Verikalpa – Tuoppitanssi Review

Score7.5/10
GenreFolk Metal
CountryFinland
Runtime46:16
Release Date21 February 2020
Record LabelScarlet

Serving up another piece of melodeathy folk metal are Finland’s booze-fueled Verikalpa in their sophomore album, Tuoppitanssi. While I couldn’t tell you what in the fuck they’re singing about (well, I could because I read the album’s info sheet, but I really can’t say for sure), I can tell you that you’re in for a lively album with an edge. With strong melodies, a heavy rhythm section, and ferociously rough vocals, this style is hardly new, but it’s really fun it’ll probably pull you back at least once.

I can’t pinpoint the thing keeping Verikalpa from sounding like yet another generic offshoot of Korpiklaani, like so many folk bands do, but they have enough charm and individuality to steer clear of sounding too derivative. Regardless, the prevalence of the accordion is always a welcome trait. Weirdly enough, a good portion of Tuoppitanssi could be described as “viscious polka”; it’s hard, it’s gritty, and the vocals could peel the bark off a tree, but the accordion’s bounciness changes the entire feel.

Alternatively, when Tuoppitanssi isn’t in ska mode, it offers a pleasing variety. In fact, my favourite track on the album is ‘Varjosahti’, which is one of the album’s slower tunes (and a tad extra piratey). ‘Verimaat’ is also a notable track, largely due to those stupid-fast kicks. Otherwise, most of the tracks are up-tempo (like the blitzy ‘Karhunkaataja’), and there’s a pretty even split of 4/4 and 6/8, as you would expect from this style of music. That being said, the album is far from repetitive.

Fans of anything from Ensiferum to Vanir to Blodiga Skald will thoroughly enjoy Tuoppitanssi. It bites hard throughout its entirety but is catchy enough that you’ll be able to remember the songs without much effort. If you like drunk and bouncy, Verikalpa are right up your alley.

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Amberian Dawn – Looking For You Review

Score9.5/10
GenreMelodic Metal (80s Synthpop)
CountryFinland
Runtime42:38
Release Date31 January 2020
Record LabelNapalm

If kicking off the year with a super cheesy 80s metal album becomes a regular occurrence in my life, I would have nothing left to ask for. Last year, February serenaded us with the ferocious Beast in Black’s From Hell with Love, which blasted its way into my Number One Metal Record spot. And now, former symphonic metal troupe Amberian Dawn have also made the shift into 80s synthpop revival with their ninth record, Looking for You. While most of the songs follow a steady bass-snare beat, the album is gloriously addictive.

Drenched in synth and vocal layers, there’s never a dull moment. The band has coined the term ABBA-metal to describe their music, and that couldn’t be more accurate. Every track rings with glowing positivity and spits out some of the catchiest melodies I’ve ever heard. The “metal” aspects of the album are definitely secondary to the synthpop but, hey, it’s fun and it’s still metal enough for me.

One of the album’s high points can be found in the song ‘Symphony Nr. 1 Part 3 – Awakening’ (rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?), which is the third part to the Symphony that began in 2015’s album Innuendo. The track features some mad double kicks that are perfectly executed, as well as the vocal talents of the mighty Fabio Lione (ex-Rhapsody, Angra, Turilli/Lione Rhapsody) alongside Amberian Dawn’s Capri. Additionally, there’s a sick solo tucked away in ‘Eternal Fire Burning’ and some beefy basslines in ‘Butterfly’, as well as some great cymbal work scattered throughout.

Amberian Dawn have always been an adaptive outfit. Since their shifts from power metal then symphonic metal, they’ve always been able to create a commercially-available sound while remaining musically interesting. If you’re looking for huge riffs and aggression, you’re in the wrong place. But, if you want some fun shit to nod your head to, spin at the gym, or crank at a party, look no further than Looking for You.

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Melodic Metal: Amberian Dawn Drop Titular Track

With Looking For You only two weeks away, Finnish ABBA metal (formerly symphonic metal) troupe Amberian Dawn have released another synth-heavy single. The titular track follows suit with the previous singles to be released for the album: heavy bass and snare, glowing keys, and shameless 80s cheese.

