Thursday, January 31, 2008

Best of 2007 - from #75 to #71

75. mael mórdha - 'gealtacht mael mórdha'
It's not only Primordial doing the Irish epic thing - Mael Mórdha (which is the name of an ancient Irish king from the 11th century, in case you were wondering) also evoke images of standing on windswept moors beating your chest in the rain. While Primordial have transcended that and turned into something quite unique over the past few years, Mael Mórdha are younger and keep their music closer to the Irish folk-metal style of something like 'Journey's End', but there are a few twists to their style as well, namely their doom influences, which help turn this album into something a bit special too. The epic, mournful tales owe as much to the Bathory's viking heroics school as they do to Cathedral or Candlemass riff-of-doooom school, and all this mixed with the folk elements and the captivating historical storytelling makes 'Gealtacht Mael Mórdha' a mandatory release if you're into this sort of thing. What about a Mael Mórdha / Primordial gig, eh?

Mael Mórdha - 'A Window Of Madness'

74. ghost brigade - 'guided by fire'
'Guided By Fire' is one of those records that sound pleasant but unremarkable at first. Their dense Katatonia-esque melodic metal brings to mind a whole bunch of other Finnish bands that play the sort of dark metal one usually associates with the country, with traces of both the old (Amorphis) to the new (Dark The Suns) being clear on 'Guided By Fire'. The subtlety of the compositions, however, begins to unveil itself as the melodies get more and more familiar, and then 'Guided By Fire' opens up as something quite wonderful, especially considering this is a debut album. It's essentially the sobriety of the whole affair that does it, as the overall sadness of the songs doesn't sound overbearing or contrived but keeps the melancholic intensity, something that is much helped by Manne Ikonen's excellent, diverse vocals. One of the most promising debuts of 2007.

Ghost Brigade - 'Rails At The River'

73. sigh - 'hangman's hymn'
It's thrash this time! Sigh continue their own devil-may-care tortuous path, that has included black metal, psychedelia, classical music and many more genres, in a fusion unique to this Japanese troupe. 'Hangman's Hymn' is one of the most violent Sigh albums so far, as the classical-trained genius that is main-man Mirai saw it fit to pay hommage to his German thrash obsessions after the milder, stoned environment of the eerie 2005 effort 'Gallows Gallery'. The result is a bombastic cacophony of symphonic blackened thrash, divided in three acts, with tons of intricate details to discover. If you like wimp shit like Dimmu Borgir, then check out 'Dies Irae / The Master Malice' for an example of how symphonic elements should really be used in extreme music.

Sigh - 'Dies Irae / The Master Malice'

72. shining - 'v. halmstad'
No misleading anyone with that record cover, so no, Shining haven't lightened up yet. Suicide is still the main topic of the day for these Swedes, with the highly debated suicide rumour of vocalist Kvarforth (unfounded, by the way) surely adding some anticipation prior to this release. So this album is not a walk in the park, unless it's an abandoned part at 3am and you intend to go there to slash your veins open with a rusty razorblade, by the moonlight. The angst and the void of emptiness that emanate from this release feel real, even if the music itself has gotten progressively cleaner, from the gritty filth of the first album to the jazzy melodies that the icy terror is infused with on this, their fifth record. Overall, the predecessor 'IV. The Eerie Cold' was slightly stronger, musically, but for that feeling of black emptiness, all of Shining's records are essential.

71. scandinavian music group - 'missä olet laila'
Yeah, a pop album among all this darkness, but it's how pop should be done. Scandinavian Music Group are a band from Finland, formed in 2002 with a few people that used to play in Ultra Bra. Originally a four-piece, the line-up has expanded to seven people, which allows them to explore all the possibilities of harmonies with pianos, pedal steel guitars and vocals. It's hard to pinpoint what exactly makes SMG so appealing, but maybe because we're all so jaded with tremendous metaphorical explanations in reviews that sometimes we overlook the basics - brilliantly written, simple, melodic music that you remember and feel like listening again long after you put on the record for the first few times, all this achieved without any big fanfares or "easy listening" tricks that ruin mainstream pop music these days and turn it into the disposable crap that it is. Take a song like 'Itkevä Lintu', that consists of little more than piano, some effects and Terhi Kokkonen's beautiful, softly sung voice but manages to become enormous in your mind by the effect of the infectious melody, a bit like the best Azure Ray songs. The song structures aren't always verse-chorus-verse obvious but manage to keep all the hooks in place, and even the more conventional-sounding ones like 'Naurava Turskan Kallo' keep a strange, morose feeling to them, a bit like the environment you get from a Black Box Recorder song. If you can't understand Finnish, do find someone to translate some of the lyrics to you, because they're an integral part of the experience. On the wonderful 'Mustana, Maidolla, Kylmänä, Kuumana', the best song on the album, Terhi sings in her native Finnish you talk a lot / for such an early morning / I can listen carefully / but my memory is useless / I might call you tomorrow / ask if you'd like to meet up / do you want to kiss / my neck in the hallway / or then I'll make coffee like it's nothing / and forget / black, with milk, cold, hot / I drink it in whatever the way. If you only buy one pop album this year, make it this one.

Scandinavian Music Group - 'Mustana, Maidolla, Kylmänä, Kuumana'

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with the scandinavian music group! This album was such a nice surprise the day I purchased it. Beautiful arrangements!