High Tides – Distant Skies is a blast from the past with eyes set firmly on the future, and an absolute banger of a record
Night’s Raft Of The World album was one of the highlights of 2017, and one that showed the band at the height of their powers. The one-two punch of “Fire Across The Sky” and “Surrender” that opened the record were picture-perfect songs with epic choruses and strong performances, and the rest of the songs were equally as tight and punchy. Lumped in with the other retro metal acts that have exploded over the past decade, they showed they have the chops to not only ape their inspirations, but stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in the quality department. Needless to say, the follow-up has been eagerly awaited and fans have been chomping at the bit to see how they could possibly rise to the challenge.
High Tides – Distant Skies takes the successes of its predecessor and decides to experiment with them, adding in some previously unheard influences. The NWOBHM vibe is still very much the backbone of their sound – skilled guitar playing, lightly-distorted riffs swathed in boisterous melodies, epic vocals, pounding rhythms abound from corner to corner, and the Swedes clearly haven’t lost their skills to bring a song alive. The sound palette is expanded with stronger Thin Lizzy-esque twin-guitar interplay (although the Murray/Smith inspirado is still very much at the forefront) and a 70s delicacy and warm, coastal atmosphere make this a bigger, more digestible slab of swagger.
“Crimson Past” comes across as something that The Eagles might have released if they grew up on early Judas Priest and wore bullet belts – it’s laid-back and chilled without losing any of the grit, and just feels right. “Lost In A Dream” is the chart-topper that Foreigner never wrote and dressed in latter-era Ghost finery, all catchy vocals and smooth melodies that build slowly through carefully-constructed rock rhythm and metered confidence, and the solos/leads are pure ear honey. The lead single of the album is “Under The Moonlight Sky”, a song driven by quirky, well-placed keys, an immensely catchy chorus, and some of the best Lizzy-style guitars around.
One gets the feeling that the band are playing in a very similar arena to their countrymen in Tribulation; a band that may have built their career on amazing death metal but have since found their niche in traditional metal with hooks and fist-pumping adrenaline. Their past two albums, although somewhat heavier than Night’s sound, have a very similar feel and trajectory, and Night look to follow that same path to success.
The record has a similar, super-strong two-song intro that Raft Of The World had – “Shadow Gold” and “Burning Sky” are solid rockers which have all the bells and whistles in place and pour gold in the ears, and the rest of the songs are visceral stabs of heavy metal cocooned in classic hard rock structures, notably the burning riffage of “Give Me To The Night” and “Running Away”. All in all, here we have nine classy, tasteful tunes that have all the impact as background music as they do in headphone immersion.
Whether High Tides – Distant Skies trumps its predecessor or not is immaterial. The band are obviously building a career on producing high quality music; one that survives on consistently well-written, immaculately-played songs that have longevity and meaning, and their trajectory is steady and set in stone. This album feels like a slow-burner initially, but by the second listen, you will already have the melodies and choruses burned indelibly into the consciousness and the songs feel like old friends, full of hugs and warm feelings. For fans of old-school metal and hard rock, the attraction will be immediate, whereas younger ‘bangers will find oceans of tasty jams to enjoy (and also divert them to the classic bands of old). It’s an absolute gem and one to seek out in 2020.
FFO: Enforcer, Ambush, Ghost