Nuclear Blast Allstars - Into The Light
Nuclear Blast
Power Metal
10 songs (49:53)
Release year: 2007
Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Goat

Nuclear Blast decided to mark its twentieth birthday by getting various artists from its roster together to collaborate on a set of songs written specially for the purpose. The ‘light’ side of the project, with Rage’s Victor Smolski in the pilot seat, is a trip through the label’s Power Metal elite, with noticeably more ambition and generally better-respected musicians than on Out Of The Dark. As mentioned in the latter’s review, perhaps it’s due to the fact that Power Metal has less internal boundaries than Death Metal, but Into The Light is very much superior to its companion release, with better vocalists, better riffs, and more diverse and interesting songs. Interestingly, the production is better too, with a clearly audible bass and more of a weight to the guitars and drums than the polished Out Of The Dark.

Smolski plays guitars, bass and keyboards on all songs, backed by Volker Schultz and André Hilgers on drums. In many ways it’s like a diverse Rage album with a lot of guest vocalists, and Peter “Peavy” Wagner wrote most of the lyrics, so if you like Rage (and who doesn’t?) you’ll love this. As a relative newcomer to the band, I was a little hesitant about reviewing this, but it serves as an excellent introduction to the band and it’s certainly made me want to hear more.

Edguy and Avantasia frontman Tobias Sammet kicks things off with Dirty Wings, an up-tempo Hard Rocker. If you’ve ever enjoyed this man’s voice, you’ll love it here – Sammet literally shines on this song with a gloriously catchy chorus and, in what will become a thrilling pattern throughout the listen, some truly excellent riffs and leads from Smolski. It’s a hell of an opening track, and sets the pace well for what follows.

Peter “Peavy” Wagner of, you guessed it, Rage lends his throaty voice to the technically Thrashy Terrified. This is pretty much a Rage song through and through, with the band’s new drummer André Hilgers completing the line-up, and it’s an awesome track with groovy riffs galore, kickass leads and even a short bass solo! According to Peavy’s notes in the booklet the song is a kind of preview of the band’s next album, and if that surpasses this then it must be the purest distillation of Metal put to disc since Judas Priest made Painkiller.

Toni Kakko of Sonata Arctica surprises somewhat in the short but sweet Ruling The World, at just under three minutes the briefest track on the album. A thinly veiled attack on American imperialism set in fantasy terms, it’ll have your NeoCon friends headbanging like lab monkeys before they know it.

Up next is the Eastern-influenced Prog Metal of Death Is Alive, and who better to sing over that than Therion’s Mats Levén? With backing female vocals from Jen Majura, this is an excellent break in the action, epic keyboards and powerful mid-paced riffs recalling the greatest moments of Gothic Kabbalah. Levén does as brilliant a job as you’d expect, ultimately pushing this forward as an album highlight.

It might seem odd for Marcel “Schmier” Schirmer of the mighty Destruction to appear on an album supposedly about the ‘lighter’ side of Metal, but taking the Thrashy elements of Smolski’s main band into account it makes perfect sense, and the eighties’ drive of Bloodsuckers will soon have you headbanging. You might take a few listens to really appreciate everything happening on the song, but it’s more than worth it, being one of the best Thrash songs made recently. Peavy pops up again for some backing vocals, and the combination of the two vocalists is nothing short of ideal.

A Prog-Power explosion comes next as Blind Guardian frontman Hansi Kürsch sings over Slaves To The Desert, an especially Dream Theatery keyboard-driven pounder. Smolski outdoes himself with some divine playing (I’m fast running out of superlative adjectives for this man) and Hansi does a great job. Andreas Dirksmeier, Mario Mario LeMole and Jan-Michael Keller of Mind Odyssey provide keyboards, vocals and bass respectively, all doing terrific.

Andi Deris of Helloween takes the microphone for A Perfect Day, definitely a deviation from his main band’s metier. This is another fairly heavy Thrasher, melodic chorus notwithstanding, and you know you’re listening to a great album when perfectly decent songs like this seem poor compared to the others. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with it, but it does seem more straightforward than the other tracks, and Deris’ gritty vocals don’t always fit in smoothly.

The liquid sound of the ocean heralds another foray into Progdom with Eternally, an epic slow crawl fronted by the velvet tones of Communic’s Oddleif Stensland. It sounds most like one of Nevermore’s larger-than-life ballads, and truthfully is about a minute too long. It does set the scene perfectly for the next song though…

Inner Sanctuary features the one and only Marco Hietala, voice of Nightwish and Tarot, and the song - although not the Thrashy ripper I was hoping for - is excellent, sounding like a Folksier take on recent Tarot. There’s some interesting usage of piano in the chorus, and the song could’ve fitted on Dark Passion Play quite easily. Another winner.

Every Power Metal album needs its grand finale, the big long track at the end, and Into The Light is no exception. In The Picture features the operatic trills of Tarja Turunen, and is seven and a half minutes of aural bliss, moving from a Bluesy guitar intro to a flash of Jazz piano before the main part of the song hits, a catchy, vaguely eighties-sounding Poppish Heavy Metal anthem that you’ll be humming for weeks. It’s always a pleasure to listen to Tarja in whatever guise and, without any disrespect to Annette Olzon whatsoever, it was a real shame that she had to leave Nightwish. The woman’s voice is fantastic, and whatever her solo material will be like in the future she’s guaranteed legendary status for what she has done so far. As this is, it’s a perfect close to the album.

A bonus CD is included with various rare and current tracks from other bands on the label, including Helloween’s The Madness Of The Crowds, a Japanese bonus track from The Dark Ride, although otherwise the odds of anyone listening to this who hasn’t heard Hammerfall’s Hearts On Fire is pretty low indeed. You have to give it to Nuclear Blast, though, it’s a damn good tune, and I refuse to believe I’m the only one who jumps around the room whenever I hear it. It’s on the main CD that the true gold lays, however, and anyone that calls himself a fan of Power Metal will get a lot from it. Happy birthday, Nuclear Blast, here’s to the next twenty years!

Killing Songs :
Terrified, Death Is Alive, Bloodsuckers, Slaves To The Desert, In The Picture
Goat quoted 84 / 100
Other albums by Nuclear Blast Allstars that we have reviewed:
Nuclear Blast Allstars - Out Of The Dark reviewed by Goat and quoted 72 / 100
4 readers voted
You did not vote yet.
Vote now

There are 16 replies to this review. Last one on Sun Dec 09, 2007 6:45 am
View and Post comments