Poets Of The Fall - Ultraviolet

Genre: Rock/Metal

Right. So, what Poets of the Fall have done here is a bastardization of their own sound; so as not to save it for the final twist of the review - the final part of selling out. What once was passionate, heavy, laden with distress and born of true love in equal measure is turned into a simplistic drivel, aimed for radio play and little else. Once upon a time there was a band that was so overly passionate and melodramatic timing, and while the melodics and rhythmic sense is still in core what Poets always were, the over simplification (so as not to call it dumbing down) leaves it nothing more than a husk of the passion that colored everything from their debut, Signs of Life (2005), until Twilight Theater (2010) and was still heavily present on Temple of Thought (2012), and felt on Jealous Gods (2014). Then came Clearview (2016), showing the devolution in their evolution, even with its one or two decent tracks and a single good one (Children of the Sun). So, even though the hope was still there, their eighth full length Ultraviolet didn’t really have good odds to begin with.

Poets Of The Fall - Ultraviolet

It starts of melodic and catchy enough with Dancing on Broken Glass, an ovious single hit that manages all fine and well to get its work done. Marko Saaresto is one of modern rocks finest vocalists, and while that never really comes to light on Ultraviolet, he has his high points here, one of them being Dancing on Broken Glass. It’s catchy and melodic, but no part of it feels innovative and it’s over before it ever starts. Thing is, a lot of the stuff on here is not even rock music at all, let alone the alternative rock borderline metal Poets did so incredibly well back in the day. It’s a techno kind of rock that showcases Saaresto and saccharine melodics and radio rhythms over any musical direction. While starting off on a fairly strong note, the album also closes pretty strong with Choir of Cicadas. While a ballad, it at least consists of actual music and not technological drivel. The drumming from Jari Salminen is base but heavy, while the underlying keyboards deliver a bigger scope to the music.

One thing Poets always did incredibly well was buildup; songs like The Poet and the Muse, Show Me this Life and Hounds to Hamartia from ages past are examples of this. Built from slow beginnings and turned into guitar forward extravaganzas culminating in controllably frenzied solos from Olli Tukiainen were the highlights of their respective albums, not only musically excellent but emotionally grappling. You can tell Moment Before the Storm is the try here to do something similar, but it’s utterly forgettable and there is little in the way of actual guitar work to  stand out. That also goes for the entire album; it’s driven by pop rhythms and artificial instrumentals, short segments without standout points. Tukiainen has no solos to speak of, and even Saaresto isn’t as good as he has been and should be. You thought Clearview was lacking, Ultraviolet is the nail in the coffin. A track or two is enjoyable, but never close to the intensity; the passion and the love, broken pieces and turned cheeks that Poets once brought. There is very little left.

 

Standout tracks: Dancing on Broken Glass, My Dark Disquiet

 

    

 

Musikvideo: Poets Of The Fall - Dancing On Broken Glass

Ghost - Prequelle

Genre: Rock/Metal

Ghost is that dividing line within today’s metal scene; you either love them or hate them, there is no middle ground. And somehow that middle ground is deceptively easy to fall into. I’ve given more than enough time to fall in all kinds of metal love with the once mysterious turned pop metal sound, but still find them good at best, with a few stellar tracks in their now four numbered string of full length albums. Prequelle is the fourth album and the funny titled sequel to 2015’s highlight in Ghost discography, Meliora, that once and for all saw the cult break into the mainstream. And they’ve certainly come some way since their beginnings with the ominous mysticism that surrounded their first two albums. Rats, the lead single and opening track, excluding intro Ashes that does invoke a mysticism that remains elusive through the rest of the album, harkens back to the old days of Opus Eponymous while also feeling new and different. Unfortunately it is wholly forgettable, with the minor exception of the twist that starts the chorus; rats.

Ghost - Prequelle

Prequelle isn’t that awesome, to put it bluntly. The cult surrounding Ghost will weed out the fanboys from the metal fans. You will either hate it or love it, usually predetermined before you’ve even heard the album. It has plenty of pitfalls, the simplification of the metal sound to appeal to a broader audience being an obvious one, emptying the album of depth. Several songs dance close to balladry, nervous around appearing too close to the band’s biggest hit to date, He Is, while also wanting to capitalize on its success. In other words, Ghost are looking for their next big radio hit. Perhaps Dance Macabre is that hit, sounding in some ways like a Ghost version of Living After Midnight (which I love, damn your blood), with the radio friendly rhythm pumping and guitar absence that envelops it, with Cardinal Copia’s vocals at a melodic high for the album. It’s silly as all heck, but it’s too catchy not to fall in an emoji kind of hearts for eyes love with.

