For a debut, they’ve got it about right
The picturesque land of Belgium, located between France, The Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg. While the country is rich is history and famous people, such as Audrey Hepburn, Leopold I (the first King of the Belgians), Kim Clijsters and the muscles from Brussels himself; Jean Claude Van Damme, I cannot recall many popular or historically significant metal bands to come from Belgium. While there would most certainly be a few black/death metal bands to come out of Belgium, the same cannot be said for power metal/heavy metal bands.
Well we can now chalk one up for power/heavy metal with Nightqueen blasting the soundwaves with their debut CD entitled ‘For Queen and Metal’. Nightqueen is not a new metal band; in fact they have been around since 2004. However in the band’s six years of existence, there have been over 10 lineup changes. The two most recent changes were in 2010, when Nightqueen brought in a new drummer and bassist. Led by female vocalist Keely Larreina, the remainder of the band includes guitarists Vady McElroy and Rex Zeco; keyboardist Lynn Chester, drummer Lennard Nexxis and bassist Deryck Volant.
While primarily labelled as a European melodic heavy metal band, Nightqueen also take structures and influences from both Euro power metal and symphonic metal, forging it all nicely together in an even spread. Songs contains powerful guitar riffs that you get from Euro heavy metal, with the melodic and catchy chorus’ you find with power metal. Entwined in between keeping it all together are the well used keyboards and synths, giving it a symphonic feel at times; but mostly adding another element and layer to their sound.
Female vocalist Keely Larreina is a little different from the typical female metal singers around Europe. Completely the opposite of the gothic/symphonic metal divas like Liv Kristine, Tarja Turunen, Simone Simons and Sharon den Adel; Larreina has a strong voice but does lack a bit of power and persona at times. I would compare her mid-level pitched range of vocals to that of Triosphere singer Ida Haukland; and also Battle Beast vocalist Nitte Valo. I must say it does take a few spins to fully enjoy Keely’s vocals, as her performance from track to track is slightly inconsistent and not completely polished as you’d expect. I would also say that the production on the album is lacking slightly and needs a bit of a tweaking, with Keely’s voice not at the same apex as the instruments.
As far as debut releases go, Nightqueen’s ‘For Queen and Metal’ delivers quality of what you’d expect for a first disc; a little green, a little rough around the edges, but overall an honest and dedicated performance. You also know that the band can improve (hopefully) with each release and I can sense that with Nightqueen. With almost every debut album, you will get your fair share of average tracks to go with the better ones, which is again expected, and while there are a few misses on this disc, there are also plenty of highlights as well, starting with the best song (IMO) “Majesty”. I feel that “Majesty” is the best track in terms of song-writing and really shows what this band can achieve a few CDs down the track when all the lumps are ironed out. “Majesty” best combines the influx of heavy, power, melodic and symphonic metal; while also being catchy and memorable. Keely sings very well on this track and the guitaring is at a high quality also.
Other tracks that I thought did this album justice include mid-paced and atmospheric “Secret of the Blind Man”, the keyboard-friendly and very catchy “Lady Fantasy”, the energetic, melodic and powerful “Mystical Nights”, the fiery and bombastic “Rebel to Rebel” and lastly the disc’s title track; the impressive “For Queen and Metal”. While there may not be anything groundbreaking on this release, it is still an above-average debut where you can see Nightqueen vastly improving with every disc once they can settle down with a solid line-up. The experience of a solid line-up for a good number of years will do this band the world of good and with every disc comes better song-writing and better performances. The only other area I feel is in need of improving is Keely’s vocals, but again that will come with practice and experience. ‘For Queen and Metal’ is for fans of bands like Ancient Bards, Blind Guardian, Triosphere and early Dark Moor.