Category Archives: Album reviews

The Man-Eating Tree; in the Absence of Light


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The Man-Eating Tree has been around since 2009 and this is their 3rd album, that came out the day of the big solar eclipse; March 20th 2015. They (too) have gone through some changes personnel-wise; a new singer and the keyboardist is now gone, and now their line-up looks like this:

Antti Kumpulainen – Vocals

Janne Markus – Guitar

Antti Karhu – Guitar

Mikko Uusimaa – Bass

Vesa Ranta – Drums

Back when the album Harvest came out, I went and bought the copy from Record Shop X Lahti. Forgot to pay the parking fee, so I got me a ticket for 40 euros instead. Pretty expensive CD. That is basically my history with this band, I felt as if something was missing there.

The new sound is heavier and I like it a lot, they’ve added some growls and the landscape of the music seems to have endless levels and true depth to it. They paint a sad, artistic picture with only dark shades, but by staying metal as fuck. You know it’s good when you want to close your eyes and just let the music cradle you! And then you realize you’re driving.
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I listen to music mostly in my car, when I’m driving to work. It gives me time on my own (I do have three kids and a job, these near half-hour breaks really give me strenght) and I continued with this on Spotify through my phone and earplugs.

This album has depth to it like I said; after 5-10 times you still hear new details and that is hooking and addictive! I like it. It starts to unveil and grows to some extend, I tell you! I see the international potential with this band, their sound is beautiful and atmospheric, with the hint of desperation. Or maybe they threw in a good handful of that, but it is a good spice. Good metal can not be happy.  Ever.

They have paid attention to everything, the booklet is well worth buying a physical CD. Much appreciation from here. The visual side supports the music that surrounds you with no hope and darkness.

The new video is almost horror, very distressing and awesome, I’m pretty sure you will feel something! Press play.

 

So they visited my “home club” Finlandia-klubi with Finntroll and Wolfheart, the three great bands formed up a rather impressive tour. TMET opened the evening at 19:00, I am all for early gigs but this was taking it a bit too far! The turn-out wasn’t really good, to say the least, could be the time (normally at this club they don’t start before 20:00, even I had to hurry when I found out the showtime) and it was Easter Sunday so…. anyways.  I was there.

 

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Unfortunately they suffered from some tech problems so it could have been so much better!! They would have deserved better. But this explains a lot:

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No Strömsö here. “Function now, you fucker”

We still have one chance to see this tour; In Helsinki on this Saturday the 25th of April at Tavastia! If you are around, come by! The showtime will be as early as 18:30, and most likely the setlist will look something like this:

  • Obsidian
  • Flatline
  • Armed
  • the Divided
  • Plaguewielder
  • Death Parade
  • Dead on Earth

This summer TMET will be playing at various festivals in Finland, the best way to keep up with these guys is to follow them on their Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/themaneatingtree?fref=ts

This might just be THE NEXT BIG THING and you should see for yourself, why they are receiving killer feedback for their new album!

Metal from Finland blogger approved.

“Metal from Finland”-compilation


Who could possibly resist this artwork?
Who could possibly resist this artwork?

“Metal from Finland” is a compilation album containing two CDs and no less than 26 songs of 26 different Finnish metal and rock bands. This is not a compilation of the greatest and most famous Finnish bands, but rather a compilation of bands on the rise. The album has come into existence through collaboration between Outlanders Production and Metal from Finland.

I want to start with saying that it is quite difficult to review an album with 26 different bands, so this will perhaps not have the form of a regular review. Obviously, I cannot write about all of the bands contributing to this collection, but I will try to provide you with some general thoughts and impressions of the album. I will not rate it in numbers, because I do not think that that is applicable on this type of an album.

