- From left to right:
- Dan Swanö
- Erik Oskarsson
- Dag Swanö
- Tom Björn
Retribution is the new album from Nightingale, the intended oneoff project that refuses to die. Established by musical multitalent Dan Swanö almost 20 years ago, the band is proof that good music can take on a life of its own, often when the artist least expects it.
Known for his work both as a producer/engineer and with metal acts Edge Of Sanity, Bloodbath, Pan-Thy-Monium and most recently Witherscape, Swanö began his unplanned Nightingale journey in 1995 with “The Breathing Shadow”. It was a oneoff gothflavoured solo album heavily reminiscent of The Sisters Of Mercy, meant to satisfy his interest in the genre and then be put quietly to bed as Swanö moved on to other projects. The album was successful enough to warrant a followup according to his label at the time (Black Mark), but Swanö was, as he puts it “so over the goth thing.”
“I thought that if I was going to make a second record it had to reflect what I was listening to at the moment. I was going through a big revival of Gamma, Foreigner, Journey and all that super melodic AOR pomp rock stuff. It was a weird turn from the first record, so I decided to make Nightingale a home for music that I write in the moment, no matter what it is.”
Nightingale released five more albums between ’96 and ’07, slowly establishing a band lineup that began with Swanö’s guitarist/keyboardist brother Dag in 1996 acting as a coproducer and session player on “The Closing Chronicles”. He officially came aboard in 1998 under his Tom Nouga moniker. The band was fleshed out by bassist Erik Oskarsson and drummer Tom Björn, who had their first rehearsal with the Swanö brothers on Christmas Day 2000. “White Darkness” from 2007 could well have been the last Nightingale album, as it featured very little songwriting input from Swanö due to severe writer’s block. He decided to focus on his career as an engineer and chose to make music as a hobby. His creative side won eventually, however, as the urge to write and play again became irresistible.
“I bought a few instruments that would inspire me, and eventually the riffs started piling up,” Swanö recalls. “I was collecting them for some kind of death metal release, and the other stuff that came out ended up being what could be used for a future Nightingale record.”
Originally titled “Bravado” in the working stages, “Retribution” offers up 10 songs steeped in uncomplicated ’70s and early ’80sflavoured rock. Tracks such as ‘Chasing The Storm Away’, ‘Forevermore’ and ‘The Maze’ could have easily found a home on commercial rock radio 30 years ago, yet the album is completely relevant in 2014. Fans of Swanö’s heavier works that are unfamiliar with Nightingale may be surprised the simplicity of the music and the band’s non-aggressive approach.
“It’s not easy to write simple stuff that’s good,” Swanö points out, suggesting people take a good long listen to “Retribution” rather than dismissing it.
In Swanö’s estimation “Retribution” succeeds because the songs “just kind of happened.” He never set out to write any specific parts; the music is in fact a result of spontaneous moments, whether it was an accidental combination of notes on a keyboard that became an opening riff (‘On Stolen Wings’) or an odd guitar tuning (‘Warriors Of The Dawn’). On top of that, the songs were hashed out in the rehearsal room before the band went into the studio, resulting in major changes to some of the music as it developed.
“When I listen to the record I don’t want to have any regrets,” explains Swanö. “There’s no point in releasing a new Nightingale record if I don’t think it’s the best we ever did. That a pretty high standard to have, but if I don’t feel that way when I listen to it the moment it’s ready, it’s got nothing to do with our back catalogue. That’s the way I’ve felt with every record.”
Asked to sum up what “Retribution” means to him with regards to Nightingale’s legacy, Swanö offers the following:
“Classic rock with that pomp attitude really inspired me. I just wanted a good production that could hold up well against a band like Alter Bridge but still have a bit of the sonic charisma of the records from ’79, which was a great year for music. The target was to make a timeless record with good, classy songs that the four of us can agree are really cool.”