You’ve gotta feel for melodic death metal bands in 2011. They’re like the birdhouse builders of metal: sure, building a birdhouse isn’t an easy thing, and takes time to master your craft. But then after years of making quality birdhouses, suddenly Home Goods and Wal-Mart are shitting them out by the thousands, and people just go there to get them instead of to you, because they‘re cheaper and get the job done (the job here being housing birds). Then one day, here you are, a decent-enough birdhouse maker in a world that doesn’t care enough to spend money on handcrafted birdhouses, and you theoretically have to start over at 53, when all you were really good at was building birdhouses. So your options are make a half-assed attempt at another career, or continue being fairly good at making birdhouses in an ever-increasingly limited market. If you’re lucky, the economy will improve and people will arbitrarily decide that birdhouses are a thing at which to throw their money. But can you afford to bet on that kind of luck?

Crafting competent melodic death metal isn’t easy, either– let alone good melodeath — and if you’ve put enough time into your band, you have to stick with what you know. So, basically, Nightrage’s Insidious is an album that would have taken 2003 by storm that sounds perfectly fine now, just a little lifeless after years of its genre of choice being pounded into the ground. How many more times can we hear straight-up melodic death metal riffs with a lacquer of big-ass studio production and still be interested? Nightrage are fine at what they do, but before the inevitable melodic death metal revival of 2016, they need to be doing more to justify their existence.

I mean, Nightrage mainstay Marios Iliopoulos can craft a decent riff when he wants to, and clearly knows his way around a guitar and other good guitar players (Ozzy Osbourne’s current axeman Gus G. was once in the band, and plays a little on Insidious). But not a lot on the album scratches below the surface, and while parts are admirable, most of it sounds a little stale. The wall of harmonized tremolo picking that opens “Poignant Memories” is pretty solid (which it would have to be to offset the least metal song title ever), and the Arsis-like title track is fierce and propulsive. But… that’s it. While every song has at least one pretty decent riff in it, there’s little variance and nothing particularly Earth-moving. There’s no sense of risk on Insidious, and while the band don’t really fall on their face, it’s because they’re playing too carefully.

The interesting part, though, is “Solar Corona,” the album’s last proper song (it’s so important it gets its OWN INTRO). It’s not a good song, per se — it feels a little half-baked and formless — but it has interesting little flourishes that give it personality while still being melodic death metal. And while it doesn’t make any super-bold strides, it does leave an impression. You can’t really say the same about the rest of Insidious. While it may have passed muster in a different era, now it sounds fairly inessential. A man can’t prosper the same way he used to making stylish birdhouses, if he can even prosper at all; countries can’t rely on low unemployment and economic stability to be the norm anymore; but perhaps most importantly of all to everyone in the world today, you can’t make just-OK melodic death metal in 2011 and expect it to be interesting.

(2 1/2 out of 5 horns)


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