August Roundup: Finndeath, Melofolk & Occultogarage
Tonight’s Feature Presentations: Penisbear’s Adventures – Day The Dick Fell Off & The Return of Jess and the Ancient Ones featuring Human Targets & Komposts. Today’s Late Night Presentation features the debuting Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen, oozing Cryptic Hatred.
Bonehunter – Dark Blood Reincarnation System
Hells Headbangers – August 20th
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Bonehunter‘s blackened metal punk, and the release of their 4th full-length album. Though not much has changed for the band since their inception, not everything has stayed the same either. In many places their sharpest riffwork has been substituted for a blunter approach, highlighting the bands brutality and punk influence over the speed/thrash.
These are balanced with some nifty leadwork à la “Altered Beast”, though the promo letter’s claims of anthemic and hummable melodies are out of this world, with the possible and partial exception of the closing title track. Album highlight “Devil Power Soldier” recalls the sharper riffing days and brings a welcome change of “pace” to Dark Blood Reincarnation System (don’t you just love their naming scheme?) while “Gashadokuro” actually slows things down for a while, and does so very satisfyingly, and “Virgin Devil Princess” toys around with some traditional black metal-styled tremolo riffs.
Not only does “Devil Power Soldier” feature the album’s best riffs, but also highlights the fairly clean production, with a better balance between the clean and the grit than their previous album had. Can’t help but think this is the way they’ll be wanting to go with full-lengths, while still keeping the shortform releases rawer à la the recent Devil Metal Force.
You already know if you’re going to like Bonehunter or not, and Dark Blood Reincarnation System is neither going to change your mind, nor blow your universe, or else you’ve never heard of them before. Some might even say the only true difference between this and their previous albums, besides the production, is Shagrat fucking up their classic Penisbear mascot, who’s been reduced to a simple Pigman on a throne. Thankfully he comes with fairly ample dong at least. Anyhow, DBRS is as good a place to start as another. A good, strong and not too safe entry into a solid discography, something that could be said for almost all of Bonehunter’s releases.
Jess and the Ancient Ones – Vertigo
Svart Records – May 21st
It’s amazing how quickly hype can dissipate, even if you’ve already been around, and famous, for years. Between 2010 and 2017 there seemed to be nothing that could stop Jess and the Ancient Ones, even if their third album failed to generate as much attention as the previous releases, and I must admit I don’t think it did so without a reason. But how many have seen Vertigo around? Either you live in a very different bubble than I, or the answer is very few indeed.
Over the years, the so called occult-rock craze has died down, and though JATAO seemed to survive the tide as a winner, their music slipped towards garage rock, as The Horse… stripped the length and complexity of their songwriting. In some ways Vertigo continues the simplified line of writing, but sees the group present more versatile arrangement, better layered than its predecessor. Neither as complex nor as hooky as their older work, Vertigo is also much more engaging and interesting than its direct predecessor. I don’t know if it’ll be enough to hook me on the band again, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying the hell out of it.
Human Target – 3-track Demo
Independent – May 15th
Human Target was founded somewhere in the bottom of Tampere’s thousand lakes, only this year, and already they’ve released their oh-so-aptly titled 3-track Demo. Not ones to waste time or mince words, the songs are short and to the point, but luckily this means not the riff-less hardcore-kids-a-gone-throwin’ caveman death metal or whatever you’d like to call it, you’re well aware of that which I speak.
“Nails in the Crotch” is fortunately slightly more subtle than its title, but nevertheless bulldozes forth, caring little to return backwards and features a quasi-thrashing riff on its opening half with a satisfyingly jarring quality to it, despite its near brain-dead simplicity, which is how they avoid the fells modern unga bunga death metal has driven itself into. “Mutilated” is the most satisfying of the three, with livelier, jerking sets of riffs, while the final track is a little dragging, but considering how quickly this was put together after the band’s founding, implying something of a rush, and given the members’ apparent back of band background, I won’t hold it against them yet.
Kompost – Pallor Mortis
Independent – July 23rd
If you though Kompost‘d be as fresh as Human Target, you might be forgiven even though the band’s been around for about 15 years. They only released their debut demo, Vastareaktio, 4 years ago, and I don’t think it got around very much, but if you didn’t hear about Pallor Mortis, that’d be a damn shame. That’d be a crime.
If you’ve been hankering for frenzied brutal death metal that focuses on the latter part of the truo (that’s a trio formed by two separate entities, of which is, in itself, formed by a duo, a very common Nordic term outside Scandinavia, ask anyone), with songs that span the length of a minute as often as they do three, and never much more than that, and is also technical but first and foremost riff-centered (and I don’t even mean that in the same way that riff-centered tech-death bands are, this is no tech-death, just also technical) Pallor Mortis is an answer to your prayers. An answer sprinkled with some latter-day Deicide shredding.
