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Cain's Offering formed in the year 2009 by some masters of power metal musicians like Timo Kotipelto from Stratovarius and by Jani Liimatainen after his departure from Sonata Arctica, and other musicians mainly from Kotipelto. They deliver their first album, 'Gather The Faithful'. Well, before I actually begin my review, let me tell everybody clearly this album is not every metalhead's cup of tea, so many might be really, really disappointed. I liked the album through and through.
The album begins with a song named 'My Queen Of Winter' and ends with 'Elegantly Broken'. The keyboardist, Mikko Härkin, plays some really, really great keyboard melodies and harmonies along with the constant double bass drumming by Jani Hurula, which adds new dimensions. However, the thing gets a little one dimensional after the song 'Oceans Of Regret'. Also, the solos and riffs by Jani Liimatainen are way too few to even remember.
The keyboard dominates the album through and through, though the vocals by Kotipelto are really refreshing and add to a relief to the constant rhythmic disco and electro-pop kind of sound from the '80s that might not go well with everyone's ears. The choruses are also great in every song, however the band really needs to find a way to use the guitars far more and far too often. I hardly remember a song beginning with a really cool and melodic power metal riff. All of the guitar work is based only on one or two power chords catching up the songs here and there.
The title track of the album disappoints the most. Being an instrumental, it is mostly based on keys and fast, intricate double bass drumming and lacks a guitar solo or even a memorable guitar riff. Hard to imagine, isn't it? Yes, sad but true. The lyrics are a bit cheesy and deal mostly with relationships, love, and romanticism. The fantasy-based lyrics are missing again, which can be a disappointment to many, however the lyrics go well with Kotipelto's vocals and the whole sound of the band.
Nevertheless, this being Cain's Offering's debut offering can be described as a clanger if one is overly critical. However, this album definitely deserves a listen. As I described earlier, this is definitely not everybody's cup of tea. The guitar work seriously needs improvement if the band wants to go anywhere beyond the one dimensional keyboards and double bass drumming pattern.
With the formation of a power metal supergroup with members from bands such as Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius, one would think it to be absolutely awesome. Especially considering those band members include the powerful vocals of Stratovarius' Timo Kotipelto, former Sonata Arctica guitar shredder Jani Liimatainen, and underrated former Sonata keyman Mikko Harkin. The combination of such talented Finns expectedly had power metal fans jumping for joy. And thus Cain's Offering was born. Despite no touring or major publicity, the band released a full-length album in 2009. Considering how much potential the group has here, the results are somewhat of a mixed bag.
While power metal has always been upbeat and melodic, it definitely has its heavier roots in bands such as Helloween, Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian, Iced Earth, and early Stratovarius. However, a focus on melody and keyboards to create a "magical" sound has been increasing over the years with most power metal bands earning the ire of "pure" metal fans who regard it as "flower metal." Quite frankly, it's all a bit ridiculous. Not all heavy metal should be dark, doom and gloom and there is definitely room for melody, which is what bands like Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius have been proving. Both are mostly keyboard-driven with standard power chords but often contain speedy and shred guitar solos with soaring tenor vocals. So with a quasi-combination of both, one would expect something similar if not better. And that's kinda where problems start to arise. With such high expectations of epic, melodic, guitar-shredding power metal, Gather the Faithful only meets some of them. With former Sonata Arctica guitarist Jani Liimatainen the main creative force, one would think he would flex his muscles and spread his wings a bit more as a guitarist and include better riffwork than his Sonata power chords and even more solos that fans know and love. Instead, the guitar riffs are even less prevalent and there are, quite literally, maybe only two guitar solos on the entire album. That's it. The keyboards dominate the melodies here and the guitar work mostly serves as background noise. And it is for this reason that most metal fans don't consider this album as "true metal." And in a sense, they have a point. Consider this more as "melodic power rock" if anything. And the inclusion of sentimental ballads such as Into the Blue and Elegantly Broken or the schmaltzy lyricis of More Than Friends don't help the case either.
