|Musical Style: Power Metal/Thrash||Produced By: Viktor Fagerstrom|
|Record Label: Open Grave||Country Of Origin: Finland|
|Year Released: 2009||Artist Website: Venia|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 70%|
|Running Time: 52:35|
Finland’s Venia can trace its origin to the fall of 2002 when guitarists Jere Veijalainen and Viktor Fagerstrom met through a message board add seeking musicians to form a melodic metal band. The two proceeded to recruit drummer Daniel Puolimatka and vocalist Veronica Solje in early 2004 prior to deciding upon the moniker Venia (Latin for forgiveness). With bassist Juhani Palttala rounding out Venia’s line up in the spring of 2004, the group released its only demo, Genesis, during its first live performance September of the same year. Venia signed with Bombworks Records shortly thereafter and debuted in the summer of 2005 with the thrash influenced power metal of the 5 song EP In Our Weakness.
Victory By Surrender, the group’s 2009 full length follow up effort on Open Grave Records, heads in the same musician direction with its joining of power metal and technical thrash. What I find unique about Venia is how it joins very heavy and aggressive music with clean female vocals and occasional extreme vocals. It is a combination that works best on “Liberty” (albums catchiest piece), “Victory By Surrender” (due to its dramatic flavorings) and “A Sigh Of Redemption” (a progressive based track that breaks down into five parts). Other notable compositions include the technically driven “Genesis” and melodic based semi-ballad “Taivaassa”. Instrumental “Eternal Sanctuary” deserves mention as well.
The bands performance remains a strong point. Veronica continues to give Venia its signature sound with her melodic vocal presence. Any shaky elements to her delivery have been smoothed out, as is demonstrated on the beautiful chorus to “A Sigh Of Redemption” and haunting “Taivaassa”. Viktor and Jere return with their signature heavy duty riffing, knowing when to pick up the pace to a near speed metal romp but instinctively slowing things to a more measured tempo when need calls for it. Newcomer Juhani Palttala fills in on bass while Daniel Puolimatka puts in a monster showing on drums (his work on “Eternal Sanctuary” is quite impressive).
Production values are spot on as is the forthright lyrical direction.
So what is there not to like here? Why does Victory By Surrender garner a rating of only 70%?
It all comes down to the songs or, more precisely, the group’s inability (or refusal) to imbue its material with more melody. Yes, there is melody here (just give “Liberty” several listens) but it is on the subtle side of things- perhaps too subtle for my taste. I lost track, for instance, of the number of times I had to spin Victory By Surrender before its better songs began to grow on me. Unfortunately, there are a few too many numbers here I could not get into no matter how much time I gave them. Mid-paced pieces “Suora tie” and “Ei mun tarvitse” and speed metal based “Broken Chains” all fall within this category due, in my opinion, to their lack of notable chorus hooks. “Blood Of The Lamb” – for the exact same reason – does not do anything for me as well.
It is worth noting that Victory By Surrender includes four of the seven songs from the Genesis demo: “Ei mun tarvitse”, “Eternal Sanctuary”, “Taivaassa” and “Genesis”. It is good to hear these with updated production.
Venia also includes English translations of the three Finnish compositions.
Getting things underway is “Towards A New Dawn”, a short instrumental with a neo-classical feel. The violin opening the song brings to mind ArkAngel.
“Liberty” ranks with the albums finest. Driven and mid-paced, the song delivers quite the wallop its first several minutes with layers of thick rhythm guitars over a dogged drum sound. Moving past its halfway point, “Liberty” obtains quite the catchy bridge – gripping and very melodic – talking about the true source of liberty:
A man once walked the earth
He said: “The way is not through your deeds
The way is through me”
If you know Christ the Lord
You don’t need to feel any fear
He brings us eternal liberty!
“Suora tie”, the first of three Finnish tracks, proves six minutes of technical metal. The song presents with its share of time changes, ranging from slower bass guitar driven moments, all out rhythm guitar assaults and calmer passages upheld by a quietly played guitar. A slight repetitive feel to its chorus, unfortunately, is the only factor preventing “Suora tie” from holding up under continuous play.
“Broken Chains” represents a fast paced and aggressive – almost speed metal based – piece. Slowly fading into a drum solo, the song rollicks through its lively chorus and hard charging verses in establishing quite the decisive environs. A touch of the repetitive, again, is the only element potentially holding things back. The message here ties into that of “Liberty”:
I am free
Free from my fears and free from sin
Not because of me
But because of my Lord, through Him I will win
I am weak
But He is my strength and He gives me meaning
His will I seek
On His promise I will keep leaning.