And if that’s not what you’ve been asking,
fuck you you’d still probably like Kompost, it’s merely a description of their approach to death metal, not a divine truth. Also make all the death metal bands sing in their native language Finnish. Especially the Kenian ones.
Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen
Nuclear Blast – May 28th
Esa Holopainen is best known as the guitarist and songwriter of Amorphis, which alone will have guaranteed a certain amount interest for his solo debut, much of which sounds like, spoilers, underdeveloped throwaway ideas for Amorphis. The opening instrumental already does promise something akin to his day job, but perhaps with a twist, only the twist never really comes, unless you count the guest vocalists, a different one for each song. It never feels like Holopainen wrote a bunch of songs and then decided who’d fit it, but as if he chose a smattering of vocalists he wanted to work with, rummaged through his drawer of discarded ideas and then slightly rewrote whatever he had on hand to somehow make it fit the arbitrarily chosen guest performer.
Jonas Renkse is one of the three exceptions to this, in that he gets to sing two such songs. He has the honor of both opening and closing these ceremonies and does a fine job of it, even if both of the compositions are quite bland and the only thing that sticks out is the fact of Renkse. Not his performance, not the melodies that he sings, just the fact that he performs. Finns and Swedes alike will recall Nordman‘s gargantuan hit “Vandraren,” partially because it still fills the airwaves 27 years later, and will be delighted for the cut of nostalgia offered by their vocalist Håkan Hellström’s appearance on “Storm”. I’m not going to lie, the lingering, beat-riven composition with a hint of folk is exactly what I expected this album to be full of and mostly business as usual for Holopainen, but also one of the best compositions on the album. Though it’s not one of the three exceptions, it doesn’t feel like a once discarded song.
A song that does form another of the exceptions is “Ray of Light”, featuring the only truly great performance on the album, courtesy of Einar Solberg, although the composition isn’t much better than the rest, it does sound more fleshed out than most of the others. The third exception would be “Alkusointu”, but the choice of vocalist was so obvious (to a Finn) that as soon as Holopainen set his mind on composing an Eino Leino poem, wherever he tried to take the music, it would always come back to Vesa-Matti Loiri.
For me this was the one song that could elicit an actual, physical reaction (and still does, a dozen spins down) and that would be in no small part because Loiri has always been a larger than life figure for me and generally speaking the biggest artist in Finland (and also physically for a very long time), who canonized himself as the only person capable of (and allowed to) interpreting Leino’s poetry in musical form. This will likely be his last performance, and I almost feel the pain it must’ve conjured to record it. The numerous takes and studio magic that it must’ve taken to make him sound so powerful still. As the dot on the i, as we say, come the saxophone solos that take the song right back to the days of Kingston Wall, a band that largely inspired Tales from the Thousand Lakes’ new direction.
The rest of the songs and vocalists don’t really leave a mark of any kind, though that’s not the fault of Anneke van Giersbergen, Tomi Joutsen or Björn Strid, nor the safeness of their choices. The songwriting throughout Silver Lake is so utterly forgettable that it’s a goddamn miracle anyone managed to breath life into any one of them. It’s almost like Holopainen dug out a few old ideas just to experiment on ideas where to take Amorphis next, and didn’t want to write an entirely new set of songs (although that’s probably exactly what he did).
Cryptic Hatred – Free from the Grave
The Other Records – July 22nd
Cryptic Hatred released their debut demo last year, to a fair fanfare. They even made national broadcasting, in a series mapping underground (metal) culture. Though some of the attention was directed at the 17-year old members’ young age, the music was met with equal delight and no less appraisal than the youngest generation’s takeover of the genre.
Many drew comparisons to Cannibal Corpse‘s older material, and I for one, would not dispute the claim. Cryptic Hatred’s death metal is fairly simple, that much is true, but with the fortunate lack of hardcore influences, an (un?)healthier worship-to-regurgitation ratio, and a clear lodestar, they avoid some of the pitfalls of the latest caveman death metal wave. Which is not to say they don’t find some of their own, or would be without common ground.
The association to older Corpse is clear, each riff carrying that distinct stench associated with the progressing rottenness of Barnes’ vocal chords. But none of them stand out on their own. One is practically impossible to distinguish from another, and none leave an impression besides the waft from beyond. Eemil Lajoma’s vocals are just the perfect kind of muddy and gross, but there’ a lack of power to drive them, meaning the monotony of them becomes another element of stagnation.
The sinister use of melody helps separate Cryptic Hatred from their musically closest peers though, and I hope that both it and the few charmingly awkward time transitions survive to their full-length in the works. They are young, and the band is not all chaff, so something great may yet be made out of them (by them) but this is not it. This is a fairly boring, nondescript half-an-hour of indistinguishable ideas, and now you can get it remixed and re-released, with an updated cover art, from Helsinki’s best damn death metal record label & shop in the heart of Helsinki, The Other Records.