But this is by no means a terrible album. Timo Kotipelto's , though his voice is somewhat more restrained in his delivery than with Stratovarius, still does excellent vocal work and remains a truly underrated metal singer. And while Jani's guitarwork is much more in the background than it should be, Mikko Harkin actually compensates for it very well with catchy and symphonic melodies in both the verses and soloing. While some of the lyrics are a bit cheesy and difficult to follow, there's a good amount of emotion as well and Jani's skills as a lyricist flash up every now and then. For devoted power metal fans, there are quite a few speedy and fun songs, mainly opener Queen of Winter, which is clearly the winner of the album and gets things off to a good start. Stolen Waters, Dawn of Solace, and Thorn in My Side, while not as strong, certainly have their highlights and succeed as being just generally speedy and high-energy. Perhaps the most interesting song is the highly symphonic Morpheus in a Masquerade, and being the longest song on the album at nearly seven minutes allows for several progressive time changes and melodies. The instrumental title track, while not spectacular, still has a pretty steady feel and nice build-up from soft and melodic to heavy. The occasional ballad though will at times slow the pace of the album and for the most part are just generally boring and don't offer much creativity as far as power metal ballads go.
Unless you're a diehard fan of power metal and/or a fan of Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica,chances are you will not like this album. And even the fanboys who consider the supergroup formation spectacular on paper might be disappointed with the overall sound and quality. But with the exception of the noticeable lack of guitar solos and the occasional overly-soft ballad, there are still quite a few fun and melodic tunes here and the overall skill level is impressive. Approach with caution and consider giving a few songs a listen on Youtube before committing to buying Gather the Faithful. Although it fails to live up to what it could have been and might not be entirely "metal" it's still a pretty fun listen every now and then.
Sonata Arctica has always been a "guilty pleasure" of mine. Reckoning Night and Winterheart's Guild are the perfect examples of how to make flower metal and make it right, because of the strong songwriting skills and the honest, emotional approach to the genre. Guitarist Jani Liimatainen left the band, and brought some other recognised names of the euro-power metal scene, like Timo Kotipelto from Stratovarius or Mikko Härkin, another former member of SA, to form a sort of power metal supergroup.
And it completely fucking blows.
To put it short, this makes Sonata Arctica sound like Motörhead or Venom in terms of aggresion and overall masculinity. I'm not exaggerating. You'd think that a record where all the songs are written by a guitarist would have at least, some intrincate riffing or at least some face-melting shredding, right? WRONG! The guitar is a background instrument, with virtually no memorable riffs and very few solos, it's just a blurry mass of power chords with an incredibly synthetic sound, buried under the keyboards, the drums and the vocals. The only circumstances where I can find something like this acceptable are in some symphonic black metal records, a style far away from the one we've got in here.
Now, the fast, double bass drums are pretty much the only thing that gives the music a sense of heaviness, using double bass and some thrashy rhythms here and there, in fact, they're the best thing about this album. Timo Kotipelto sings even more high-pitched than in his main band, tending to sound very annoying. Tony Kakko is a way more versatile singer, honestly. The keyboards overpower the music, and while that's not surprising for a record of this genre, the thing that makes them so bad is the way they are used. While many bands have a symphonic, neoclassical or progressive keyboard work, this one sticks to give saccarine, cringe-worthy, artificial sounding melodies, that wouldn't sound out of place in a record by some shallow, brainless, electro-dance-pop singer.
And the lyrics!!!!! Don't even get me started on them, because they are quite possibly the worst I've ever heard in a metal album, all dealing with love and relationships in an excessively cheesy way. Some bands can make that sort of lyrics work, because they have a sense of sophistication and taste, but frankly, the ones in here appear to be written by some whiny, prepubescent kid. Stuff like "sign across my heart your name" or "just call my name and I'll be there, forever I'm waiting for you" makes the ridiculous fantasy-themed lyrics of most bands on this genre sound deep or smart in comparison.
If there's an album that gathers all the negative stereotypes of power metal, and not only that, but takes them to the extreme, is this one. It's pretty much electro-pop with fast drums. Annoying, shallow, plastic, and hell, even DragonForce is better than this, at least they're somewhat fun to listen to.
