|Musical Style: Symphonic Metal||Produced By: A. Niskala|
|Record Label: Bullroser||Country Of Origin: Finland|
|Year Released: 2008||Artist Website: HB|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 48:57|
HB, standing for Holy Bible, came out of Finland in 2004 with its full length debut Uskon Puolesta before following up two years later with a sophomore outing entitled Enne. The group proceeded to put out a live DVD in 2007, Can You Road?, only to return to the studio and record Frozen Inside, its spring of 2008 debut release on Bullroser Records.
What we have in HB is female fronted symphonic metal inviting comparison to Nightwish – old and new – and Within Temptation (although Voice Of Glass and perhaps Lacuna Coil deserve mention as well). Frozen Inside finds the group mixing a foundation of metal-laced rhythm guitar with highlighting touches of operatic vocal harmonies, grandiose keyboards and classical instrumentation. The end result is a very fine effort in which the melodic based songwriting of HB shines. The worshipful “God Has The Glory”, guitar driven “It Is Time” (one of the albums heavier pieces), enchanting “Be Aware” – huge chorus hook on this one – and the albums stately title track exhibit this best. The classically flavored ballad “Holy Secret” and laid back “Years Go By” (in which a nice use of piano is made) deliver notable melodies as does the lush sounds of “Lovesong’. “Ambition”, in contrast a faster and more up-tempo composition, proves every bit as laudable.
Lead vocalist Johanna Aaltonen is a terrific talent with a full and abundant vocal style. While she brings her own unique flavorings to the female fronted metal scene, I find her to compare more favorably to Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation) and new Nightwish vocalist Anette Olzon as opposed to the operatic soprano delivery of Tarja Turunen (ex-Nightwish). When she cuts loose and displays the full range to her voice, such as on the choruses to “Be Aware” and “Ambition”, it is literally as good as it gets.
Guitarist Janne Karhunen performs adeptly as well. He, of course, provides for a more than adequate amount of rhythm guitar- and gives the band its defined metal edge in the process. On lead guitar, he offers some neo-classical touches on “It Is Time” while “Years Go By” and “Lovesong” reflect a more blues based side to his playing. If anything, I wish Janna had chosen to cut loose a bit more throughout the project.
It also must be noted how HB interweaves classical instrumentation with a metal based backdrop. “Holy Secret”, for instance, makes use of a viola while string arrangements can be found on “Be Aware”, “Frozen Inside” and “Lovesong”. All done tastefully and not in a manner that comes across overriding; in other words the use of classical instrumentation serves to enhance without detracting from the symphonic metal based environs here.
Production values, cleanly done and crystal clear, are of a high professional quality.
The album opens to “Intro (Holy One)”, a shorter piece (:47) in which Johanna sings acapella.
The cinematic keyboards at the start of “God Has All The Glory” give way to a forceful joining of rhythm guitar and drums. The song tapers to a sublime mid-tempo pace for its first verse, impetus not building until a majestic chorus shored up by operatic vocal harmonies is achieved. “God Has All The Glory” comes across worshipful in feel:
God has all the glory, power and honor!
He came to save us, He gave His life for us!
God has all Glory, power and honor!
He concurred death and brought us salvation
The metal laced rhythm guitar introducing “It Is Time’ is underlined by symphonic touches of keyboards. Moving through its first verse with the rhythm guitar crunching in and out of the mix, the song gains momentum prior to a sweeping chorus in which the band making a statement of faith:
It is time to renew this covenant
Leave the past: take a step in faith again!
Take His hand. He will guide your way to His glory
He takes care of everything
It is time to renew this covenant
Leave the past: let God be God again
Take His hand. He will guide your way to His glory
Jesus cares for everyone
A run of classically flavored lead guitar sustains a brief but well timed instrumental section.
