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Chaotic Beauty can be viewed as the first modern Eternal Tears of Sorrow record. After a number of years spent experimenting (with various degrees of success) the band finally stumbled upon an arguably potent formula and naturally ran with it. The procurement of Pasi Hiltula yields great atmospheric returns, giving the spirited Gothenburg-esque leads plenty of room to make their seductive advances upon the listener.
The soundscape generated by these disparate elements is both somber and melancholic. This is a sonic attribute that Eternal Tears of Sorrow now proudly rest their collective hat on, but when Chaotic Beauty was released it was a bold and daring move on the band's part. Chunky power metal chords and acrobatic leads give way to Hiltula's graceful piano passages and faux-classical orchestra emulation. Place all of this behind Veteläinen's monotone roars and watch as the pieces fall into place. Even though the keys never fully satisfy or convince from an aural standpoint, Hiltula is more than willing to carry the heavy ambient load on his shoulders. It's not that the leads lack conviction, but during the moments when their sticky note progressions aren't present the proceedings almost always defer to the keyboards for support. The most searing example is the cover of Iron Maiden's "Flight of Icarus," which rides out on what is perhaps Hiltula's greatest keyboard solo to date, saving what is otherwise a relatively pedestrian transposition.
Eternal Tears of Sorrow is at their best when they ratchet up the intensity and try to play up their melodic death metal side. As such, "Tar of Chaos", "Blood of Faith Stains My Hands" and "The Seventh Eclipse" are all highlights. Talala (who apparently was Kalmah's first keyboardist way back when) is a solid lead smith, and has a decent grasp on the fabled Gothenburg melodic style that serves as a cornerstone in many Finnish bands of this caliber. The rhythm section is a little tame, which damages the lasting power of many of the other tracks that end up falling through the cracks for various tertiary reasons. From a production standpoint, Chaotic Beauty reminds me of Dark Tranquillity's The Gallery, and summons many parallels due to the eerily similar performances and eclectic nature of many of these compositions.
The female vocals injected into the closer "Nocturnal Strains" prove that experimentation has it's home here on Chaotic Beauty, I just wish that the band would drop the esoteric antics and go straight for the jugular every now and again. The unconvincing nature of Hiltula's keyboards can grow tiring if the album is tackled in a single sitting, and the whole thing has the proclivity to come off as a poor man's Oceanborn with harsh croaks instead of Turunen's saccharine wailing. The keyboard solos are brash and demand attention, but ultimately I feel that they take away from the desolate atmosphere. Hiltula obviously hadn't found himself as a composer yet, so there is no shortage of duds amongst his few flashes of brilliance.
Save for Puolakanaho, this entire lineup consists of Kalmah alumni - a trait that would continue to persist during most of Eternal Tears of Sorrow's mid-era releases. At any rate, without Kokko's signature leads the overt similarities between the two bands are more obfuscated and difficult to discern this time around. It matters little, as Chaotic Beauty has a formidable disposition and some decent melodic inclinations worth exploring further, the band would just do it so much better on future albums.
Eternal Tears of Sorrow is one of the few bands that stuck to their genre. Their sound had just few minor changes over time, but the essence of this gorgeous band still resides in the depth of their songs. This is a band worth listening to. You will never regret buying an EToS album.
Chaotic Beauty is more...romantic, if you ask me. Unlike the other albums where you were able to find infernal riffs and blastbeats, half of the songs on this album are rather calm and melancholic. For instance, "Autumn's Grief", which in its essence is 100% a ballad. Also, "Bride of the Crimson Sea" and "Nocturnal Strains" are very deep, incredibly hierarchical tracks, though the thrashy riffs are still a vital part in EToS's music. On this album they focus more on keys than on guitars, and these keys combined here and there with Sinergy's Kimberly Goss braid into perfection. Their music and especially the music of this album is another badge for Finland, another rose on its icy crest.
If you have more money than you need, haste yourself, shatter the walls of a music magazine with your car, and buy this outstanding piece of art. I owe this band's discovery to my first girlfriend, which was listening to them everyday. I thank her for this and I hate her because the addiction under which I succumbed to these Finnish gods.
