Nocturnal Rites Grand Illusion

For all the wiggly guitar soloing, cheesy keyboard lines and hard rock clichés, Nocturnal Rites’ latest album is head-bangingly irresistible at times. Power metal to the core, Grand Illusion starts off ridiculously catchy with stick-in-your-head melodies and hooks, and even though it starts to lose momentum as it gets more emotional, when it pounds it rocks like it means it. The record features several guests lending a hand, including members of Hammerfall, Evergrey, Stratovarius and Naglfar, as well as champion skier Per Elofsson making an appearance on guitar; most of the performances don’t fail to entertain, especially the death metal vocals that heavy up "Cuts Like a Knife.” Solid on the whole, Grand Illusion peaks at the start but settles into steady propulsion, power and virtuosity carrying it through to a satisfying close. (Century Media)