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.