Night - Raft of the World

Night Raft of the World cover
Raft of the World
The Sign Records
Blimey! How is it that metal bands with super pedestrian monikers often turn out absolute gems (i.e. Night Demon, Pentagram, Wolf, you know the drill!) and by the same token “harbour” way more clout than expected? To this end, I shall call the phenomenon “Pedestrian Law”; for this “Night” owl, nothing could exemplify this more than the Swedes’ apotheosis, “Raft of the World”, released on September 1st, 2017, under The Sign Records.
Initially, I’d only given Night a cursory listen here and there with “Gunpowder Treason” and “Stand Your Ground” (off its titular “namesake” debut from 2013). Although satisfactory enough, I wasn’t quite dancing a jig like I am now, fully immersed into “Raft of the World”; evidently, the Linköping’s natives’ third full-length release is a whole other kettle of fish. Perhaps my main point is one must delve into it expecting a classic 70s “heavy rock” experience in the vein of Deep Purple, Rainbow and First Daze Here era Pentagram rather than outright “new wave of (Swedish) traditional heavy metal” leanings in the likes of fellow countrymen (and bona fide genre purveyors) such as Air Raid, Ambush, Enforcer, RAM or hell forbid. Portrait – although in all earnestness, a couple tracks in particular hint of the lesser known but just as competent Black Trip by way of melancholic vocal melody and pleasant lead guitar phrasing. As well, throughout this gratifying affair, erudite (and likely older) rock fans will find solace with innocuous soupçons of well-worn golden oldies sure to provide their fair share of jollies (or jolly rogers...).
Inanities aside, opener “Fire across the Sky” wickedly launches this pleasure cruise with a kick-starting (I kid you not!) Stevie Nicks – “Edge of Seventeen” shuffle riff, which shortly gives way to another nostalgic humdinger instantly recognizable as the stomp fest – to be sure, not the main riff – making up a good part of Rainbow’s “Man on the Silver Mountain”.
On the other hand, in my mind, “Surrender” no longer qualifies as a tacky Cheap Trick anthem or ingrained NA/AA mantra to live by; essentially, it’s the most stunning track all around as its revolving riff pattern conveys a graceful urgency slightly reminiscent of Enforcer, but only just. As if the compelling rhythms weren’t enough to assuage the listener, dig the masterful lead break, which is broken up in two parts: the first showcases front man & guitarist Burning Fire and fellow axe jockey & bassist Highway Filip (ah, good ‘ol metal monikers!) at their most colourful – while the solos aren’t blistering or outright mind-blowing, the effortless ease of such impeccable phrasing and emotional delivery gets me every time whilst the incepting, feedback laden backing riff paves the way for the next part, in which poised and slowly incremental leads gift wrap this piece with a bow to say the least.
As implied, for the most part, “Raft of the World” sounds much more sophisticated and polished than previous releases – were it not for those, I feel the moderators might have possibly debated or contested Night’s “metal” merits. The midway tracks, namely the ancillary, one-minute long “Omberg” – an acoustic prelude to “Time”, if you will (expect Pink Floyd to call and demand its staple back!) – as well as “Strike of Lightning” surely ascribe to mellower vibes. Although these lasts’ mid-tempo albeit airy composition heavily brings to mind Black Trip’s “Shadowline” (the titular track from its sonorous sophomore release) they also uncannily feature a slew of soulful Carlos Santana & Dave Mason sounding leads sure to instil fond recollections of Abraxas and Traffic’s “Mr. Fantasy”. How do you like them apples? (And bananas, and oranges...).
Then, (gasp!) what’s this I hear on “Winds”?! Bassist Joseph Max and drummer Dennis Skoglund steal the show with their hard-driving and upbeat Billy Idol – “White Wedding” evoking battery, the six-stringers’ sizzling, “faloot-full” (shoot me!) leads not withstanding! While the rather bass heavy but somewhat mundane “Under the Gallows” leaves me neither hot nor cold, “Strike of Lightning” never fails to remind me of Pentagram’s “Out of Luck” (the “Human Hurricane” version) – it’s something about the uncompromising feeling of despair it evokes; its chill background vocals and unaggressive tone also makes it quite radio friendly. In fact, with the exception of a decidedly ramped up closer in “Where Silence Awaits”Burning Fire is a dead-ringer for Enforcer’s Olof Wikstrand here, notably his work on the Stockholm denizens’ latest, “From Beyond” – consider the rest of the “Raft” highly conducive to any ‘ol congenial 70s Rock FM station. Some might shirk this unexpected development, but I feel it works highly in Night’s favour and is one of the reasons (along with the stellar guitar chops) this recent offering is such a resounding success.
Oh! I’d be unforgivably amiss not to mention “Coin in a Fountain”, which, with its crooning lounge-like placating waltz and warm, Spanish Flamenco lead, unequivocally reminds me of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” – astute movie buffs will fondly recollect it as Christian Slater’s go-to track on the iconic “Pump up the Volume” from 1990, when I was still a wee pup.
Originally, I was going to give Night’s “Raft of the World” a somewhat lower, rather conservative score, but in the end I told myself “screw it, this deserves high praise”, as the mighty fine guitar solos sweetly “rock the boat”. In fact, they’re some of the coolest and most melodious I’ve heard in a while. As for the unapologetically no frills vocals, although they may not sit well at first, soon prove themselves by way of sheer genial authenticity. In a day of pompous excess, the Swedes have managed to turn out one helluva evocative and portentous release. Like I inferred, if you dig expressive albeit hard rocking and well-poised 70s fare, such as the bands mentioned above, you owe to yourself to check this out asap. Despite the blazing fo’c’sle (dig the classy cover art!), like a true Captain I’m going down with the ship, er, raft!