|Musical Style: Melodic Metal||Produced By: Mikko Harkin|
|Record Label: Bullroser||Country Of Origin: Finland|
|Year Released: 2009||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 48:49|
What would be the best way to describe music for a cold and rainy day? My initial thoughts revolve around something down-tuned, low-key or even Gothic. Melancholic and disconsolate also come to mind- and not just musically but lyrically as well. The blues, of course, deserves an equal measure of consideration.
Finland’s Mehida, with its latest work The Eminent Storm from 2009, must also be mentioned. Why? Musically, the album finds the group staying true to the melodic metal roots of its 2007 debut Blood & Water but this time darker, moodier and more reserved. If I were to invite a comparison The Eminent Storm features the greater penchant towards the mid-paced while bringing fewer immediate catchy hooks and not quite the same accessibility.
But does this mean it is any less of a work of art? By all means no! If anything, The Eminent Storm proves the deeper and more introspective effort that, for a lack of better words, takes a bit of time in order to fully grow into. But any investment in the project will prove well worth the effort in that over the long term – the key words here – you will gain appreciation for its understated melody structures and low-key swarthiness.
On a side note: Normally it takes roughly 4 to 5 listens to a CD before I am able to begin work on a review. With The Eminent Storm, however, it took twice that.
Mid-tempo pieces “Abandoned”, “Where Could I Flee?” and “Dream Give” best reflect the albums moody sensibilities while ballads “Masquerade” and “Until The Day Breaks” slow things even further. “Urban Scream” and “Celestial Tears” sustain the mid-paced leanings but with elements of the blues and the progressive respectively. You will encounter the occasional up-tempo moment as well, as can be found in “Wrath Of Flesh Fellowship” and “Land Of Oblivions”.
The versatility of vocalist Thomas Vikstrom makes everything flow together. Versatile is the key word in that he can complement the dusky atmosphere with a baritone touch or through adding some low-key aggression to his delivery. Otherwise, he stays in his trademark smooth sounding range while occasionally cutting loose in high pitched fashion- and bringing to mind Michael Sweet (Stryper) in the process.
Founding member Mikko Harkin proves a masterful keyboardist, never overdoing it and adding just the right amount of texture and layering when needed.
The guitar team of Jani Stefanovic and Olli Tanttu puts in place a solid foundation of rhythm guitar but receive an incomplete grade in the soloing department. Similar to Blood & Water, Mehida does not exercise its instrumental sound as best it could. Yes, “Dream Giver” does feature a nice solo and “A Block Of Wood” a keyboard and lead guitar trade off, but overall the impression left is that an album as dark as The Eminent Storm would have benefited from some killer blues based lead guitar work, which is not delivered.
Production values are polished but a bit bass heavy (observation and not critique). Just adjust your stereo accordingly and you will be fine.
Lyrics reflect the mood of the album. Mikko Harkin sums things up best in the albums liner notes:
“I hope that these songs might bring peace and comfort to your life, no matter what circumstances you are facing right now, I have personally felt the love of and grace of God during the darkest moments of my life, and that’s also the main reason why I’m writing these songs today.”
The album gets underway to one of its more aggressive pieces, “Wrath Of Flesh Fellowship”. The song proves a high energy rocker, complemented by Vikstrom’s low-key approach and occasional classical keyboards that accent the raucous scene. Overall, the impression left is that the artist is venting frustration or anger on this one- and proves quite successful at that! Just check out the lyrics:
It’s so easy to hate you
It’s so easy to speak evil about you
It’s too easy to walk away from you
And leave you wounded behind
It’s so easy to be right
It’s so easy to be a hypocrite
It’s so easy to paint the outside white
And be filled with abomination
The ballad “Masquerade”, with its use of piano, keyboards and big backing vocals, almost reminds me of Bloodgood’s “She’s Gone” (off Rock In A Hard Place). Musically, it actually falls a bit flat in comparison to the albums better material. Perhaps it is due to the transition from the more extroverted “Wrath Of Flesh Fellowship” being so abrupt, but something is missing here.