Guitarist/Keyboardist/Founder Tuomas on the new album:
”This is the Crown Jewel of the album. This song is exactly what so-called ABBA-Metal is all about. Haunting and dramatic keyboards, strong melodies and tons of vocal tracks. I worked closely with Finnish synthesizer artist Kebu to achieve this wonderful vintage keyboard sound. I let myself go into world of 80’s synthesizer music and then my band mates helped me to arrange the song into an Amberian Dawn song. “ 

Look for Looking for You on 31 January!

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Celesti Alliance – Hybrid Generation Review

Score8/10
GenreMelodic Heavy Metal
CountryFinland
Runtime43:46
Release Date29 November 2019
Record LabelIndependent

Finland’s latest melodic heavy metal addition comes from the brand new Celesti Alliance. After two EPs, these cultivators of classic steel are finally ready to smash onto the scene with their full-length debut. Pulling from a range of influences from late-80s heavy/power metal (Accept, Judas Priest) and modern heavy metal, Hybrid Generation is a super catchy album that’s generous with the riffs and heavy on the solos.

I think the most accurate way to describe Celesti Alliance’s sound is as a slightly more exciting version of HammerFall. The vocals of Valtteri Heiskanen are pretty similar to Joacim Cans in terms of sound and style, and the songs are built in much the same way (especially ‘Louder Power’). Where things get a bit more colourful, though, is in the prevalent use of keyboards and vocal layers, as well as a dynamism that HammerFall always comes close to achieving but rarely does. As a result, Celesti Alliance end up with an album full of solid bangers while still delivering enough variability to stay exciting.

The only thing holding Hybrid Generation back is the fact that it more-or-less lacks any wowness. There’s some great soloing, with ‘Incomplete’ having my favourite, as well as some memorable riffs, but the album coasts along with the same level of power and proficiency the entire way through. It doesn’t make the album bad, especially when you combine the straight riffage with super beefy mixing, but it does keep the band from reaching their full potential.

But, if you dig the whole neo-80s style, you’ll dig Celesti Alliance. Hybrid Generation lays down enough steady drivers to please more oldschool fans and it explores enough highs and lows to round itself out. You won’t want to miss this killer offering of heavy metal worship.

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Sonus Corona – Time Is Not On Your Side Review

Score7/10
GenreProgressive Metal
CountryFinland
Runtime57:25
Release Date22 November 2019
Record LabelInverse

Along with a healthy dose of jazz influences, Finnish proggers Sonus Corona have resurfaced in their sophomore album, Time Is Not on Your Side. Stylistically, the album’s instrumentals often tread closely to Dream Theater, but the overall sound is more indie prog due to the prevalence of piano and the floating vocal style.

Unfortunately, these vocals are the low point of the album. They’re not poorly done, but they’re generally too soft. On top of that, the melancholic melodies (which are sometimes reminiscent of Muse’s melodies, although out-of-place) are so weak compared to the excitement of the surrounding instrumentation that I spent a most of the album waiting for them to be over so I could focus more on the heavy grooves and jazz breaks.

However, every time these grooves take the stage, everything is right with the world. They’re expressive, technical, and heavy, and, when combined with the piano, they produce a truly unique sound. There’s also a wide array of songs with different musical elements, such as club jazz, swing, pop, and metal, so there’s plenty to keep you engaged.

All in all, Time Is Not on Your Side is worth checking out at least once. While the vocals would be a much better fit in, maybe, an underground alternative rock band than a prog band, they’re still commendable and they’re certainly not enough to render the album unlistenable.

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The Dark Element – Songs The Night Sings Review

Score9/10
GenreSymphonic Melodic Metal
CountryFinland
Runtime55:55
Release Date8 November 2019
Record LabelFrontiers

The Dark Element was formed in 2016 by former Nightwish vocalist Anette Olzon and former Sonata Arctica guitarist Jani Liimatainen. Their self-titled debut combined elements of symphonic metal and pop to deliver a strong, synth-heavy melodic metal album. While that debut was pretty good, their sophomore effort, Songs the Night Sings blows it out of the fucking water. The sound is fuller, the arrangements are more diverse, and everything else has gotten a serious upgrade.

