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Night In Gales - "Five Scars" (CD)

Night In Gales - "Five Scars" CD cover image

"Five Scars" track listing:

1. Epitaph
2. This Neon Grave
3. Days Of The Mute
4. Five Scars
5. Void Venture
6. The Tides Of November
7. Life Denied
8. Endtrip
9. Whiteout
10. A Mouthful Of Death
11. Bloodsong
12. Blackmouth Blues
13. The Wake

Reviewed by on October 13, 2011

"'There's no reason for diehard Gothenburg devotees - or fans of melodic metal in general - not to check this one out.'"

In 2011, the most interesting thing about “Five Scars,” arguably more than the music itself, is the history of its makers and the resulting context in which the album was conceived. Understanding that context is the key to fully appreciating this disc, which otherwise might be dismissed as an unoriginal, run-of-the-mill melodic death metal release.

Night In Gales didn’t fall off the hay truck yesterday. As one of the first bands to import Gothenburg-style melodeath to Germany, they spent the latter half of the ‘90s in the fabled pack of subgenre pioneers, the first wave of melodic aggression to sweep the global underground before the style infected everything it touched. They dissolved following their fourth album “Necrodynamic” [2001] and, in the ensuing decade, remained virtually silent – save for a lone digital EP in 2005.

As fate would have it, a one-off live reunion in 2009 changed everything, and Night In Gales recommitted themselves to writing and recording. “Five Scars” marks their official return, and it’s a solid, catchy piece of work that grows on you. Not that repeated listens will miraculously uncover some mind-boggling innovation, but you’ll be ever more impressed with the natural, fluid ease of their songwriting. Elements of their entire back catalogue are effectively combined, including soaring Gothenburg speeders (“This Neon Grave”), grinding death metal savagery (“Endtrip”), groovy gallops (“Whiteout”), and languid progressive excursions (“Days Of The Mute”) in the vein of Dark Tranquillity’s laid-back moments on some of their earliest work. Trademark twin-guitar harmonics are uniform throughout the dynamic rise-and-fall pacing of the set, and deliver no shortage of hooks. There’s no reason for diehard Gothenburg devotees – or fans of melodic metal in general – not to check this one out.

There is something lacking, though, and to be fair, it’s not the band’s fault (or is it?). The plain truth is that during Night In Gales’ near-decade absence, the style of music they helped perfect and champion in the ‘90s ballooned into a saturated, bloated caricature of its origins, with countless subgenres – most contentiously metalcore – absorbing its influence and diluting its special sound in the minds of listeners everywhere. “Five Scars” is a handsomely crafted, modern melodic death metal album with firmer old-school roots than most can claim, but tragically, few outside Night In Gales’ cult fan base will embrace it as something more: the hard-earned badge of a band that once was lost, but now is found. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.

Highs: Competent, confident songwriting and seasoned, skillful musicianship.

Lows: Times have changed dramatically since Night In Gales exited the scene, which may not bode well for overall reception to this very well done album.

Bottom line: While "Five Scars" is an admirable reentry effort from a long-absent band, its relevance and reception are threatened by the tired saturation of the very subgenre Night In Gales helped champion in its glory days.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)