The two CDs offer a wide selection of subgenres of metal and rock; everything from soft rock like Cry of Pain’s “Made to Last” to fast paced death metal like Torchia’s “Your Blood in My Veins”, and from catchy rock songs like Embassy of Silence’s “Shame, Spin and Click” to rough doom metal like Church of Void’s “Mad Mortician”. I believe there is something for every fan of Finnish metal and rock music on this album. However, it should be said that metal is far more prominent here.

One could perhaps think that the quite vast variation of genres on the album would make it too straggly, but I do not think it does. It actually works quite well. The songs with more of a rock vibe come as a nice variation in the track sequence, and these songs are not placed immediately after any of the more brutal death metal songs, because that would not really work. But this way it works better than I had expected.

The production is a little variable, but fully sufficient. The rougher sound of some of the songs is probably intentional, for example on Wrathrone’s “Left Unburied”, which is a really old school death metal track that bears quite a strong resemblance to early Sentenced. Besides, I find it pretty charming that the sound quality is not all too good since most of these are emerging bands that most likely do not have great budgets (yet).

I must say that “Metal from Finland” exceeds my expectations. It is far better than I thought it would be. I did not like all the tracks, but that is almost impossible when there are 26 songs. I was, however, able to find at least something good in every song, and that is a good sign since I am very picky. I also found quite many tracks that I really liked, and I am pretty sure that anyone who likes Finnish metal and rock music will do as well. Some songs are simply just nice to listen to, some create a gentle melancholic atmosphere, while others kick you in the balls. All varieties work. This album is worth the money (and it is cheap!).

Best tracks (I was going to choose three or four but I could not make up my mind):

Beyond The Dream – Sunset upon Rust
Division XIX – Mobilization
Teardown – Horns
Among the Prey – My Demons
Psalms for the Dead Sun – Psalm Zero

Tracklist:

CD 1
1. Frosttide – Awakening
2. Medicated – Fever
3. Suicidal Ride – Suicidal Ride (previously unreleased)
4. Beyond The Dream – Sunset upon Rust (previously unreleased)
5. Lovijatar – Sokea Paimen (previously unreleased)
6. Mad Hatter’s Den – Welcome to the Den
7. Dark Dawn Project – Dragonborn
8. Division XIX – Mobilization
9. Teardown – Horns
10. Cry of Pain – Made to Last
11. Wrathrone – Left Unburied
12. Viper Arms – Closer
13. Church of Void – Mad Mortician

CD 2
1. Enthring – Citadel
2. Fractured Spine – Dead to Me
3. Burnclear – Lost for Life
4. Noumena – Death Walks with Me
5. Among the Prey – My Demons
6. Embassy of Silence – Shame, Spin and Click
7. Prayed & Betrayed – Deafblind
8. Crimsonic – In the End
9. Thyrien – Forest Is My Throne
10. Psalms for the Dead Sun – Psalm Zero
11. Torchia – Your Blood in My Veins
12. Block Of Flats – Erase Me
13. Lucy Pherson – Three Rivers

“Metal from Finland” will be released through Outlanders Productions in October 17th. It will be available at Levykauppa Äx (in English http://www.recordshopx.com/ ) in October 24th.

Nightwish for Beginners.


Image Courtesy of NuclearBlast.de

The problem with most album or band reviews online is that they are being done by people who are already fans of the group. Unfortunately, many fans will love anything their favorite band puts out and will give 5 stars to an otherwise 2 star performance. It is nearly impossible to find a band on Ticketmaster with less than 4 stars.

Courtesy of Ticketmaster
I refuse to believe this is a 5 star concert… Or that they have 8,117 fans.

For anyone seeking new music to add to their iPod, or a show to go to when they have nothing better to do, these reviews are quite pointless. For this reason, I have decided to review a band that I am admittedly not a fan of. Not because I hate them, but because I have only heard one song.

If you mention Finnish metal to someone you can bet money they will bring up Nightwish. And let me tell you, people love Nightwish. Especially Tarja Turunen… Dear lord people adore her. So much so that Google search suggests looking for her height. In my mind a person would have to be close to stalker level to care about how tall a celebrity is. Is it so they can gauge the tensile strength they need for rope when they meet the celebrity? This can make you uneasy when you think about how many searches it must have taken for Google to have that as their first suggestion.

