When most music lovers who favour the heavier side of things think of Sweden the first genre reference that comes to mind is Swedish Death Metal, but over the past 20-plus years bands and people like Opeth, Katatonia and Dan Swanö having been trying to change that. Returning to the ranks of the progressive, classic, technical and even strange, here we find Dan Swanö and company – aka Nightingale – back after a seven year hiatus.
Dan has a long history illustrating his passion for progressive, technical, strange music and he has created some very important music that has impacted and changed the course of the progressive metal genre, with acts like Edge of Sanity and Pan-Thy-Monium. The music of Nightingale is a perfect mix of all things progressive such as Rush, King Crimson, Yes, Genesis, Fates Warning, Dream Theater and Queensryche and Retribution continues in that tradition.
With the opening track, “On Stolen Wings,” we hear technical and catchy playing that is reminiscent of early Dream Theater. Next, “Lucifer’s Lament” showcases some fantastic clean guitar work with choruses reminding one of Fates Warning, whereas “Warriors of the Dawn” has the powerful riffing found on both Queensryche and Fates Warning’s best work.
Like previous offerings, Retribution provides listeners with all kinds of sounds and the use of different instruments all found to enhance the overall environment. Synths, piano, organs and Theremin play important roles in each song, melody and chorus. The Theremins in particular seem to be used at the perfect time and ring out for eons. There are, of course, new sounds to be found here – as in “Chasing the Storm,” which as some pop rock tendencies with an Eric Johnson feel. Also Dan’s voice on songs like “Divided I Fall” echoes a time when ballads filled the airwaves. Finally, on “Curse Or Coincidence” Dan looks at the fate of many inspirational and music legends losing their lives at the age at 27 in a folk style song.
The production on this album is so clean it really creates an atmosphere that showcases all the musicians’ talents. Dan’s voice is powerful, epic, memorable and clear enough that it feels as if he’s narrating a story right beside you. And Dag (Dan’s brother) plays his guitar with such fury, beauty and technical ability it feels like Steve Howe and John Petrucci are directing a fairytale movie. However the listener describes this music – be it prog rock, progressive metal, hard rock ortechnical pop metal – it is just Dan and company going about their day living and creating catchy, fun and throwback music that is modern and made for fans like themselves. This is just another piece to an already solid catalogue of unique progressive sounds.