The pace slows somewhat on “Ei mun tarvitse”. What we have here is a more melodic based piece with its reduced tempo and traces of vocal harmonies. But melodic, on the other hands, means no less heavy, reflected in its ample use of rhythm guitar and assertively mixed low end.
The power thrash of “Genesis” begins to several seconds of militant drums before kicking into high gear. The song gradually builds momentum until – after nearly stopping dead in its tracks – breaks out in upbeat fashion for a frenetic chorus in which several relevant questions are asked:
I cry out to the emptiness
Reaching for my inner self
Looking for a glimpse of truth
All is silent, cant’ somebody help me?
I need to find peace of mind
Why should I only live and die-
as just another worthless child?
I can’t get rid of the thoughts in my mind
That says “why?”
As it roars ahead, “Genesis” features occasional extreme vocals mixed with galloping riffs, spoken word delivery and Gregorian-like backing vocals (for its final chorus to help create an emotional atmosphere). The song ultimately reaches an eventful conclusion:
I reach out to God above
Who showed me unconditional love
He is the creator of all
He heard my prayers and answered my call
I lift up Your name on high
For Your creation You have died
I now know who You made me to be
My heart is content, I have finally found my home
“Taivaassa” is the closest any of the albums material comes to falling within ballad territory. The song presents with a big chorus – expertly upheld by plenty of backing vocals and guitar – while a quietly played guitar plays a leading role for its more tranquil verses. Impetus briefly picks up for a raucous instrumental section.
Instrumental “Eternal Sanctuary” takes quite the wild ride with its joining of driving mid-paced moments and others carried at a faster tempo in being backed by double bass (back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth-again). As the song moves past its second half, we are treated to some boisterous shouted backing vocals before it comes to a complete stop only to again take off in up-tempo fashion.
The albums dramatic title track begins to a stretch of heavy as it gets riffing. Maintaining the bone crushing momentum as it plows through its first three verses, “Victory By Surrender” moves on to a passage featuring narration in the form of the voice of God. A galloping instrumental section adds to the dramatic feel while the voice of God reasserts itself again, upholding the songs themes of trust and surrender:
I cried out to God that night
“Lord, I can’t do it, I can not please You”
“I didn’t ask for your ability,
only if you were willing
If you don’t understand, don’t worry
I’ll do the work in you, just trust in me”
And so I yelled out:
“Take everything I have,
I don’t have power to please You in my own strength!”
An emotional edge is delivered on “The Blood Of The Lamb”. Similar to “Ein mun tarvitse” this one heads in a more melodic direction but delivers its share of heaviness as well. Viktor showcases one of the albums better runs of lead guitar. A faith based piece, you cannot help but be inspired by the songs lyrical direction:
The blood of Jesus spilled on the ground
In this blood our salvation is found
Cry out to the Lord, pray to Him
Trust in God amidst your suffering
“A Sigh Of Redemption” breaks down into five parts. The first, “Prelude”, is an instrumental featuring a blend of violin and speed metal riffing. “From Temptation To Guilt”, part two, transitions between verses carried by extreme vocals and a stately chorus upheld by Veronica’s smoother delivery. All the while the message revolves around temptation and forgiveness:
Then the snake tells his lies:
“You’re a failure, a filthy rat
How could you – God’s own child
do something as horrible as that?”
Shut your ears – read The Book
“Ask, and it shall be given you”
You are God’s precious jewel
Why wouldn’t He forgive you?
“Inner Conflict” is a lengthy instrumental beginning at the more subdued tempo before taking off in a fast paced manner while Veronica and the extreme voice return for the lone verse making up “The Key”. Instrumental “Redemption” closes out the songs final minutes in driving fashion.
The best way to summarize would be to state I like how Venia combines elements of the melodic and extreme- both musically and vocally. That said, there are a few too many songs here I struggle with; as previously noted, an occasionally lack of melody is the only element holding things back. Lyrics and production, on the other hand, represent strengths. All around, if you enjoy Venia’s work on In Our Weakness – or groups that employ a power metal and thrash sound – then by all means give Victory By Surrender a chance.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Towards A New Dawn” (2:14), “Liberty” (3:43), “Suora tie” (6:22), “Broken Chains” (5:00), “Ei mun tarvitse” (4:53), “Genesis” (6:00), “Taivaassa” (4:24), “Eternal Sanctuary” (4:09), “Victory By Surrender” (5:25), “The Blood Of The Lamb” (3:48), “A Sigh Of Redemption” (6:38)
Veronica Solje – Lead Vocals (Clean & Extreme) & Violin
Viktor Fagerstrom - Guitars
Jere Veijalainen – Guitars & Extreme Vocals
Juhana Palttala – Bass & Keyboards
Daniel Puolimatka – Drums