NOCTURNAL RITES Currently Working on New Album; Exclusive Interview With Fredrik Mannberg, Nils Eriksson
June 18, 2013, 4 years ago
Special report by Maria Nayef
It’s been six years since Sweden’s NOCTURNAL RITES released their eighth studio album The 8th Sin, and although no official news has come out of their camp regarding the progress on their follow-up album since 2011, fans can be rest assured: the melodic metal gods are still together and currently working on that very record.“Right now I’m recording some guitar tracks for the new album,” says founding member Fredrik Mannberg. “I know we are bad at keeping fans updated on our current status, but after the departure of Nils (Norberg, who left the band in 2008) we decided to have a break for some time to search for a replacement. We also said that we wouldn’t stress about anything – we knew there would be a new album, but not exactly when.
“The new album is still untitled and is not fully recorded. It’s hard to find the same time and energy now when I live in a house and have kids. A few years ago me and Nils (Eriksson, bass) spent almost every day in our studio working on songs and ideas. It was a lot easier then. It’s also hard to re-start after the break we’ve had,” Mannberg says.
Known for their outstanding musicianship and producing heavy metal infused with atmospheric melodies, Nocturnal Rites have been around since 1990 and gained a cult following after releasing their 1991 demo and subsequent promo. Since their first studio album In a Time of Blood and Fire in 1995 they have built and retained a strong international fan base and amassed critical acclaim for their original compositions that showcase technical ability as well as artistic flair.
The band’s current line-up remains unchanged with Chris Rörland, who joined Nocturnal Rites in 2010, sharing guitar duties with Mannberg, who together with Nils Eriksson, singer Jonny Lindqvist and drummer Owe Lingvall continue to reside in Umeå. Rörland, who is also a member of Swedish heavy metal band SABATON, has moved from nearby Skellefteå to Falun.
“We are happy to have Chris in the band, he’s an awesome guitarist and musician,” says Mannberg. “We haven’t done so many shows with Chris since he joined Sabaton. This is because we want a new album out before we start booking tours and festivals.” With Sabaton having toured almost non-stop since Rörland stepped in to replace one of two of the band’s departing guitarists in 2012, one wonders if that will delay the new Nocturnal Rites album even more.
“Sabaton is touring a lot and that could, of course, cause problems for us. When it comes to song writing, it’s me and Nils who are writing the songs, so it doesn’t really matter if Chris lives in Falun now. Of course, he has contributed with some ideas and riffs. It would be more difficult if it was Nils who had moved 500 km away,” Mannberg says.
Bassist and lyricist Nils Eriksson, who was just 14 when he joined Nocturnal Rites, says the constant question of when the new album will be finished has helped to provide the incentive to finally get it done. “Not a day goes by without someone asking what we’re up to, when the album is out or when we’ll be back on tour again. It really amazes me that our fans are so persistent. That must mean our music transcends and outlives the trends that come and go, which is humbling and, above all, motivating,” Eriksson says.
Despite Nocturnal Rites having released just one album in eight years after seven consecutive releases, their records continue to be reviewed as well as revered and their songs remain popular on Spotify and YouTube, where their 'Never Again' video has racked up over a million views. “I think it’s great that our music is available in a controlled environment for everyone to check out,” says Eriksson. “I think the metal community, just like a lot of other close-knit sub genres, is blessed in the way that its fans still buy physical copies of their favorite bands’ records, regardless if it’s available for free streaming or not.”
In 2007, The 8th Sin saw Nocturnal Rites reach new heights, the album outselling 2005's Grand Illusion across Europe within days of release. It also charted internationally, including Japan, and saw Nocturnal Rites play in America again, this time at the 2010 ProgPower USA. Despite not having reached the level of mainstream fame like other bands from their country, Nocturnal Rites have been hailed the best heavy/power metal band to come out of Sweden and best melodic metal band on the planet. “I’m glad that people like what we’re doing. As to if we are the best band on the planet, I don’t know, it’s up to the fans to decide that,” says Mannberg. “But if we were the best band, we would have been a bigger band, right?”
As to why the band continued to fly under the radar after eight strong releases and being signed to Century Media since their second album Tales of Mystery and Imagination is something Mannberg struggles to answer. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s the name, maybe we tour too little, or maybe people just don’t know we exist,” he says. When he reflects on his two-decade career however, Mannberg admits to having met all his personal aspirations. “For me it’s been to create and play music and to have fun. I’m proud of what we have done the past 20 years. I have so many great memories from all the touring and recordings and I would never trade it against anything else.”
Although Century Media currently have Nocturnal Rites listed as a former artist, making it appear that the band is unsigned, it doesn’t impact the recording of the new album according to Eriksson. “We haven’t really talked to Century Media in quite some time, so I don’t know where we stand. I guess they moved us to the ‘former artists’ section because of the fact that we haven’t produced any material since 2007. However, we don’t really need a label to be able to record and finish an album, so we’ll pick that up once we get close to being finished. We’ll see on what label we eventually end up. The future will tell.”
Eschewing the ‘power metal’ tag these days, Nocturnal Rites prefer to be known as a band that play heavy metal with an emphasis on harmonies and melodies. Indeed, at a time when power metal was at the forefront, Nocturnal Rites released Afterlife in 2000, heralding a more aggressive vibe with blonde bombshell Jonny Lindqvist taking over at the microphone from previous singer Anders Zackrisson. Lindqvist’s charismatic vocals, that can be both powerful and sublime, helped give Nocturnal Rites their staple and unique sound. The new album, according to Mannberg, will revisit the melodiously frantic vibe of that very record. “When it comes to the music, it’s more riffing than the last albums. It’s more like the Afterlife album, but in a different and modern way I guess. NOC will always be NOC, in one way or the other, and I’m sure fans will like it,” he says.
Eriksson says the immediate goal for Nocturnal Rites is to complete the new album. “That’s really all we have on our horizon for now. We’ll make some more detailed plans when we finally get this wrapped up,” he says. “Thank you all for your continued support and love for our music. We sure hope to finish the album soon so we can share some new music with you all. You have waited a long, long time and we sincerely hope that it was worth it when the album is finally available.”
With intensity and attitude, passion and melody woven deep into the Nocturnal Rites DNA, the metal realm and NOC-Heads the world over will be eagerly awaiting the band’s next offering. “I know you guys have been waiting a long time for a new Nocturnal Rites album,” says Mannberg. “As I said before, I don’t know when it’s going to be released, so keep your ears and eyes open for it!”