After being given the boot from Sonata Arctica, guitarist Jani Liimatainen set out to further his musical career in this supergroup of Finnish power metal musicians. I had known of this group for awhile, and had always put off giving "Gathering the Faithful" a listen, figuring that I would eventually get around to it. When I finally did, I was pleasantly surprised; while I was certainly expecting a good effort from this Finnish supergroup, I wasn't sure exactly what to expect. A bit foolish of me really, given the musicians involved in this project; Jani and Mikko Harkin both formely of Sonata Arctica, Timo Kotipelto of Stratovarius, and Jukka Koskinen of Wintersun and Norther. So you can take one look at the lineup and pretty much guarantee a good listen. And "Gather the Faithful" gives us just that.
As far as originality goes, "Gather the Faithful" doesn't score many points as it basically screams Sonata Arctica. Literally the only difference between the two bands is that Timo is singing the songs; if Tony Kakko was on vocals then it might as well be a Sonata record. Not that that's a bad thing, as "Gather the Faithful" is a stronger release than anything Sonata has done since Reckoning Night. Jani is a commendable composer and it's cool to see him doing his own thing for a change. Again though, it doesn't differentiate much from his stuff in Sonata, but then again, he didn't write the songs then. He's always been incredibly underrated as a guitarist, and he has some tasty axe work on display here, although it is not his best work by any stretch and it would be nice to see more lead guitar to spice up an otherwise keyboard driven album with pretty basic riffing.
The keyboards are excellent though and have a very wintery atmosphere. "My Queen of Winter" is an obvious but effective example. Timo does a fantastic job on vocals, as always, but some of the lyrics he sings are so incredibly cheesy that it makes you want to gag. For all that Jani says about power metal being stupid because of fantasy subject matter, choosing to write sappy love lyrics isn't a viable substitute. It doesn't sink the big picture though, and Timo sings to such perfection that you let it slide. His singing on the acoustic/piano tracks "Into the Blue" and "Elegantly Broken" is particularly well done. It'd be great if he and Jani could bring this to a live stage, but that seems unlikely to happen.
All in all, this is a very solid power metal release, and should definitely be checked out by fans of Sonata and Stratovarius. It won't blow your mind, as we've heard all this before, but you could do far worse than a valiant effort from a Finnish supergroup.
I can’t really speak for anyone else who has followed Sonata Arctica for more than a decade, but when I heard that co-founder and long time guitarist Jani Limatainen had been let go from the band because of his conscription, my bullshit meter went off the charts. Bringing in a session guitarist to handle touring for a year isn’t that hard to do when you’re one of the biggest names in metal in your country, especially when considering that much of the live material would include the drivel that was on display throughout “Unia”. Furthermore, any indication of a difference in musical direction can be easily surmised when sampling the first offering of the ejected member’s new band’s work, particularly if it bears an uncanny resemblance to the former sound of the original band, as both Savage Circus’ “Dreamland Manor” and this rather enticing gem that is “Gather The Faithful” demonstrate.
For the most part, this band comes across as a perfect 50/50 split between the “Silence” to “Winterheart’s Guild” era of Sonata Arctica and the slightly progressive tinged work of Stratovarius’ “Polaris”. It has a similarly keyboard heavy presence, but doesn’t shy away from the speed riffing and harmonic symmetry that defines the genre. Most of the time it walks that familiar cold blend of sorrow and pomp that defines the melodic sound of both represented projects, as well as an extremely tight rhythm section that is helped along by the work of Wintersun bassist Jukka Koskinen, who proves to be the picture perfect representation of constancy amid a high tight yet dynamic assault from the rest of the instrumentation, resulting in a deep, heavy character in sound that is generally most noticeable during those occasion fits of stomping grooves that occur between the flash and flair.
Despite being bound to a heavily stylized and strict approach to power metal, Jani actually manages to compose a few surprisingly intricate songs that are every bit as progressive as what “Unia” was attempting to be without throwing out the essential character of the style. The longer and rhythmically mixed up rocker “Oceans Of Regret” gets the closest to being varied to the point of convolution, yet keeps the melodic contour and hooks in line and instead becomes a more involved take on what Dreamtale has been doing of late. But the rank and file who has followed the bands that this project is built out of will definitely be drawn more strongly to the high speed glory of “My Queen Of Winter” and “Dawn Of Solace”, which literally inject a double dose of adrenaline into the speedier moments of what was “Winterheart’s Guild”. Likewise, even though not quite as fast as the formers, “Stolen Waters” is infectious in its catchiness and reminds heavily of the more keyboard oriented variations on the “I Want Out” approach that Stratovarius would routinely put out as singles in the late 90s and 2000s.