“Be Aware” begins to a beautiful melding of piano and classical instrumentation. The tranquil setting is sustained as the song evenly flows ahead, the rhythm guitar not cutting in until just prior to a lushly delivered chorus in which a harsh sounding steps forward at the end. An adeptly played guitar solo brings out the best in a song focusing on the second coming:
Our Heavenly Father alone knows for sure
When it’s time for the Lord’s second coming
Then one will be taken. But they will remain
Who refused to obey what He’s saying
A viola interwoven with a piano gets the ballad “Holy Secret” underway. Slowly but calmly drifting ahead, the song does not culminate until the rhythm guitar flows into the mix to underscore a catchy chorus that borders on the commercial in its capacity. Janne displays his abilities with an emotionally played guitar solo. In the end, “Holy Secret” finds HB making another statement of faith:
You’re my Holy Lord
Who has seen by tears and confessions
There’s no doubt
Now I’m here to say, “Thank you, Jesus. You’re my salvation. You’re my God.”
The albums title track opens in a sedate manner, an acoustic guitar – backed by a distant piano – upholding its first two verses before a weighty rhythm guitar cuts in and plays a leading role throughout the melodic based chorus that follows. The song maintains the guitar driven heading its remaining distance, occasionally bolstered by keyboards or additional touches of piano and acoustic guitar. “Frozen Inside” is written from the standpoint of a soul crying out for God:
Where is Your presence, oh Jesus?
You said You’ll give me abundant life
Has my trust been in vain?
I can’t fight off the pain
Is my trust in a living or dead God?
When you spend time all alone
You will come to see the depths of Your faith
In the almighty God
Commencing to a graceful stretch of piano, “Years Go By” picks up in pace as the rhythm guitar makes its presence felt. The song proceeds to smoothly move ahead, briefly gaining impetus in spirited fashion only to gently taper for a worship filled chorus in which a symphonic based environment is put into place. A slowly played guitar solo helps carry the extent of a grand instrumental section.
“Ambition” immediately kicks in at an upbeat tempo, energetically rushing forward only to gain further initiative for an animated chorus talking about giving the glory to God:
Why do we take all Your Glory
We know it belongs to you, Oh Father
And to Your Son, the Righteous One
He reigns with His love, Reigns with His love
The instrumental section that ensues features one of the albums more fiery runs of lead guitar.
The ballad “Way” can best be described as a sermon put to music. The song slowly maneuvers its first two minutes to keyboards as Johanna delivers a salvation message:
He doesn’t want to judge you
To fill you with shame
He stepped into this world to forgive
And came to say “I love you.”
His love can carry all your burdens
And set you free
Open your heart, He’s right there with you
Loves you as you are
Narration ensues that further reinforces the salvation theme (including scripture quotes and prayer as well). Johanna returns to take “Way” through its final minute.
“Lovesong” (yes, one word and not two) establishes a worshipful scene throughout its introduction as keyboards and classical instrumentation lead the way. Initiative picks up as the rhythm guitar gains a foothold, the song abruptly building further in force for a powerful chorus richly interwoven with vocal harmonies. Some of the albums post poignantly played lead guitar (almost bluesy in feel) stands in support of the exalted milieu. “Lovesong” points to the person of Christ:
You are love, from You comes all
Even death could not hold You (You live)
Now I know, I so love You
Jesus You are my Saviour, You reign!
My best advice to HB would be to continue to build upon the strengths that make Frozen Inside such a good album: melodic based songwriting, solid production values and abundant female vocals- all the while backed by operatic vocal harmonies and classical instrumentation. I would have liked to hear a couple more songs (out of the ten compositions here, one is a short acapella opening and the other a ballad carried much of its distance by narration) and a bit more lead guitar as well. Still, if you are a fan of symphonic metal (or any of the good melodic metal bands – Mehida, Wingdom, Sacrecy, Random Eyes and Essence Of Sorrow - to come out of Northern Europe in recent years) then you can do no wrong with Frozen Inside.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Intro (Holy One)” (:45), “God Has All The Glory” (5:59), “It Is Time” (3:49), “Be Aware” (5:42), “Holy Secret” (5:48), “Frozen Inside” (6:05), “Years Go By” (5:47), “Ambition” (3:52), “Way” (5:48), Lovesong” (6:01)
Johanna Aaltonen – Lead Vocals
Janne Karhunen - Guitars
Antti Niskala - Keyboards
Tuomas Mäki-Kerttula - Bass
Markus Malin – Drums
Also Reviewed: HB - Piikki Lihassa