Courtesy of Google
You’re going to test this yourself, aren’t you?

This obsessive fandom is what prevented me from listening to anything else from the band, simply because everyone talked them up so much that I would be disappointed if they did not blow my mind after hearing more. So that was it. No more Nightwish for me until people discovered a new band to obsess over. But the new band never came along and the response when I mention Finnish metal is still “Dude, Nightwish.”

Band co-founder and keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen said in an interview that the band would be entering the studio in 2014 to record their 8th album, which will be released in 2015. Additionally, Floor Jansen was announced as the new lead vocalist in October 2013 after replacing Anette Olzon. What better time to obtain all 7 albums and finally listen to the phenomenon that is Nightwish! If you care to join me, I will give my own personal review and rating for each album (albeit minus bonus tracks). If you care to join me, grab a fresh brew because this is not going to be short.

Continue reading Nightwish for Beginners.

Tuomas Holopainen – The Life and Times of Scrooge


The Life and Times of ScroogeFor people who are not familiar with the story, it may seem a bit odd to base an entire album upon a 20-year old comic book series in 12 chapters about the life of a filthy rich duck. Anyone who read the story, however, will know that Don Rosas by now classic “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck”-series is a celebration of life, love, adventure and the power of memories. Scrooge McDuck was fleshed out with a depth of character never before seen in the duck-universe. This is when you begin to understand why the story might appeal to the creative epicenter of Nightwish, Tuomas Holopainen.

Soundtracks and cinematic film scores heavily influence Nightwish as a band, yet this solo album marks the first time that Tuomas Holopainen has actually attempted to write a longer soundtrack for a specific story. The whole Imaginaerum movie-project was made after the album was written, and the songs were not created with a coherent story in mind. Fortunately, Holopainen succeeds beautifully on this first attempt.

Fans of Nightwish will definitely love this album. Fans of Don Rosa will recognize most of the elements of the story they hold so dear. Fans of both Nightwish and Don Rosa are in for the treat of a lifetime. At the same time, the album should appeal to anyone with an affinity for emotive soundscapes. This is due to the simple fact that no heavy metal-band is to be heard anywhere, and that the soundtrack-elements, once again recorded in collaboration with composer Pip Williams, now stand masterfully on their own. The handiwork is recognizably Holopainen. We will hear a few well-known tricks, yet also many new ideas.

Tuomas Holopainen
Tuomas Holopainen

The original story goes far and wide, both geographically and spiritually. From Glasgow to the Wild West to the Klondike of Northern Canada. From light-hearted comedy to determined struggle. From idealism and hope to tragedy and redemption. From innocence to experience. The album takes us along a personal interpretation of all these moments, and falters perhaps only once.

The opening track, “Glasgow 1877”, opens masterfully. A grand opening accented by choirs and the vocals of Johanna Kurkela gives way to quiet beauty evoking the open Scottish highlands with strings, piano and the Uillean pipes of Troy Donockley taking turns. One of the hightlights of the album. Then we journey immediately into an upbeat adventure in the West with banjo, guitar and harmonica on “Into the West”. On the next track, “Duel & CludscapesScrooge fights for his life as Holopainen arms himself with the full orchestral arsenal and batters down any resistance with some battle tactics reminiscent of Hans Zimmer. We could go on in this way through the whole album. The only song, which leaves me wondering about its purpose, is “Dreamtime”, interesting, yet for some reason purposefully repetitive.

Some of the final songs on the album deserve special mention. Firstly, because they portray the tragedy, melancholy and isolation of the older Scrooge McDuck before he is redeemed by Donald Duck and the three nephews, a soundscape where Holopainen has always been at home. Secondly, because Johanna Kurkela shines, steal the songs and take them to a completely new level by conveying the emotion needed and much more. The love that is never consummated between Scrooge McDuck and Glittering Goldie drives these songs. The songs in question here are “To Be Rich” and “The Last Sled”.