“Until The Day Breaks” takes a similar heading but with added depth. Standing out with its rich and luxurious flavorings, the song features a wonderfully executed chorus (touched up by hints of female backing vocals) and lyrics reflecting the heart of the Psalmist:
May Your grace come to me Adonai
Uphold me as You promised and I will live
Protect me from going astray and I will sing
Until the day breaks and the shadows flee
You’re my refuge
Whom do I need to fear
You’re the stronghold of my life
Of whom should I be afraid
What particularly stands out is the baritone vocal delivery Vikstrom uses during a calmer passage just past the halfway point.
“Land Of Oblivion” ranks with the best of the year. What we have is another energetic piece, with a hard hitting tempo, relentless drumming and periodic choir-like vocals leading the way. The huge symphonic chorus aligns itself perfectly with the bombastic environs. “Land Of Oblivion” asks several relevant questions:
Will Your grace be declared in the grave?
Or Your faithfulness in abandon?
Will Your wonders be known in the dark?
Righteous deeds in the land of oblivion
The laid back “Dream Giver” features some tasteful time changes, ranging from staunch verse sections upheld by a crisp rhythm guitar and a lighter chorus in which an acoustic guitar makes its presence felt. Rounding things out is one of the albums better stretches of bluesy lead guitar.
“Draw Near To My Soul” opens its first seconds quietly before abruptly kicking into high gear. Settling down to a guitar driven edge as it moves forward, the song regains the momentum for a beautifully flowing chorus interwoven with distant hints of piano. Creative would be the best way to describe the passage in which female vocals join with a jazzy bass guitar.
“Abandoned” is the most emotional piece here. Lyrically, I might describe it as inspired in coming across in the form of a plea from God to a lost soul:
Oh, why do you reject me?
Why do you want me out of your life?
Please tell me why
Although you reject me
I will never stop loving you
I sacrificed myself for you
I’m still with you
Even though you’re stumbling
I have seen it all,
Your fears and your doubting
I will love you today
Otherwise, the music is mid-paced with quieter moments sustained by keyboards and others driven by onrushes of storm-like rhythm guitar.
“A Block Of Wood” represents Mehida at its best. Enriched by Vikstrom’s heartfelt vocal delivery, the song proves masterful with its ethereally tinged chorus and lead guitar and keyboard trade off guiding its instrumental interlude.
“Where Could I Flee?” almost brings a Gospel-like feel. Of course, it all starts with the female backing vocals found throughout the song but also encompass the comforting feel to the faith based lyrics:
If I rise on the wings of dawn and settle
Behind the sea
Even there Your hand will guide me
Your right hand will hold me fast
You hem me in – behind and before
You have laid Your hand upon me
Where can I go from Your spirit?
Where can I flee from Your presence?
Crunchy rhythm guitars in abundance can be found along with a stretch of gritty lead guitar.
“Urban Scream” takes a restrained hard rock approach. This one almost borders on the bluesy, taking a bottom heavy backdrop and aligning it with an immaculate melding of keyboards and guitars. The end result is the reinforcing of the albums solid production values.
An immaculate melody drives “Celestial Tears”, an atmospheric number highlighting a creative touch of the progressive. What I find notable about the song is its chorus – flowing, majestic and almost Kansas-like in capacity – and the alluring contrast presented in the guitars reinforcing its verse sections. “Celestial Tears” sums up the albums lyrical themes:
Your shed Your blood
For one and all
You crushed the snakes head
And made him grawl
Although the war still rages strong
People have a hope which to lean on
The Eminent Storm is such a dark album that it takes some time to fully grow into. As previously stated, it might not bring the immediate accessibility of Blood & Water – again, the melody structures here are on the understated side of things – but proves no less a work of art. The only complaint is the lack of emphasis the band places on its instrumental sound. Some bluesy lead guitar work would have added a nice complementary touch.
Track Listing: “Wrath Of Flesh Fellowship” (4:43), “Masquerade” (3:30), “Until The Day Breaks” (4:43), “Land Of Oblivion” (5:28), “Dream Giver” (4:47), “Draw Near To My Soul” (5:27), “Abandoned” (4:37), “A Block Of Wood” (3:43), “Where Could I Flee” (3:44), “Urban Scream” (3:51), “Celestial Tears” (4:22)
Thomas Vikstrom – Lead Vocals
Jani Stefanovic – Guitars
Olli Tanttu – Guitars
Mikko Harkin – Keyboards
Toni Maki-Leppilampi – Bass
Markus Niemispelto – Drums