Nation Beyond - The Aftermath Odyssey
Sensory Records
Progressive Power Metal
13 songs (62'45")
Release year: 2008
Sensory Records
Reviewed by Alex

Swedish Nation Beyond has taken on a seemingly very difficult task – to create a progressive power metal concept album based on the story as old as science fiction itself. Humanity ends up sliding into the post-nuclear apocalypse from which only a few emerge. Under these difficult circumstances all human emotions, love, hate and betrayal are exposed raw and conflicts tend to be sharper than when the utmost survival is not on the line. From Matrix to Waterworld to, especially, Mad Max movies the story is nothing new. There seems to be a fine edge to walk this storyline musically in order to claim success, to deliver the album both self-investigative and emotional, while not bogged down in prog escapades, orchestral pomp or power metal clichés. Nation Beyond certainly does not overcomplicate or overorchestrate things, but whether the heartrending level has been reached will differ from individual to individual. For me, the story does unfold smoothly, but the fever pitch is lacking on The Aftermath Odyssey.

The album is constantly pregnant with anticipation, gliding right on the edge of explosion, but the culmination somehow never happens. Right when you would expect for the soul to scream, this is a tragedy after all, we get a run-of-the-mill chug (Aftermath) or deflating introspective moment (Point Zero). And this is the album’s end, when nothing should be held back anymore. Throughout the affair, there is lots of build-up, but the breakthrough rarely comes, with a few exceptions of expectedly mid-Eastern (based on the title) New Eden City and drama in Confessions prefaced by female vocals. Most of the way Nation Beyond is just sort of there with their metal, preferring to fluctuate between two-three metallic sounding riffs per song (In the Ashes, War of the Wasteland) with not the cleanest production summoned to aid the overall heaviness. It seems that with the album beginning with two introductory tracks already (The End and A Rainy Day in Hell) the band would be more interested in hitting the stride quicker, but the feeling of the tracks sounding like a lot of intros never leaves.

If I sound way too negative I really do not mean too. I am truthfully enjoying Nation Beyond ear for tunefulness, interesting foreboding keyboard melodies (New Eden City), ability to swing from ominous and creepy to warm and hopeful in the span of one song (The Council) and a number of interesting effects like the horns of apocalypse on Aftermath. Vocals do remain the focal point of the album, and rightfully so, as the story is told from the point of view of the protagonist going through loneliness, isolation, hope, love and, finally, despair again. Nielz Lindstrom mostly does the part, often aided by choral backing vocals, sounding like Tom Englund in softer moments and trying (but not quite getting there) in his Tate impersonations when reaching for a higher note. The best moments come when Nielz is joined in soulful duets with Sara Heurlin, her strong voice indeed a highlight on Soulmates and Confessions.

There is a sense of incompleteness with The Aftermath Odyssey, and almost frustrating one at that, so it remains to be seen if the album will be a one-off for the group (bands rarely open with concept albums unless it is a one-time deal). The band has full potential to deliver a weighty album, it just needs to throw all caution to the wind and let it rip once in a while like it is indeed the last day on Earth.

Killing Songs :
Soulmates and it is truly hard to pick a highlight as it is all just so even
Alex quoted 78 / 100
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