This is a pure effort at a fully tried and true formula, one that is also a much welcome return to form that unfortunately could not occur under the Sonata Arctica name. Whether the reason for this lay in said band being tied to a major level or just Tony Kakko getting bored with playing metal music, it lends credence to the idea that those seeking the real thing should probably stick to the smaller labels. Maybe I just tend to overanalyze things, but there’s a strong correlation to a drop in quality with a number of Nuclear Blast bands and Mat Sinner leaving the company, at least as much as there is a correlation with Sonata Arctica not being able to produce albums and it no longer being the first half of the 2000s decade. But who gives a damn about that, this album is great and needs some love before the band goes the way of Timo Tolkki’s 2 recent projects, assuming it hasn’t done so already.
Gather the Faithful is an album you feel ashamed to like, and definitely not one you like because of peer pressure. No, in fact, the lyrics are so painfully wimpy that if you are not a wimp yourself, the only choice is to ignore the actual words sung.
So Cain's Offering was formed by Jani Liimatainen after he spent time in jail for not doing his military duties, and has to leave Sonata Arctica because of it. It turned into an all-star project because well, Jani Liimatainen, Timo Kotipelto, Mikko Härkin and Jukka Koskinen are no small names in the Finnish metal scene.
In the terms of music, this is pretty much love or hate, and really, the status of this as a metal release is understandably questioned by a lot of people. And me included. Instrumentally, I think that for once, that the bass is overlooking the rhythm guitar. Seriously, Jani only shines during his solos, because that's when you actually notice him playing. It's not helped by the fact that Timo Kotipelto steals the show behind the microphone either. If someone deserves credit for the album, it is this guy. Not only is he a great singer, but he manages to make the silly lyrics sound decent. The keyboards play a big part and they are fairly impressing. The drumming is powerful and precise.
The songs are all pretty solid, however "More Than Friends" is none of my favorites, that's where I draw the cheese line. In fact, the instrumental title track is undoubtedly the strongest track...because it's an instrumental track. The songs are memorable and well produced, but nearly destroyed by the lyrics. If you like power metal no matter what the theme is. Cain's Offering should be on the list. If you are conservative and want metal to be pure metal, then stay away for your own best.
When you think of power metal, what comes in your mind? Well, I don't know, but in my mind comes Stratovarius. What about Finnish power metal? Well besides Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica. Now think for a second, that these two giants of melodic metal would be combined, or in a nutshell: Cain's Offering. I have never been a die hard fan of power metal, but just like very other genre, it has it's share of good bands and this is one of them. Now I would dare to say that this is a super group of Finnish musicians including: Timo Kotipelto, Jani Liimatainen etc.
Now what we have here is their first album as Cain's Offering and it's really awesome. Right of the bat it starts out with one of my favorite songs ever 'My queen of winter'. A bit fast paced but chances to a little slower in some points. Showing exactly what they have to offer here. Now you might think that I'm here just to yell about how awesome this is and like that... heh, wrong. As awesome as this is, nothing is perfect. There are some things that don’t quite fit here, like the fact that once you’ve listened to it once, you don’t want to hear all of the songs again and soon it starts to repeat itself. But the music itself, well... guitars are great, not the typical wanking like in every other band in the genre, no. This album’s melody comes mostly from the keyboards. Bass is audible and hat’s a good thing. Drumming is also is very solid, showing that the drummer is very talented. Vocals... well... they are by far the best thing in this album. It’s not something that you hear in every single Stratovarius album. They fit to the music and lyrics very well.
Overall, this is very good release, but lacks the replay-value.
Recommended tracks: My Queen of Winter, More Than Friends, Into the Blue, Thorn in My Side.
It has been extremely difficult to review this, as listening to it at all causes me extreme pain. Cain's Offering is made up of a bunch of Finnish Power Metal rejects who have produced a wretched album of overwrought vocal pop music that is doing a good job of separating the men from the posers in the metal web: If someone likes this album, then they don't really like metal at all, as this album is an insult to everything metal is about.
