonic industry presence like himself might develop over time. "The Glory Days" is a poppier example where keyboard interplay gives rise to '80s friendly melodic Rock in a slow moving, forlorn ballad of a song; "Falling" is a simple sounding throwaway that does nothing after the verse; "Into The Light" introduces the groove of '70s style guitar Rock and Hammond, much as has the latest Spiritual Beggars work for anyone familiar with that, very comparative here on more than a few occasions. "Alive Again" is a success on many levels, achieving musical depth without overemphasizing technicality or the idea of "progression" and is of a generally somber emotional tone yet not without hope; And not without a few clunks here and there, starting with the sleepy drumming of the simple half step premise that could stand greater production punch; and there's a couple tracks toward the end that suffer from a choral repetitiveness -- anyone remember the last Cemetery record before they went "Sundown" and apparently back again? - and underdeveloped structures as one might've earlier criticized of the collectively non-essential European Pop Metal imports. Overall it's a strong 7 out of 10 scale record that Swano fans should be satisfied with.
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