The Last Sled” has recognizable verses and choruses. The same can be said of “Cold Heart of the Klondike”, where Tony Kakko from Sonata Arctica provide the vocals, and the final “Go Slowly Now, Sands of Time” Yet these songs are not solely dominated by vocals. The damnably catchy and artfully simple “A Lifetime of Adventure” follows a slightly more traditional song structure. “Go Slowly Now, Sands of Time”, sung by Scottish singer Alan Reid as Scrooge McDuck, portrays Scrooge on his deathbed, a controversial idea that Don Rosa did think of, but never finished as a story.

Personally, I am one of those lucky bastards who is a big fan of both Don Rosa and Holopainen. I have read and re-read the story countless times ever since the childhood years of the early 1990’s. Expectations were huge on my part when I heard that Tuomas would realize his old idea of doing this album. Therefore, this review may not exactly be impersonal and objective. But these things never are. I can only thank Don Rosa for the story and Tuomas Holopainen for fully doing it justice.

“The Life and Times of Scrooge” tracklist:

  1. Glasgow 1877
  2. Into The West
  3. Duel & Cloudscapes
  4. Dreamtime
  5. Cold Heart Of The Klondike
  6. The Last Sled
  7. Goodbye, Papa
  8. To Be Rich
  9. A Lifetime Of Adventure
  10. Go Slowly Now, Sands Of Time

Metal From Finland score: 9/10

Review written by Kristian

Shear – Katharsis


Shear KatharsisOh boy…now this album is one tough mother.  Back in 2012 when Shear released their debut album “Breaking the Stillness” I was already then convinced about their potential. They received quite flattering reviews on their debut album and why not, it was a solid album but in all fairness, not as solid as their latest effort “Katharsis” is. Sometimes it takes a while for an album to start opening but “Katharsis” was wide open like the legs of a prostitute from the first note on. Now some might think ok this is not good cause albums like that usually tends to wear out fast. I must say I thought so too. But the more I listen the more I get into the album. It’s almost like it turns into a different album. “Katharsis” is an easy album to listen. But there are so many small nuances in the album that it’s like peeling  an onion, on each time you discover a new layer.

Shear 2014
Shear 2014

Katharsis” starts with an intro titled…surprise surprise…Katharsis. Now I usually don’t like intros cause to me those are a waste of time. Save those intros to live gigs to lift the atmoshpere amongst the audience while the band is climbing on stage. But there was a nuance on the intro that reminded me of some acoustic stuff from King Diamond. And King has always been my favourite so how could I not like the intro 🙂

Alexa Leroux - Shear
Alexa Leroux – Shear

Next up, Last Warning, quite up tempo with some cool shredding guitars in the beginning. Very early on on the album you can notice how much the vocalist Alexa Leroux has evolved during these past few years. At times she reminds me of the original Lullacry vocalist Tanya Kemppainen. Alexa’s, just like Tanya’s voice has roughness and amazing softness which is quite rare. Her vocal range allows her to sound like a beast when needed but also like an angel when needed. And all these varieties are used on “Katharsis” album.

Third song Home. I’ve always been a fan of drummer Juhana Karlsson (Amoral) and you can hear some nice technical stuff from him on this song.  In general the song has a lot of tempo changes, beautiful chorus, nice guitar solo. As I have grown older I have started respecting solos more where it’s not a speed constest but instead it’s something that adds something to the song itself.

Next up Heaven into Hell. If possible, on this album keyboards take even more role than on their debut album but it’s more like an icing on a cake than just “let’s use keyboards since we have a keyboardist”-thing. Heaven into Hell is pretty easy listening stuff. Nothing too fancy about it but nothing negative pops up either during the song. Perhaps one of the songs that might wear out the easiest.