This is not a metal album. Hell, it's not even a rock album, because you can't call an album a ‘rock' album when it contains no rock whatsoever. This is an album of glossy vocal melodies and keyboard molestation masquerading as something else. I mean, just listen to the guitars on this, really listen to them, and you will find that they are not playing riffs at all. Not. One. This is all background rhythm work that in fact sounds like it was played with a synth guitar. Seriously, the guitars are a rhythm instrument entirely, with all the lead melodies provided by that smacked ass Kotipelto and the counterpoint all keys. The vocal lines are all smooth, bouncy pop melodies, made no more forgivable by being pretty sweet in places. Catchiness does not pardon all sins, or any sins at all in this case.
The melodic cues are shameless, and some of the tunes are even stolen. The main "riff" on "More Than Friends" is ripped off from Evanescence, and the piano melody from the gag-inducing closing ballad is stolen note-for-note from Taylor Dayne's 1987 dance hit "Tell it to My Heart"…man do I wish I was kidding. Timo sounds fine, but anybody can sound fine on the vocorder. Mostly his performance makes me ill with its Top 40 gloss and smug accessibility.
And the lyrics. If you needed any more proof that this album is pop music look no further than this. "You have always been much more than friend to me/And I can never hope to find another one/Now that time is right" or "A little bit of pain/A little bit of longing/A little bit of love/To come our way." I mean did I miss something? Did we all get turned into a bunch of VH1 pussies while I wasn't paying attention? These lyrics are bad, and they are bad pop lyrics. This is like something sung by Luther Vandross or Wilson Phillips, not something anyone who likes real music should ever be wasting their time on.
This is in no wise a metal album, and yet it keeps getting strong reviews from people who wouldn't know a metal album from a semen-filled goat anus. If you like this gutted plastic whore of an album, then you don't understand the first thing about what is best in life. A worthless and bereft work from a trend-poser band I hope we never hear from again.
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com
Sonata Arctica alienated a considerable amount of people with ‘Unia’ back in 2007, not least of whom seemed to be founding guitarist Jani Liimatainen. After finding himself marginalized on a CD that saw lead guitar and proper riffs – always at a premium with Sonata anyway – cast away in favour of de-tuned chugging and an endless menagerie of irritating keyboard sounds, the shredder’s eventual departure had a certain air of inevitability about it.
His return to full time activity – after helping out former Altaria band mate Marko Pukkila with his rock band Dream Asylum and a bit of touring with legendary waster Paul Di’Anno – may have taken a bit longer than expected, but those waiting in impatient expectation for a burst of rich, melodic power metal will find the debut from Cain’s Offering well worth the wait.
The Frontiers Records logo on the inlay should give hint though that there is a certain commercial sheen to ‘Gather the faithful’, and while the band never risks their credibility, there are a few overly saccharine instances of poppiness that leave something of a sour taste in the mouth. On the whole though, Cain’s Offering have delivered an assured debut of classy power metal in the typically Finnish style of a few years back, before just about everyone on the scene began tuning their guitars down. A reference point would be Dreamtale’s recent ‘Phoenix’ CD, as they share a common ground of slightly hard rock-styled power metal with the odd bit of mostly unwelcome experimentation here and there – most noticeably the inexplicable dance beat attached to the off-kilter “Thorn in my side”, the only real outstanding weak point on ‘Gather the faithful’.
The only severe criticism that could be justifiably levelled at Liimatainen though is what he writes his songs about, which as a whole makes for possibly the wimpiest set of lyrics ever gathered on a power metal CD. With no less than the first 3 songs (and most of the CD overall) all being limp-wristed affairs about relationship troubles dressed up in pseudo-poetic guff, Liimatainen has succeeded in making his former band look like Manowar by comparison. Thankfully Timo Kotipleto is there to save the day behind the microphone, his always-excellent vocals of adding a touch of class to the delivery. Were it not for the veteran’s powerful performance there would have been a real danger of a lesser vocalist not being able to make being unable to make rubbish like “Take me in/Then tell me you hate me/Dream with me/Make love to me until I bleed/How does it feel to know/That you can't break me” sound in any way compatible with the music.
