|Musical Style: Power Metal||Produced By: Arttu Sarvanne & Oratorio|
|Record Label: Rivel||Country Of Origin: Finland|
|Year Released: 2003||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 46:03|
Finland has become quite the source of quality Christian metal bands in recent years with Venia, Wingdom, Essence Of Sorrow and Random Eyes standing out as many of the more noteworthy. One band deserving mention with the countries best, nonetheless, is the double bass driven power metal of Oratorio (meaning epic musical piece in Finnish). Established in 1998 by founding member’s guitarist Jarmo Happonen, vocalist Joel Hekkala, drummer Janne Hietakangas and bassist Lauri Joutsiniemi, Oratorio recorded its first demo (Vahan) during the spring of 1999 along with finalizing its line up with the addition of guitarist Thomas Mata Eriksson. After putting together its second demo (Huuto), the band placed the track “Shine The Light” on the Metal Rose Collection compilation before independently releasing its full length debut The Reality Of Existence in 2003. (The album was later picked up for distribution by Rivel Records).
Hekkala brings a versatile mid-octave ranged vocal style to the project (kind of like former Antithesis vocalist Ty Cook). While staying mostly in smooth sounding territory, he can add an aggressive touch to his delivery as well. The up-tempo “Chain Of Pain” and catchy “Lonely Prayer”, for instance, find him highlighting the scene with an occasional death metal-like growl. The guitar team of Eriksson and Happonen combine for a more than ample amount of upfront rhythm guitar. The lead work of Eriksson, on the other hand, is a bit hit and miss in that on several tracks – “Lonely Prayer” and “Glory And Power” come to mind – his playing can come across on the restrained side of things. However, when he chooses to cut loose on “Ages Before” (a hook filled monster) and the thrashy “No Return From Hell”, he proves a very find musician.
The production values to The Reality Of Existence, while not exactly of the big budget variety, more than hold their own in bringing out the best in the bands sound.
It is worth pointing out the low budget album cover is not the most flattering (not to mention being incredibly difficult to scan!).
Hietakangas underscores album opener “Chain Of Pain” from front to back with his non-stop work on double bass. Kicking in to an aggressively delivered guitar riff, “Chain Of Pain” maintains the all out raw energy on its way to a stalwart chorus of the pull you in variety. “Chain Of Pain” talks about the pain of a broken relationship:
Can you feel my pain now
Thousand words can't describe it
Wish I've never met you at all
However, the song goes on to describe the need for forgiveness and the healing God can bring in our lives:
Listen my child
Loose the hate and let me heal you
Say the prayer now, I'll lead the way
Now I forgive you
I hope you will too
Just let the will of God be done
Commencing to a brief drum solo, “A Lonely Prayer” moves through its first verse at a driving mid-tempo pace until culminating for a sweeping chorus conveyed in anthem-like fashion. This one brings a solid hook along with a versatile vocal showing from Hekkala. The only complaint worth mentioning is that the instrumental portion of the song could have been expanded upon.
"Ages Before" immediately launches into a rollicking blend of rhythm guitar and drums, the two carrying the song with excess determination to an infectious chorus reinforced by deep sounding vocal harmonies. If you listen to this one several times you will be challenged to keep it out of your head. Eriksson adds a stretch of the albums best lead work to a song pointing the way to salvation:
It's not the time to fall asleep
I pray everyday, let the world know
Your name is the only way to be saved!
Who are you now?
Despair in your soul
Who is our God?
The fountain of life..yeah!
“Believer’s Destiny” opens quietly before abruptly taking off at an upbeat tempo as the rhythm guitar kicks in. Tapering off to an acoustic guitar at the start of its first verse, the song slowly advances until the rhythm guitar returns to lead the way to a smooth sounding chorus with an overriding melodic feel. A combination of rhythm and lead guitar drives a minute long instrumental section. “Believer’s Destiny” talks about God’s faithfulness in times of trial:
So lightly wind blows the leaves
Why my being here is not the same way?
Living now with all this pain but God's with me all the way
Through fire, believer's destiny
“Glory And Power” is a good, straightforward hard rocker. Progressing through its verse portions at a driving mid-tempo pace, “Glory And Power” gains impetus as it reaches a quickly moving chorus that almost come across worshipful in feel:
God of glory come to me, fill my heart with joy
Give You my heart, my soul, my mind
You are the power come to me
You fill my heart with joy
Please embrace me with your love
I wish the band had expanded upon an instrumental passage carried by a few seconds of restrained sounding guitar.
“Touch Of Your Love” is the only composition here I struggle to get into. Perhaps it is the lackluster feel to the songs delivery or a chorus coming across on the flat side of things, but more often than not I end up hitting the skip button. The songs lyrics, on the other hand, talking about the need for a relationship with God, are quite good:
Touch of Your love
Changes my heart and soul
With tears in my eyes
I kneel before Your throne of grace
In Your eyes I see
Your burning love for me
Lord I know there is no place
Too deep for You
“No Return From Hell”, with its all out thrash feel, is by far the albums heaviest piece. Introduced to a few seconds of acoustic guitar, a sledgehammer-like riff kicks in and forcefully urges the song ahead until it transitions to a hard hitting chorus in which Hekkela’s voice bounces between the left and right channel. Eriksson adds a nice stretch of fierily played lead work.
The up-tempo energy initiating “Wounded Moon” gives way to a slower but heavier rhythm guitar sound at the start of its first verse. Gradually forced ahead with an excess of fixed momentum, the song peaks for an extensive chorus in which a uniform setting is put into place. This is one of the albums slower tracks but it certainly is not lacking for a notable melody. I like how “Wounded Moon” points to the person of Christ:
King of kings and Lord of lords you are
You have the power and the strength
My sweet Jesus, I put my trust in You and never let You go
My hiding place - eternal grace
The ballad "Taivaallinen Jerusalem", the albums only song with lead vocals in Finnish (an English translation is not provided) starts to clashing symbols followed by a combination of rhythm guitar and keyboards. After the rhythm guitar drops from the mix as the song reaches its first verse, it return to reinforce a chorus with an abundant commercial feel.
The speed metal influenced “Shine The Light” fades in to a bit of guitar feedback before taking off to a double bass driven riff. While the song slows slightly during its verse portions, it picks up in pace upon obtained an energy-laden chorus underscored by more rapid double bass. Eriksson adds to the scene with a blazing guitar solo.
On The Reality Of Existence Oratorio proves without a doubt its ability to write a song with a strong chorus hook. “Chain Of Pain”, “A Lonely Prayer”, “Ages Before” and “Shine The Light” stand out as the albums better tracks, but “No Return From Hell”, “Wounded Moon” and “Shine The Light” hold up equally well. In the end, I hit the skip button here just once or twice. The only constructive comment worth offering would be to encourage the band to develop more confidence in its instrumental sound by allowing for stronger lead guitar breaks in any material it records in the future.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "Chain Of Pain" (3:29), "A Lonely Prayer" (5:07), "Ages Before" (3:36), "Believer’s Destiny" (4:40), "Glory And Power" (4:00), "Touch Of Your Love" (4:37), "No Return From Hell" (5:10), "Wounded Moon" (4:21), "Taivaallinen Jerusalem" (6:27), "Shine The Light" (4:16)
Joel Hekkala – Lead Vocals
Thomas Mata Eriksson – Guitars
Jarmo Happonen – Guitars
Lauri Joutsiniemi – Bass
Janne Hielakangas - Drums
Also Reviewed: Oratorio - Redemption