All of the aspects of The Dark Element that were good still remain. Anette’s vocals (while a bit more chesty and less sharp this time around) are as good as ever and belt out some excellent melodies. On top of that, the electronic and synth elements are lively, and a powerful energy is carried through the whole album. However, the synth stuff is now supported by orchestrations and the guitarwork is way more intricate. Combine this with a beefier production and you quickly see why this could be the best melodic metal album of the year.

Another area in which Songs the Night Sings excels in is variety. There’s not a whole lot you won’t find in this album; there are lighter songs in ‘I Have to Go’ and ‘To Whatever End’, intense, riff-heavy tracks like ‘The Pallbearer Walks Alone’ and ‘Not Your Monster’, and everything in between. The album also flows really smoothly, with well-constructed ups-and-downs, allowing for the emotionality to run organically.

Aside from all this, the biggest improvement is in the little things. While I really enjoyed The Dark Element, my primary complaint was the lack of detail. Fortunately, this is the farthest thing from being an issue here because it’s full to the brim with expertly-placed touches. Some of my favourites include the synthwork in ‘The Pallbearer Walks Alone’, the 7/4 section in ‘Pills on my Pillow’, the killer guitar solos, and the funky instrumental in ‘Get Out of My Head’, but that’s just scratching the surface of what this album has to offer.

If you’re looking for an electronic/metal crossover that works, look no further than Songs the Night Sings. It brings all the weight and emotion of metal and tops it off with a shiny, melodic finish without losing any musical integrity.

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Heavy Metal: HammerFall Announce 2020 North American Tour

With a few dates left in their current North American tour as special guests for Sabaton, heavy metal legends HammerFall have announced a headline tour for North America. The tour will be in September and October, with support coming from Finland’s Beast in Black and California’s Edge of Paradise.

Vocalist Joacim Cans on the tour:
“After the amazing times and reception we have gotten and are still experiencing on tour with Sabaton, we can’t wait to return to North America in 2020. For the past three years we have toured the continent frequently and every time, you showed us that heavy metal is still alive and kicking. So, polish your studs and get ready for the hammer to fall harder than it ever did before.”

Guitarist Oscar Dronjak adds:
“The last three tours have proven to us that North America is ready and willing to once again wield the hammers of Heavy Metal, and it is with great pleasure we announce that we will return to the continent for the fourth time in as many years.”

This will also be Beast in Black’s first tour across North America. Tickets go on sale tomorrow, 26 October!

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Progressive Metal: Sonus Corona To Release Album In November

Finland’s new prog outfit Sonus Corona have announced the release date for their sophomore album, Time is Not on Your Side. It will drop on 22 November under Inverse Records and will be the band’s first release with a record label.

Along with the album announcement, Sonus Corona have also revealed the first single, which is for the titular track.

Here’s what vocalist Timo Mustonen has to say about the single:
“Time Is Not On Your Side” is the most definitive song on the new album as a whole, so we figured it makes a great single and a name for the whole album, too. The keyboards, the melody, and rhythmic elements all compliment each other. Harri‘s solo on this moves me every time. It’s also a great song to perform live, we all love it. I rewrote the lyrics in the middle of the night after we had rehearsed the song together. Ari had laid the foundation and melody-rhythm of the words while composing the song, and I turned them around to complement the storyline of the whole album.

The song is about not leaving decisive action on the matter at hand too late. Other people or circumstances might change the game, so one might not have any options left. The protagonist is fighting his own demons, while he knows he should take action instead of focusing inwards. Still, he questions his own motives all the time. His friend comes along to stir things up, and tries to help him see all the options available and give a nudge in the direction the friend thinks is the one for him.”

The band combines intense musical atmospheres accompanied with heavy riffs and strong melodies and relies on strong songwriting. They say they have been heavily influenced by Haken, Toto, Tool, Dream Theater and Leprous.

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Excalion – Emotions Review

Score9/10
GenrePower Metal
CountryFinland
Runtime52:33
Release Date27 September 2019
Record LabelScarlet

Melodic, expressive, keyboard-driven. It doesn’t take many more words that that to get me excited about an album. These characteristics are hardly unique when it comes to power metal, and more often than not I’m left disappointed upon actually hearing an album described by them, but, what can I say? I’m a hopeful guy. So, you can imagine my relief when Excalion laid this piece of work before me. Emotions is the fifth album of the Finnish outfit, and it checks all those boxes with massive checkmarks.

