Here comes another foreign metal act that plays a little bit less exotic but still very solid music. Nocturne Moonrise comes from Taipei in Taiwan, the Republic of China. The four young men and one young woman play symphonic power metal that reminds me of famous Italian acts like Rhapsody Of Fire or Holy Knights. Founded back in 2005, the band released its first EP with two tracks in 2008. Both of those tracks are also included, in new versions, on the band’s full length debut album entitled Into The Romaunt, which was released in March of 2012. Since then, the band has been opening for international tours through Taiwan, playing shows to their growing fanbase, and recording a new album, from which they have an upcoming single called “When The Holy War Has Begun”.
Apart from a short introduction of two minutes, the seven main tracks of Into The Romaunt push the running time to over one hour of music. As you might guess, the tracks are lengthy and all clock somewhere between six and ten minutes. To my surprise, despite the length, the tracks never get boring. This is quite a special experience, as the band offers no shorter songs, and the songs are all quite similar in terms of construction and flow.
The production here is rather good, which sets up the rest of the album to showcase its quality. Most of the tracks start with one or two minutes of symphonic introduction performed by keyboards and synthesizers, and they remain a dominating element and give the songs a symphonic and classically-influenced touch. The overall atmosphere becomes epic and joyful, even cinematic at times. It would easily fit on a soundtrack for a medieval role-playing game and musically, create great imagery. Of course, its a bit of a drawback to have artificial orchestration, but the approach is still successful, and will draw you into a fantastic world of the artist’s craft.
At some point, melodic guitars and other instruments kick in, and the vocalist delivers a first powerful verse that leads to a chorus or to another verse after a short instrumental break. The main vocalist is a man with a potent, melodic voice who is able to nail the high notes from time to time. Many genre singers sound too forced and easily become annoying after a few tracks, and that’s even more the case for female vocalists in my opinion. But Mister Alexx Liu does a very solid job here.
Sometimes he’s not alone. A few more cinematic and “medieval” sections are supported by choirs or layered male vocal passages. At some points, Mei Ying on the keyboards and synthesizers adds her own voice to the songs. They are not dominating, but work quite well when they appear. In my opnion, the band should employ them a more in the future to contrast the male vocals from time to time and keep the attention high through all these tracks. Even though the vocals are quite good without sounding unique, I’ll add that the choruses are not very gripping in here.
What really convinces the listener on Into The Romaunt are the keyboards and synthesizers, which add a medieval and sometimes sacral atmosphere to the music. The middle passages include enough instrumental innovation in the form of more cinematic and symphonic breaks that are often followed by extensive neoclassical or shred guitar solos that could have come directly from Timo Tolkki. These parts can be cited as the highlights of each song. The bass guitar however, is less outstanding, and the drumming is ceaselessly quite fast apart from a few short breaks. These elements are appropriate to the genre without adding anything new to the usual formula.
I’ve more or less summed up the album’s main formula and the band employs it almost permanently here. Normally, I would argue that the songwriting is unoriginal, and that the band sounds a little bit too much like its idols. While that’s true, I like this honest and passionate approach. The concept works so well because of the talented instrumental work, the solid vocals, and a good sense for instrumental breaks before it all gets too redundant. The tracks have lengths of eight to nine minutes, but they pass by as if they were only four or five minutes long. The record feels diverting and dynamic: as soon as the ride is finished, I just feel like listening to it again. You really have to share my passion for this style of European power metal to adore this record. Those who already don’t appreciate the genre might find this album bland, but I liked it more than I would have initially thought. In times like these, traditional European power metal records are getting quite rare because most bands experiment with hard rock anthems, modern and harsher elements, or try to become too progressive. Nocturne Moonrise simply stick to the roots and do what they can at a very high level and without any pressure.
It’s ironic that an Asian band comes around with such a simple but fresh record to show what true European power metal is all about. Any genre fan should definitely jump on the passion train and adore an hour of well executed epic symphonic power metal.