Shear 2014
Shear 2014

Hollow, Black & Cold is the next one. I would call this a ballad. It’s not a slow tempo hearttearing song about losing your loved one or anything like that but it’s simply beautiful. Complete single and radiomaterial. Well I guess they thought it too cause it was the song they released as a full song teaser and I will release it for you guys at the end of this review as well.

I care starts acoustically and one might expect a very low tempo song but picks up a bit towards the chorus. If I would have to choose the weakest song on this album it would be this. But in “Katharsis” standards even the weakest song on the album isn’t bad.

A Hopeless Tragedy starts with very strong bass lines. Silver Ots is the latest arrival to the Shear family and with Juhana they both build up a very strong rhytm section. Could it be cause they both used to play in Amoral as well? 🙂 Well Juhana still does. I really like the guitar riffs on this song. Very intense. This song also has a very melodic and beatiful chorus. None of the songs are like eating the same crackers all over again. There are constant changes even inside single songs and that’s what makes this album so special, at least to me.

Whipers Follow You introduces the guest appearance of Stratovarius keyboardist Jens Johansson. Well if you have followed his career at all you would recognize him from the solo easily. He just has that unique sound which is almost like a trademark he has developed over years. Some might think it’s boring to always hear the same sounds but hey, who am I to judge? It sounds good and Jens is a worldclass keyboardist. Song itself it’s a bit above mid tempo again with a very nice chorus. Just can’t get over Alexa’s voice, it’s simply awesome.

The Finnish sextet impresses with a mature and beneficial designed sound, that is catchy and heavy at the same time. Just as important: SHEAR are playing authentic and honest music that is based on deep-seated emotions and a latent slope to great hymns. This is their “Katharsis”. The chosen style is of subordinate importance for the effect of the perfectly balanced songs. Metal and rock come to fruition to create a Scandinavian heavy sound with a fresh approach and a convincing self-conception. – Lifeforce records

For The Restless delivers some of the fastest tempo’s on the album. But then again there are like tiny songs inside each song, it’s like grandma driving a car jumping on the break, accelerating again, jumping on the break…just when you think the song gets fast, the tempo drops 😀 Again…not a bad thing at all. Keeps a listener on their toes cause you don’t know what’s coming next. Pure genious.

Then the climax…the last 2 songs on the album. Not Myself and Turmoil. Those 2 songs are absolute diamonds. Especially Not Myself. Maybe it was just the melodies and the lyrics but that particular song touched me very deeply. I think there are many people out there who have screwed up or have been screwed up in their lives or relationships and this song probably affects at least some of them.

“It’s easier to forgive, impossible to forget. Darkness clouded my mind. I lost control of it all. But still I stand here in front of you now. Will you forgive? I never wanted to feel this way. If I could change? I was so weak. Never thought I could fear this way. But now I know. I am not myself. I try, I cry, I beg for you please stay” – Not Myself / Katharsis / Shear

It’s pure art to be able to write a ballad that speaks to it’s listener and not making the song too cheezy. And that is exactly what’s Not Myself is all about. My humble bow goes to your direction, you nailed it.

Katharsis” ends with the song Turmoil. Yet again awesome chorus. Somehow hope of a better future raises from the song. Might just be my sick mind but that’s the beauty of a listener, we are all able to make our own assumptions from the songs. I believe there are as many meanings to songs as there are listeners. And then of course the original meaning of the composer.

I will end this review just by saying god damn Shear what you did. I was almost tempted to give a full 10 but since 10/10 requires too much for my standards I will put one – behind it. But still…one hell of a record.

