The New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal movement shows no sign of abating, and I couldn’t be happier. This music is so near and dear to my heart, and it never ceases to astonish me how many quality young bands are coming out of the woodwork playing in the style of our early ‘80s heavy metal heroes. By doing so, these newer acts not only honor the legacy of their forebears but they also keep it alive and fresh by offering their own interpretation of this timeless sound. The latest entrant in the NWOTHM sweepstakes to cross my desk is Finland’s Nightstryke. Formed in 2015, the band recorded a four-song demo entitled The First Stryke in 2016, then struck again with their full-length debut, Power Shall Prevail, last fall. Late in 2017, the eagle-eyed talent scouts at Stormspell Records picked up Power Shall Prevail for a limited edition CD release that caught my attention, and now here we are.
Nightstryke will never be accused of being original on this album. A palpable early Iron Maiden influence permeates the recordings (sometimes a touch too close for comfort, to be honest), and I also hear bits that remind me of everything from Kill ‘Em All-era Metallica to Jaguar/Raven to today’s crop of bands like High Spirits, Air Raid, Enforcer, Cauldron and Night Demon. All of that suits me fine because Nightstryke execute their chosen style with a high degree of proficiency and zeal. The band appear equally comfortable playing straightahead bangers (such as “Witches Night,” “Neon Killer” or “Hawk of the Night”) as they do tackling more epic material like “The Story of the Forty Seven Ronin” or the nearly 10-minute closer, “Mist in the Valley,” complete with a patented Steve Harris intro that gives way into a mighty gallop that would make Jon Schaffer proud. That last song is particularly noteworthy as a retelling of the famous Charge of the Light Brigade (immortalized in heavy metal lore via Maiden’s “The Trooper”) from the Crimean War in 1854, where 600 British cavalry charged the Russian artillery in an ill-fated suicide mission. The lyrics are particularly well done on this track, with lines like “They were one with the mist in the valley / Remember their name, honor the light brigade.” Overall, all eight proper songs on Power Shall Prevail (there’s also a short instrumental intro) are enjoyable pieces chock-full of lively guitar melodies, memorable choruses, quick tempos, and the charismatic, clear and slightly strained vocals of Rami Hermunen (who reminds me a bit of Wolf’s Niklas Stalvind). The 41-minute running time passes in the blink of an eye, and the only thing to do when the music stops is to press play and enjoy the ride all over again.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Power Shall Prevail would be enjoyed by all traditional heavy metal fans. Sure, Nightstryke need to work on carving out their own identity in order to stand out in a very crowded marketplace, but they’ve got the talent and the heart to succeed. I see a bright future for Nightstryke because there’s so much potential on display on this debut album. Sadly, that bright future will not include bassist Leevi Lehtinen, whose life was cut way too short in a tragic automobile accident on October 31, 2017. His bandmates were understandably distraught, and Nightstryke went on hiatus for several months thereafter while they decided whether (and if so how) to carry on. Thankfully, the surviving members have elected to move forward with a new bass player. Long may they honor Lehtinen’s memory by playing these great songs and flying the Nightstryke banner.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~