It is quite often that melodeath bands are compared to Children of Bodom, this with the fair reason of them gaining so much fame out of doing so much shit and basically just two good albums. This happens with several other genres, too. As for me and all the melodeath I've heard, the genre is bound to be epic, sometimes even symphonic, and extreme at the same time. Eternal Tears of Sorrow certainly knows how to balance this element not to abuse any of each and keep a perfect equality, thus creating a masterpiece such as "Chaotic Beauty" is. Melodeath is a genre that has always catched my attention easily, as it blends in many of the characteristics of metal together and sounds really good if done properly, just as it is in "Chaotic Beauty".
Altti Veteläinen has some real talent for generating the harsh vocals, keeping them as sharp and grunty as needed, giving aggressivity and a monstrous touch to the music, unlike some other *cough*Alexi Laiho*cough* melodic death metal singers that would fit much better in a thrash band. Kimberly Goss sings in a few songs for this album, too. I must admit I really hate her because of what she did to Warmen's "Beyond Abilities", but hell, she did an awesome job in here; so good that my favorite song from the album, "Bride of the Crimson Sea", has her really often in the vocals. Along the songs where she sings, she balances all that horrendous (said in a good way) singing by Altti with some operatic, Tarja-style singing that adds melody to the songs.
As for the guitars, they do an excellent job. Not all of the riffing is just some insanely fast root-notes, but it keeps the music interesting mixing along the drum's rhythm with some nice power chords and giving relaxing bends in pre-choruses and the likes. As for the solos, well, Antti-Matti is not the most talented guitar player ever, but if he was just too good the album would have been over-the-top and just really out of place. He does some good enough scale runs and whatever to keep it interesting, yet essential.
I must say I bow to Pasi Hiltula. He adds mostly all of the melody to this masterpiece and, hell, he does it in a great way. The keyboards are, most of the time, some really loud orchestration that are just behind the guitar adding a lot of ressonance to it, but at times they catch the attention quite nicely. Yes, there are keyboard solos in the album, too. Pasi has a sound that resembles a bit Janne Wirman. His style of playing is pretty similar, he uses triplets, bends, and tremolos almost as much as Wirman; not nearly as fast, though. I must admit he did a good job with the solos, even though I can't say these are the best keyboard solos I've heard, although his strings backup is among the best.
The drumming is quite essential. There is not much to say about it, some nice cymbal-playing here and there and the rhythms are nice, too, but nothing to impressive. Hell, I was forgetting something! Check out the drum solo outro in "Shattered Soul", that's where Petri lets his soul go out.
I consider "Chaotic Beauty" to be perfect because of how good Eternal Tears of Sorrow blend everything in and prevent it from being repetitive, which is a syndrome many good albums suffer. In "Chaotic Beauty" you'll find just everything: from fast, string-cutting riffs, to slow and melodic bends; from some nice keyboard backups to key-ripping solos, and from epic to extreme. After listening to this, you'll see Children of Bodom (except Janne) are just a bunch of whimps trying to do melodic death metal.
As some may have noticed from my old review, I once adored this album. I used to listen to it at least once a day, and many days I would solely listen to this band. However, I eventually expanded my horizons by searching for different kinds of metal, and this album became long forgotten. Over time, as my playlists changed, I began to grow distaste for this album as well as its kind. Several years of indulging in the vastness of metal led my hatred for Chaotic Beauty (and its subgenre of melodic death metal) to boil to a level of repugnance which I have never shown to any other sort of music with the exception of mainstream pop. Thus, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s best for me to write a completely new review since my opinion of this album has changed so radically.
…And so I was forced to listen to this album again for the sake of this review. Luckily, it was the last time I’ll have to force myself to listen to such music, for I intend this to be an all-encompassing review of the subgenre of melodic death metal. The reason for this will be clear later on, so I will get on with the music now.
Eternal Tears of Sorrow is no more than another generic melodic death metal band repeating what’s already been criminally overdone. Accordingly, this raises a troublesome question as to why I—or anyone else for that matter—would choose this band over any other melodeath clone. Why Eternal Tears of Sorrow? For one, the songs in Chaotic Beauty are filled with riffs that are mind-numbingly simple and implemented in inane song structures, no more or no less banal than their contemporaries such as Kalmah or Norther. On top of that, they bring nothing new to the table such as additional, unconventional instruments, or a unique vocal technique, and so on and so forth. As a result, I’ve decided it is best that we dissect the music and investigate each component of the music, with hopes of digging deep enough to find our answer.