Curiously, the finest selection among these ten is an instrumental affair, of which the album offers two; Miasma and Helvetesfönster (Swedish for ‘hell window’, or ‘window to hell’). Now while the latter remains fairly forgettable near the ass end of the 41 minute runtime, the former brings serious business at the middle of the album, drawing heavy rhythm play and guitar antics that sound just like Ghost always need to sound, and invokes a larger image without a single word sung. The saxophone added towards the zenith is pleasurable and just that quirky kind of awesome that has you nodding your head while being perfectly appropriate for the song. It’s right then, at the middle of the album when you’re yanked off your feet that you think maybe shit’s about to stir, but unfortunately it only lasts through Dance Macabre for cooling down once more.

Prequelle is a catchy piece of idolry, I’ll give it as much, because the Ghoul Writer clearly knows a heckin’ lotta more about pop songwriting than I do. But it’s catchy in comparison to Meliora like the way British Steel was to Stained Class; the entire sound, the emotive pull, everything simplified and made more accessible with any semblance of depth removed, except for a few rare cases. That said, British Steel remains a timeless classic being as how it brought Judas Priest into the NWOBHM, making heavy metal a more accessible part of pop culture way back in 1980. Prequelle does something similar, but in many ways it feels artificial and hollowed out. Perhaps it’s even Ghost’s weakest effort to date, but it’s still a good album - obviously not up to Meliora’s standard (which I called Ghost’s ‘The Number of the Beast’, back then), but still an entertaining listen, if nothing else. Perhaps in a few years we’ll get Meliora’s actual sequelle?

 

Standout tracks: Miasma, Dance Macabre

 

    

 

Musikvideo: Ghost - Rats

Poem - Unique

Genre: Progressive Metal, Rock/Metal

Greek prog outfit Poem has definitely adopted some sort of stealth technique when it comes to new releases. Just like their second full length Skein Syndrome (2016) their fresh third effort Unique somehow manages to simply… having been released, without you knowing you were waiting for it. It’s only upon giving the progressive darkness a whirl that you realize there was a need, a want, to hear it. Poem makes Unique a varied album, and deliver unto us a set of rhythmically heavy passages bringing the groove and the thunder, which break beautifully against the softer waves. This gives an enchanting blend of despair and pain, hope and transgression, in constant rhythmic fluidity, captured with a heartful of darkness and a gloomy sense of emptiness, even in the airier parts. Obviously so, given song titles like My Own Disorder and The Brightness Of Loss - about as far from rainbows and puppies as musical themes get. This isn’t to their detriment, as Poem channels these emotions naturally.

Poem - Unique

Vocalist and rhythm guitarist Giorgios Prokopiou brings passion in no small numbers, much like he did on the predecessor. The man is blessed with one of the most expressive voices in metal these days, bringing emotion somewhat like that of Mark Kennedy of Damnations Day (with whom Poem are touring, as of writing). Grungy motions are tossed into the mix in massive single My Own Disorder, while tracks like Euthanasia and the title track delve into prog rock, straying from the otherwise massive metal formula. The latter is a fine grower, that starts slow and calm and with a powerful delivery by vocalist Propkopiou, that then evolves into a slowly heavy rhythmic beast, that then again turns into the slow cooking breather, no less dense in atmosphere. It has been argued that the song is too long, and that some of the “saucier” parts could be removed. You could, sure, but not without losing the integrity of the song. In fact, it could serve to have the weightier parts elongated. A great track to be sure, though the album has several better.

From the very beginning, the album is set in motion showcasing Poem’s immense talent and prominence in penning weighty prog metal of great substance. False Morality, the shortest track, opens with airy groove and delightful vocal melodies. It’s followed by the aforementioned My Own Disorder, one of the most emotionally driven and heaviest songs in Poem’s discography thus far. Third is Four Cornered God, nearly eight minutes in length, which blends the softer edges from the albums latter half with the groove and heavy senses of the first two tracks. Though one might call Discipline and closing track Brightness Of Loss slight dips in comparison with the other material, there is still ample good parts to be found all over the album. Lead guitarist Laurence Bergström amasses heavily with distinct leads alongside the naturally heavy and easily flowing rhythms of Prokopious’ rhythm guitars, as well as Takis Foitos and Stavros Rigos on bass and drums respectively. All in all, Unique is a great step forward from the first two albums, which in hindsight have a sense of anonymitiy to them; it feels more cohesive - bigger, better and in every aspect more remarkable.

 

Standout tracks: My Own Disorder, Four Cornered God, Euthanasia

 

    

 

Musikvideo: Poem - False Morality