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Nightingale: Retribution

Take a look at the Wikipedia entry for multi-instrumentalist/producer/vocalist/engineer Dan Swanö and you'll soon discover that's it's almost harder to name the bands he hasn't been involved with in some capacity, than it is those he has. And yet, Retribution is the first time I've actually heard Nightingale, the band he started in 1994, initially as a one-off one-man project. Since then the enterprise has sprouted across six albums into a full band, Dan's brother Dag providing bass/keyboards/guitar as Dan offers his vocals/guitar and keys. More recent times, well 2000, have seen drummer Tom Björn and bassist Erik Oskarsson complete the line-up and it's this four who serve up some Retribution.

Dan is possibly best known, alongside his work with Arjen Lucassen's Star One, for his contributions to Extreme Metal bands and yet his own plaything, Nightingale, are far removed from this scenario. Hugely Progressive in places, the vibe on Retribution leans closer to Melodic Rock and even AOR, everyone from Magnum, Ten, John Payne era Asia and Dare evoked across an album that also hints at Ayreon and Threshold. This mix doesn't make Nightingale the first Prog-Melodic Rock crossover act (Saga anyone?) and yet it still makes for a stunning album which simply gets better and better the longer you spend with it.

If I was to pick a fault (you knew I was going to…), then it would be the reasonably low key beginning, "On Stolen Wings" morphing out of a stupendous keyboard introduction into a solid Ten/Magnum Pomp workout, keyboards crowding the guitars to create a claustrophobic song that you can still sing along to. "Lucifer's Lament" follows, a slow slice of pure AOR expertly well executed, however with the mighty Dare meets Shadow King smoothness of "Chasing The Storm Away" things suddenly soar for the skies. A Proggy keyboard motif lifts the chorus as it snags your ear and instantly you know Nightingale have something special on their hands. "Warriors Of Dawn" confirms that these lofty ambitions can be maintained, a Bob Catley (Magnum) riff married to an Arjen Lucassen burst of keys and an Asia-like chorus to precisely hit that sweet spot between Melodic Rock and Prog.

From there the standard simply never drops, "Forevermore" a brooding Pomp-Prog blast, "Divided I Fall" a beautiful acoustic guitar/keyboard trade-off, where Dan's vocal sounds a lot like John Wetton at his best. "The Maze" again borrows from Magnum and maybe a little more blatantly and yet it's hard to call it anything other than excellent, before "Echoes Of Dawn" offers up a hugely atmospheric climax to an album bursting at the seams with highlights. All four musicians are on scintillating form, the Swanö's guitar work faultless, Dan's vocals majestic. Yet it is the keyboard contribution from the pair that really makes Retribution the joyous experience it truly is.

This year has thrown out some jaw-droppingly excellent music, don't be surprised if, as we head to year's end, Nightingale is a name you see cropping up in many a "best of" list. I know it will feature prominently on mine.

See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!

Track Listing
1. On stolen wings
2. Lucifer's lament
3. Chasing the storm away
4. Warriors of the dawn
5. Forevermore
6. Divided I fall
7. The voyage of endurance
8. 27 (Curse or conincidence?)
9. The maze
10. Echoes of a dream

Added: February 8th 2015
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Nightingale online
Hits: 3768
Language: english

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Nightingale: Retribution
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2015-02-08 13:29:36
My Score:

We always seem to get new releases a little later here in North America, but the extra month was worth the wait in the case of Retribution, the first new release from Dan Swano's Nightingale in quite a few years. Though most certainly associate him with the many extreme metal bands he has ever performed with or produced, it's this highly melodic & often times very progressive outfit that gives us a closer look at just how talented this guy really is. Along with Dag Swano, Erik Oskarsson, and Tom Björn, Dan & Co. have crafted 10 songs of gorgeously melodic hard rock, metal, and prog, littered with hook laden vocal passages, crunchy guitar riffs, and loads of majestic keyboard tapestries. Tunes such as "Lucifer's lament", "Warriors of the Daw", "On Stolen Wings", "Forevermore", and "The Voyage of Endurance" are instantly memorable, with the melodies sticking in your head long after the songs themselves have ended, and both "The Maze" and "Echoes of a Dream" seem tailor made for any fan of Dream Theater, Saga, and even Magnum or Ten.

To put it simply, Retribution is wonderful stuff, musically challenging yet filled with a never ending supply of memorable melodies. Highly recommended-don't miss this one!

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