Thus comes the first item on the list, the drums. On my final play-through of the album, it seemed like the band added the drums just for the sake of them being there (however, I like to think that they were added to obscure the horrific acts its accompanying instruments commit). I don’t recall hearing a single interesting fill, and along with rare tempo changes, the drums accomplish little more than repeating a few basic rhythms and blast beats throughout the near-forty minutes. I know that the band used programmed drums in previous efforts, and after listening to this album, I’m now questioning their decision of switching to an actual drummer. Ultimately, we can conclude that the drums do not contribute to the reasons to listen to this album and/or band.
The next item on the list is the guitars, which I will briefly describe. They go in and out of the audible range with cringe-inducing riffs and licks when you can actually hear them, but they’re mostly there to be led by the synths. Oh, and it’s a good thing I mention the synths, because this review wouldn’t be complete without them. The synths… they’re everywhere, and they just won’t go away. I guess it was one additional approach the band discovered to cover the blatant, half-assed effort of this record. Ironically, little did they know that the synths would play the primary role in leading this album to its demise. Hackneyed and uninspired, the melodies of the keyboards reek through the album like the wretched stench from nearby sewers would to a local neighborhood. They do little in terms of creating an appropriate atmosphere for the music. On the contrary, their presence is a nuisance and they only contradict everything else that’s playing. My attention was particularly caught in “Tar of Chaos,” where the synths sound like fucking Christmas jingle bells. They serve little purpose other than allowing the band to reflect their lack of talent in one extra instrument. This is a very typical feature of many melodic death metal bands, such as the aforementioned ones, where the band has major influences from. Another influence I presume is from melodic black metal, which gave rise to the laughable gremlin vocals, and that’s all I will say about that. Meanwhile, I suppose there is one more purpose of the synths which I initially overlooked: the melodies created by the synths and guitars are very catchy (for the fans of the genre that is), regardless of how much they lack in creativity or how insipid they are. Consequently, I believe these melodies are the main reason for people listening to this music. And it’s perfectly understandable. Catchy hooks with some “sorrowful” lyrics can often touch people emotionally, no matter how regurgitated the melodies are or how shallow the lyrics may be. This is the same with other genres including most euro-power metal, folk music, pop, and the majority of mainstream music. This tactic works on billions of simpletons 16 year olds people in the world, so it’s a successful strategy for a band to use for profiting.
Which leads me to my real problem with modern melodic death metal: it’s nothing more than euro-power metal with poorly performed death metal (or sometimes black metal) vocals and [too] often with a touch of keyboards. It’s only worse that this genre masks itself behind the vocals to pass as death metal for teens these days to pretend they are “brutal,” or “dark,” or whatever the hell is popular these days. For some lucky folk such as myself, melodic death metal aids in the musical journey of the listener as a “gateway” into the more genuine, heavier realms of metal (which isn’t to say that heavier is necessarily better), but for the vast majority of its listeners, it traps them in a perpetual (and in my opinion, hellish) purgatory which in their own delusion appears to be paradise. Looking back on this album, I realize that it has helped me pass through the so-called “gate,” and for that I will still give it a few points. In the end, however, all I can think of when I listen to this album is bile. Thick, dark bile. And for THAT, it receives a meager 15%.
This album actually manages to impress, despite not being overly original. Melodic death metal with touches of black thrown in for good measure is what’s on the cards here, with the odd 80´s metal influence here and there. The band are certainly not afraid of using their capability of writing memorable melodies, several of their songs are chorus-heavy and catchy. Synths and piano are used rather frequently, but for the most part they’re not allowed to outnumber the guitars, whose main objective is carving out leads rather than laying out traditional riffs. A female voice is also present, but fails to be impressive, and loses your attention rather fast.
As for the rather light-weight screech of the male vocalist, it comes of as acceptable, but nothing more. The attention-grabbing features on this album are the high quality songs and arrangements; they seem to have spent a lot of time on getting all aspects of them to really shine. Especially “Blood of Faith Stains My Hands” and “Autumn’s Grief” offer fantastic listening.
The production is good, but not astounding; all instruments are clearly audible even in the faster sections, and the sound focuses more on lifting the accessible parts of the material to the forefront and leaving a thicker and more brutal sound for others to pursue. This is all well and good, and fits the band nicely.
Finally, I should mention their cover of “Black Tears” by Edge of Sanity. It’s a great song, but it is not improved here, as the original version pretty much has it all, and it’s not really all that many years ago it was first released.