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Death Is Liberty - A Statement Darkness

  • Published in Albums

A Statement Darkness presents an immediate surprise on pressing play. ‘To The End’ begins with an enveloped guitar line and faux-electro drum beat that sounds for all the world like the intro to a Franz Ferdinand single. I have to check that I am playing the right album because this doesn’t sound like Finnish metal. Even the cover is atypical for a metal band. An abstract collection of shapes vaguely resembling the view of a tower atop a mountain range seen through ornate arches, is dominated by a pattern of colourful cubes; the usual metal tropes of death, horror, and decay are conspicuous by their absence.

And so it is with the music. At a time when most metal bands pride themselves on their ratio of notes per minute and the constant throb of double bass drums, the first notable thing about Death Is Liberty is the space. Space you could steer an oil tanker through. In that context, every note has import and the songs have room to breathe. It also means that when they do play fast, the change in tempo has a physical effect on your body; a tightening in the stomach like you get on reaching the first crest of a rollercoaster.

The band avoid traditional metal riffing in favour of rhythmic grooves and emotional soundscapes. Sure enough, there are down-tuned bass and rhythm guitars, blast beats and occasional prog rhythms but they are so different from their peers that you wonder if metal is an appropriate description, but no other category will do.

Teppo Haapasalo sings in flawless English in a style somewhere between Mike Patton and Scott Weiland. Continuing in the Faith No More vein, bassist Eero Vehniäinen is like a down-tuned Billy Gould. Ville Lapio’s mournful melodic leads are like the living legend of Slash, and not a million miles away from FNM’s Jim Martin. There’s a touch of prog in their time signatures that brings to mind Hungary’s Angertea. With shades of At The Drive In and System Of A Down, it’s safe to say that they have taken the standard metal setup and used it to create something individual.

After a couple of hard rockers in ‘Quiet Tides’ and ‘Nothing’s Wrong’, Death Is Liberty channel FNM’s quieter, jazzier moments on ‘Hero Of The Other Way’. Haapasalo sounds uncannily like Patton on this song and drummer Eetu Pakkanen gets to show off his skills in the instrumental sections. One of the longest songs on the album, it breaks down to an acoustic guitar four minutes in before building a slow crescendo to a dual guitar solo that warrants some serious head-banging. ‘From Hollow’ mixes Stone Temple Pilots type grunge with NWOBHM riffing to great effect.

On their lead single ‘Underdog’, which closes the album, the most striking aspect is the interplay between the sparsely picked guitar and bass. They embrace each other in an awkward, sorrowful tryst while the melancholic soar of Lapio’s lead guitar is reminiscent of Dimebag’s work on Pantera’s slower numbers. This soundtrack to a heart breaking is given further depth by Aino Matveinen’s verse which gives the whole thing the feel of Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’, but with more Gothic wallowing. ‘Underdog’ is a protest accentuated by the reading of the doomed poem “Alaspainettu” by Timo Rautiainen over the outro.

Death is Liberty’s unique and idiosyncratic take on metal is completely in keeping with their mission to create music without boundaries. There isn’t a dud track on A Statement Darkness and it is difficult to believe that this is their debut album.   

A Statement Darkness is available via Amazon


Shadecrown - Agonia

  • Published in Albums


Death metal bands are as commonplace in Finland as singer-songwriters are in Ireland. Like their Gaelic counterparts, you can often predict approximately what the next album will sound like. Shadecrown buck that trend and evade any accusations of predictability by mixing doom, thrash, and classic rock into their deathly cocktail. The band formed in 2012 around songwriter Saku Tammelin, and Agonia is the follow up to 2013’s Chained EP. The album harks back to old school ‘90s metal and the emergence of the death metal sub-genre as a force of its own.

‘Eremophobia’ begins with an elongated instrumental section. Acoustic guitars set the melancholic tone over Saku Tammelin’s keyboards before the opening riff. Shadecrown are the musical equivalent of a horror movie, as heavy metal is truly meant to be. When Jari Hokka’s vocals appear, it is a surprise to hear a death growl. Like Morbid Angel's David Vincent, he injects melody into his guttural utterances and, with occasional clean vocals from bassist Janne Salmelin, Shadecrown manage to make death metal that is expressive and emotional.

The variations within Agonia are not limited to the vocals. The tone, tempo, and the nature of the guitar riffs change often and unpredictably. The songs evolve naturally and, despite the disparate nature of each section, each new movement flows inexorably from the last. ‘Led Astray’ sounds like it was cribbed from Paradise Lost's copybook. The guitars could easily be those of Gregor Mackintosh and Aaron Aedy, while the composition of the tune flows so beautifully that it brings to mind Metallica's Master Of Puppets.

‘Walk Through Hell’ opens with a Megadeth style riff that Dave Mustaine would be proud of. The chunky, staccato verse riff and uptempo chorus sound like Judas Priest jamming with Prong. Throughout Agonia there are nods to Priest, Death Angel, Testament and a myriad of metal predecessors. Shadecrown exhibit a unique melodic composition of the type that Metallica have been missing since the death of classically-trained bassist Cliff Burton.

'Longing For Sleep' is the album’s token ballad. The music is suitably dreary and miserably effecting but in the context Jari Hokka’s death growl sounds ridiculous. The tone of the song is completely unsuited to this vocal approach. It's a shame because otherwise 'Longing For Sleep' would have been an album highlight. That minor stumble is quickly compensated for when 'The Ruins Of Me’ kicks off in classic thrash style. 'Silent Hours' acoustic intro gives way to some kick ass drumming from Kalle Varonen and Thin Lizzy-esque lead guitar. Agonia is front-loaded with good tunes and the second half of the album loses momentum but this is a quality debut and Shadecrown will only get better from here.

Agonia is available from Amazon

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