Hmm...must be something in the Swedish drinking water that gives these devastating (and uniquely Scandinavian) riffs such heft. It helps that Nightrage is a top-shelf supergroup assembled by former Exhumation guitarist Marios Iliopoulos, who recruited guitarist Gus G. (Dream Evil), drummer Per M. Jensen (the Haunted), lead rawthroat and perennial guest vocalist Tomas Lindberg (At the Gates, the Great Deceiver, Crown, Lock Up, etc.), and clean-pipes singer Tom S. Englund (Evergrey) for the outfit's debut record. And while such highly touted collaborations tend to sound like spontaneous fits of mediocre inspiration (see Passenger and Dimension Zero), Sweet Vengeance is consistently excellent in both song and performance. Arrangements are lean but not overly simplistic ("Macabre Apparition," "The Tremor") and the occasional trading-off of Englund's soaring clean vocal with Lindberg's distinct howl during "Hero" and "Ethereal" lends a compelling contrast to the songs (even if the idea, limited to four tracks, is under-used). Sonically, Sweet Vengeance is a rich mix of golden-era Swedish death metal (main reference points: At the Gates and In Flames) and the classier elements of Bay Area thrash occasionally peppered with a black metal blastbeat. Most impressive are "The Glow of the Setting Sun" and its groovy, mid-tempo-to-double-time rhythmic pummel bookended by shimmering and melodic clean guitar arpeggios; "At the Ends of the Earth," which sounds like a beefier, deathlier Megadeth (circa Rust in Peace); and "Circle of Pain," which smartly exploits a heart-stopping quiet-loud dynamic. One beef is the production from Swedish death metal hit factory Studio Fredman, which, although offering a typically senses-battering drum sound, doesn't help differentiate Sweet Vengeance from the glut of bands utilizing Fredrik Nordström's production skills. Still, any fan of the melodic European death metal scene should foam at the mouth upon hearing Nightrage's debut -- even if the stellar lineup was put together for recording purposes only -- and such Pavlovian responses are, for the most part, justified.
AllMusic Review by John Serba