Soldiers of Time
Sometimes the simplest, most stripped-down music is the best music. Swedish traditional metallers Night have taken this adage to heart on their second album, ‘Soldiers of Time.’ Rather than attempting to dazzle the listener with virtuoso musicianship or wickedly complex arrangements, Night present a batch of 11 straightforward, simple songs (one of which is just a brief interlude) with basic riffs, repeated refrains, bright hummable melodies, and easily recognizable patterns. Nor are Night the kind of band that tries to blow the listener away with high-velocity workouts or blistering energy. To the contrary, there are multiple places on ‘Soldiers of Time’ where Night sound positively laid back, and the overall vibe seems to owe at least as much to 1970s hard rock like KISS, early Riot, the Scorpions and ‘Stained Class’ / ‘Killing Machine’ era Judas Priest as it does to 1980s metal. This is something of a unique slant on our beloved old-school metal genre, as it seems like most younger, backward-looking bands that are trying to avoid a 1980s Maiden or Metallica time-warp select a path of doom, prog or glam. Night eschews those well-traveled avenues for something a bit more unusual, sounding a bit like a quirkier, European version of High Spirits, albeit with higher pitched vocals and not quite the same songwriting genius that Chris Black conjures on his more inspired days. The result is that ‘Soldiers of Time’ is both really fun and really easy to listen to. The guitar tandem of Oskar Andersson and Calle Englund specializes in nice hooks and big melodies, delivered with a surprisingly clean and bright tone that still maintains a metallic edge. Just listen to something like the opening guitar theme of “Across the Ocean,” the stirring melodies in “Power,” or the middle section of “Above the Ground” and try to tell me you don’t hear the magic. It’s impossible. Andersson’s vocals may be a make-or-break proposition for some listeners as he’s got this kind of persistently scratchy upper-register thing going on. I like it, but pickier folks may disagree. Sure, there’s some more uptempo fare like “Kings and Queens” (best song on the album!) or the ending instrumental section of “Waiting for the Time,” but Night aren’t afraid to dial the energy way back either. Hell, the gently strummed guitars and contemplative lyrics of “Towards the Sky” (feels almost like “Hard Luck Woman” at times) and “Stars in the Sky” have almost a campfire vibe to them. I’m not altogether sure it works, but hats off to the band for not playing it safe.
I must confess I find myself quite smitten with ‘Soldiers of Time.’ Sure, there are times when I wish it was faster and heavier, but that says more about me than it does about Night. For sitting by the pool on a summer day, drinking a beer and singing along, this album fits the bill brilliantly. The songs are great, the performances are earnest, and there’s a kind of undefinable, off-kilter, naïve charm to the whole package. Works for me.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~