The second installment from former Katatonia/Trees Of Eternity and October Tide members project is an excellent, enchanting and utterly beautiful mix of alternative, progressive rock and metal, with fantastic musicianship and powerful emotionally-explosive songwrting.

The Nighttime Project (TNP) was formed after Katatonia’s excellent "Night Is The New Day" album, guitarist Sven Fredrik "North" Norrman (October Tide) and his brother bassist Erik Mattias "Kryptan" Norrman (October Tide) having left Katatonia but still active members of October Tide. Although Matthias has been TNP’s member since 2017, initially only Fredrik founded TNP, joined by In Mourning’s vocalist/guitarist Tobias Netzell and Nicklas Hjertton (ex-Mandylon). The debut eponymous album did not stray too far from Katatonia’s sound, with some October Tide influence and was met with great acclaim. Having contributed their skills and talents for Trees Of Eternity’s fantastic album "Hour Of The Nightingale", the female vocalist Julia Liane "Aleah Starbridge" Stanbridge having tragically died from cancer, brothers Norrman began working together on TNP’s sequel, Tobias and Nicklas having departed due to time constraints and The Night Time Project gaining, along Matthias, fellow October Tide drummer Jonas Sköld (also of Letters From The Colony) and Letters From The Colony vocalist Alexander Backlund. The stage was set for "Pale Season".

Lyrically, "Pale Season" concerns those times between life’s emotional highs and lows, when life seems gray and insignificant. We are torn between two poles (to borrow from Prong’s Toomy Victor on "Torn Between Two Poles"). On one hand, we’re thinking we should be thankful for even being alive and well when death is everywhere (to quote Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan from "Fly On The Windscreen") and any moment death calls (after Paradise Lost’s Nick Holmes in "True Belief), and people all around are dying from incurable diseases, accidents, acts of crime or terror. On the other hand, why should we be not MORE alive, excited, extatic, why is this life so often so grey, pedestrian and meaningless? These and other questions The Nighttime Project asks in "Pale Season" by their own admission "finding nothing more than questions" while aware that "for what’s to come we must allow forgiveness/for what’s to come we must endure together" (Signals In The Sky). This palpable, deafening, suffocating paleness of life defined by fruitless searches is very powerfully expressed in music, evident to anyone who has ears which hear.

As expected, influence of Katatonia, October Tide and Trees Of Eternity is evident in TNP’s music and the more projects the Norrman brothers took part in the better and more versatile the music is for it. The absolute shining star of gorgeous perfection in cleft and note, "Signals In The Sky", feels almost like a tribute to Althea Starbridge and could easily be on "Hour Of The Nightingale", and it became the golden mean by which I judged the remaining 7 songs (not counting the superflous closer brief instrumental "Meridian"). Right on its heels, then, is "Final Light" with its latter Opeth convoluted progression and similarly sounding while slightly Tool-ish "Anti Meridian" which precedes "Signals…". Of note is also the excellently paced "Rotting Eden" rhythmically recalling Megadeth’s "I’ll Get Even" with a Tool-ish bass.

The rest of the songs are less evolved and overpowering but they still have those powerful melodic, if not epic, choruses (especially title track) and harmonies as well as delicate acoustic strumming backed by ominous and depressive keyboard atmospherics, with excellent performances, especially from phenomenal vocalist Alexander, whose range is incredible as he combines Jonas Renkse (Katatonia), Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost), Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth), Vincent Cavanagh (Anathema) and even Maynard James Keenan (Tool) in one powerful medium of wide ranged emotional expression.

For all the accolades, there are two aspects (Tony Lindgren’s fantastic production not one of them) of "Pale Season" which won’t let me raise the score above 5/6. First, some of the songs, most notably "Binary", while vocally and instrumentally immaculate, seem stunted, underdeveloped and one-dimensional, when comparing to others with more ebbs and flows, rises and falls. Secondly, the opener and the closer would have been more effective as parts of tracks which follow and precede them, respectively. "Hound" is a powerful, exhibit A testimony to Alexander’s vocal prowess, but it would have been more effective as part of "Rotten Eden", sort of a progressive prelude while part of it. As for "Meridian", I find it unnecessary as "Signals In The Sky" alone would have powerfully and sufficiently ended the proceedings, if not on even better note. Instead, the listener has either already checked out after "Signals" or is displeased with this weird, brief, would-be instrumental.

Never let the criticism of my penultimate paragraph stop you from embracing this beautiful, excellent record, though. If you cherish albums such as Katatonia’s "Discouraged Ones", Opeth’s "Damnation/Watershed/Heritage", Paradise Lost’s "Host", Anathema’s "Judgment" or Trees Of Eternity’s "Hour Of The Nightingale" you can’t go wrong with "Pale Season".