“Katharsis” tracklist:

  1. Katharsis
  2. Last Warning
  3. Home
  4. Heaven into Hell
  5. Hollow, Black & Cold
  6. I Care
  7. A Hopeless Tragedy
  8. Whispers Follow You
  9. For the Restless
  10. Not Myself
  11. Turmoil

Metal From Finland score: 10-/10

 

Insomnium – Shadows Of The Dying Sun


Shadows Of The Dying SunI must admit that when I received the promoversion of the new Insomnium album the first thing that came to my mind was “How weird is that they are releasing their album on spring?” Isn’t Insomnium just the type of music that should be released on the darkest days of autumn when everything is dark, it’s raining all the time, moods are low. But how happy I was to receive the album.

Now many of you who have been reading my reviews know that I don’t want to review anything before I have properly got inside of it. Right at this moment while writing this particular sentence it’s 5th time rolling the album since I received it and against my principles I am writing the review already. Well we are talking about Insomnium so 5 times is enough to write a review 🙂

Insomnium 2014

Insomnium is obviously known for their melodic touch but on this album that part has been taken into a complete different level. Songs like The Promethean Song for instance is so insanely beautiful and somehow brutal at the same time that it simply leaves the listener going like “wtf did I just listen?”.

Then there are songs like The River that starts as a really fast tempo song but around halfway turns completely upside down into this beautiful slow tempo song with awesome melodies.  It’s hooks like these that makes me love this band so much. You truly do not know what to expect. Yet you can recognize all the time that it’s Insomnium while listening.

Ephemeral, from which they released a video already some time ago is a very catchy song and probably was the obvious choice to showcase this album. But definitely not the best song on the album.

I think with this album Insomnium will not only keep all their old fans but also attract some new ones. They keep evolving album after album yet still remaining the same. If you ask me, that is an achievement 😀 Their new album is as safe to purchase as in the past was all the new Sentenced (RIP) material. You always knew that you would get but at the same time always discovered something new. And more importantly, something positive. There is beauty in the darkness!

Shadows Of The Dying Sun tracklist:

  1. The Primeval Dark
  2. While We Sleep
  3. Revelation
  4. Black Heart Rebellion
  5. Lose To Night
  6. Collapsing Words
  7. The River
  8. Ephemeral
  9. The Promethean Song
  10. Shadows Of The Dying Sun

Metal From Finland score: 9.5/10

Review: Church of the Dead – Vol. I Stay Out of My Grave


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CHURCH OF THE DEAD
“Vol 1 – Stay Out Of My Grave”
NightLust Records, January 11, 2013

Tracklist:

1. Intro/ Nekrovulture

2. Beheaded, Scooped & Displayed

3. The Abyss

If you thought that Helsinki only produces metal in tune with the trends, you might be surprised by this. CHURCH OF THE DEAD has a “back to the roots” approach: it’s old-school death metal with purely horror imagery, but also with a good dose of self-irony and humour which works just fine. These guys are not afraid of cliches like blood, gore, tombs and zombies. On the contrary, they parade with these and turn them into bare essentials. “We stay true to the initial genre, yet we still know how to have fun”, say the musicians.

But now let’s get straight to the music. We’re dealing with mostly short, mean and crunchy riffs, raw metallic tunes with something groovy about them or, as they say, they add some “punk attitude, crushing d-beats and twisted sense of morbid humour.” There is a raw quality in here that’s rarely seen in Finland, the land of melodic metal genres. The brutal death vocals often change their range and get into the grind area, their alternation making the material sufficiently dynamic. To build up the morbid atmosphere, there are some slower heavy parts inserted. Old-school song writing skills can be spotted, which we hope to have for the coming scheduled EPs as well.

If you’ve ever fancied Necrophagia, Napalm Death or Obituary, you might find this musical effort as complimenting. And besides, these guys are no newbies, they’ve been sharpening their death metal weapons in bands like Lithuria, De Lirium’s Order, Ghoul Patrol, The Undivine or Dead Shape Figure. Therefore, if you thought of not taking them seriously, you’d better ditch that thought. Although it was only formed in 2012, the band jumped on stage very quickly, having performed several shows already and continues its series of gigs throughout 2013.