These grumbles aside, it is hard to find fault with most of the music assembled. Just hearing a Finnish band still playing uplifting melodic power metal these days is a joy in itself, and Liimatainen seems to be having as much fun as anyone back in this more familiar territory. Despite asserting his presence as the sole songwriter, there is perhaps less lead guitar than would be expected from him, with his former Sonata Arctica band mate Mikko Härkin constantly vying for attention, no more so on the blazing opener “My queen of winter” where most of the chorus is actually ‘sung’ by the keyboards.
The title track exemplifies this restrain best, as rather than being the expected blistering shred exercise instead turns out to be an atmospheric quasi-orchestral piece. Despite being a welcome return to power metal territory, one should not approach ‘Gather the faithful’ expecting ‘Ecliptica II’, as there are quite a few more daring ventures into prog and ballad territory. “Morpheus in a masquerade” ticks the former box as its sways giddily through several wistful melodies in a twisting, acoustic-assisted song. More explosive power metal masterstrokes like “Dawn of solace” ensure that the pace is picked up at all the key moments though and the speed freaks out there will find plenty to cheer them.
“Into the blue” is the big ballad, and while it adheres to every cliché that description entails, makes for a quite beautiful mid-section for the CD where Kotipleto really sparkles. The only other ballad is the closer “Elegantly broken”, which is played entirely on piano. The main melody is quite obviously ‘borrowed’ from the first listen, though it may surprise you to learn that the song it resembles is Taylor Dayne’s 80s pop hit “Tell it to my heart”. How they failed to notice this I’ll never know, but even the unfortunate coincidence doesn’t dull the soothing beauty it provides as the CD closes.
Despite a few rather awkward shortcomings, in an era when power metal is being diluted further and further by many of its former leading lights, Jani Liimatainen has, if you’ll pardon the awful pun, most definitely provided a place for the faithful to gather. Just please let Kotipleto write the lyrics next time. Please.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)
Where the hell did this come from? I've played Gather the Faithful a bunch of times so far, and it just keeps on delivering. Cain's Offering is a Power Metal project starring members of Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius, and if you’re like me, you think this is a really good idea and that it could produce nothing but excellent melodic metal…you’d be right.
The music on here is, as you’d guess, knowing it was made by a band that contained the guitarist and the keyboardist of Sonata Arctica, heavily influenced by those Finnish melodic masters. What’s more, Timo Koltipelto is also on this album, adding his sugary sweet finesse to every song on this album. The drummer is from Thyrane and the bassist from Norther and Wintersun, so you can say this is an All Stars project. That doesn’t mean much, though, except that this is very professional and captivating music from a bunch of the genre’s pros.
Songwriting-wise, it’s sort of like Sonata’s last release Unia, except more focused on individual songs as opposed to the whole album, and it's a lot lighter and more traditionally melodic. It’s what Unia would have been, if not for the twisted artistic visions of Sonata’s Tony Kakko. The attention to detail here, as on Unia, is just phenomenal, with every song packing a lot of subtle melody and intricate hook sensibility. It’s catchy and certainly very poppy, but there's more to it than you'd think. The rhythms are simple, but they do change ever so subtly, again, just like on the Sonata Arctica album. Koltipelto gives a truly astounding performance here, utilizing a more calculated midrange than he does in Stratovarius, giving careful attention to every last line he sings. The melodies themselves are frosty, fresh and invigorated, with Koltipelto leading them with a true dramatic flair. Sometimes the songs on here aren’t even so much songs as they are miniature story-plays, acted out by the professionals of the Power Metal genre. Spellbinding.
This album just flows excellently, which is perhaps its best selling point. It’s melodic, it’s dashing and it keeps you hooked. The choruses are catchy, but the verses are also sublime, carried out with melodic intensity and sterling power. Everything is polished to a tee, streamlined but still containing a lot of integrity, just waiting for you to discover its charms. With standouts like "My Queen of Winter," "Oceans of Regret," the wistful "Into the Blue" and the speedy "Dawn of Solace," as well as a number of other great tunes, Gather the Faithful is not something Power Metal fans should pass up.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com