The keys? As rich and plentiful as Sonata Arctica. The melodies? They’d make any pop star jealous. And the emotion? As dynamic as your girlfriend’s when it’s her time of the month (although, far more pleasant).

Not just anybody can make an album as passionate as Emotions. Its success rides on the backs of some incredible musicians, not the least of which is vocalist Marcus Lang, who masters the raging highs and tranquil lows that the album belts out. Below him (and the many vocal layers that accompany him), the tight rhythm section lays down some great grooves, and the rhythm guitars craft some killer lines, especially in ‘The Goldern Horde’. Between the fast shredding of the album’s darker moments and the energetic riffage that drives the rest of the album, it adds an entirely new dimension to the already-deep music.

Strangely enough, Emotions has no titular track. I really like when artists do this, though, because it gives the album more musical context, rather than coming off as just some name that the band had to come up with for their album. And, in Excalion’s case, this is the perfect name. Most of the song titles will give you an idea as to how they sound and there’s a good mix of moods and atmospheres.

I don’t have any favourite tracks on this record because every one is awesome in its own way. However, for me, the choruses are the highlight of the album. Not only are the melodies catchy and strong, but the keyboards, guitars, bass, and drums bring it all together nicely. Emotions is very much a team effort, and Excalion’s strength is exactly that.

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Sonata Arctica – Talviyo Review

Score3/10
GenreProgressive Metal
CountryFinland
Runtime56:09
Release Date6 September 2019
Record LabelNuclear Blast

This was a tough one. Seriously. Aside from the fact that I just really dislike this album, it took me half a fucking hour to even come up with something to put in the “Genre” tab up top (and I’d sooner snap my laptop in half before I call Talviyo power metal). Honestly, it’s not even really a metal album. While it’s true that metal music is expansive and encompasses many different sounds, I can barely justify calling this metal. At this point, we should expect some genre-bending from Sonata Arctica, but this is a real stretch.

So, as a result of all that, I tried really hard to not judge Talviyo as a metal album, but as a contemporary work on its own. I just really want to emphasize that I don’t dislike this album due to its unmetalness. I dislike it because it’s boring, lacks any substance, and plays like a late assignment that was finished the night before a deadline.

The album begins at its highest point (but even then its not that high at all) and steadily gets worse as it continues; whether that’s because of my steady exhaustion or the quality of music is up for debate. Talviyo begins with ‘Message from the Sun’, which is a light, fluffy, straightforward song that carries more power metal air than any other song on the record. It’s not a terrible track, but between questionable vocals, sub-par production, and wonky songwriting, it’s satisfactory at best. After this, though, each song just kind of fades into the next, offering very few moments worth talking about. ‘Demon’s Cage’ and ‘Ismo’s Got Good Reactors’ show some moments of redemption, but they fade back into oblivion before any good idea can be fully materialized.

There are a few reasons for these shortcomings. The most prominent would be the hugely-inconsistent vocal delivery, which can be good one moment and ass-backwards the next. And then we get to the guitar tones, which are also rather inconsistent (and sometimes tinny), which is likely a symptom of the piss-poor production quality. However, the biggest contributor to Talviyo‘s downfall is the songwriting itself. It tries to be a bit experimental, and I can respect that, but it comes off only as amateurish and poorly-constructed.

Despite being such a trainwreck, I did manage to find some positives within Talviyo‘s frozen, lifeless form. To start, there’s a noticeable and consistent wintry atmosphere over the music, so bonus points there for an actual coherent musical idea. The bass playing is also great, especially in ‘Whirlwind’, and there are, as I said before, a few cool gems, if you’re patient enough to wait for their arrival.

If you like light, reflective, more acoustic music to throw on in the background, you might get something from Talviyo. But, for those of you who prefer a little bit more effort in your music, you’re not missing much. It’s truly a shame that Sonata Arctica have fallen down to such a level as this. After the overwhelmingly-negative reception of The Ninth Hour, they had two choices: shift back to something they know they could do well, or try the same thing again. Well, there’s no need to say which they chose, because this disaster speaks for itself.

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