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No country has its own sound quite like Finland, and few bands embody that sound like Eternal Tears of Sorrow (ETOS from here on). On "Saivon Lapsi", the band's seventh full-length, and third since its 2006 resurrection, the Finnish sound continues to bleed through every moment.
Keyboard-saturated, gothic/melodic death metal remains the order-of-the-day for ETOS, along with supremely catchy songwriting and a varied vocal approach. Intertwining guitar/keyboard leads provide ample melody, along with the liberal use of both male and female clean vocals. However, the extreme vocals of Altti Vetelainen are utilized in the majority, which, along with plenty of crunchy riffs and very sturdy rhythm section, keep the album steeped in more than enough aggression. Choir-led sections and acoustic bits contribute a dark atmosphere, completing the package. Much like country-mates Amorphis and Insomnium, ETOS have a way of transporting the listener to a misty evening in the Land of a Thousand Lakes.
"Saivon Lapsi" is a worthy effort from start to finish, and a great follow-up to "Children Of The Dark Waters". Listening as a whole has the best affect, but check out "The Day", "Beneath The Frozen Leaves" and "Angelheart, Ravenheart (Act III - Saivon Lapsi)" for good sampling of what ETOS are all about. Fans of the band's past works should find nothing but enjoyment.
(originallly written for www.metal-observer.com)
It’s been four years since Children Of The Dark Waters, but longer in terms of a full-length that was really good. Eternal Tears Of Sorrow take their time between releases now, and in theory that should help clean their songs of clutter. Makes sense, but if the songwriting becomes too far gone, then all hope is lost. Saivon Lapsi thankfully is the band returning to their senses in terms of ripe compositions that capture the same vastness of Before The Bleeding Sun while maintaining its own prestige. There’s charisma to this that got lost on the previous release, but even with that returning here, four years is quite a long wait just to get back on track.
Ringleader Altti Veteläinen and his symphonic circus return with power. The guitars are crunchy, bass is hefty, riffing is tighter, nifty harmonies are plentiful, and symphonic / clean elements are better applied. Separating the instrumentals is a strange move that I don’t think helps the songs they intro in a transitional sense, but they’re fine as build-ups. For flow there’s not one point where there’s any major dip in quality. Some songs are a little less impressive like “Beneath The Frozen Leaves,” but overall it’s a solid effort from a band giving their symphonic brand of melodic death. It’s like Kalmah but with less showmanship and more in terms of melancholic atmosphere and melodies. “Legion Of Beast” reminds me of Insomnium in terms of the stylish leads as the driving force. Lastly, epics like “Dance Of December” and the continuation of the “Angelheart, Ravenheart” saga are reflective songs with more scope to them than directness.
One big complaint I had with the last album was the lack of appropriate clean transitions and hooks. They felt too forced and / or contrived to be of any help in amplifying a song’s feeling. That’s (mostly) not an issue here, with songs like “The Day” and “Swan Saivo” making great use of clean vocals (male and female), Altti’s hoarse screams, and key / guitar leads bleeding out some melodramatic hook. I still don’t consider Jarmo Kylmänen, with his accented, nimble singing to be that good of a clean vocalist. Altti’s venomous screams worked better alongside a projected, proud lead like it did back in the band’s greatest era. The crisp, spotless production suits either, but the preference remains the same.
This isn’t the album I was hoping for after four years (or eight since the last good one), but it’s something I’d definitely like to keep. Everything from the aggressive drums to Tolsa’s euphonious keys are ear candy. There’s lots of heavy / power metal influence like Kalmah, but in a more atmospheric way like Stratovarius, too. Add that to the symphonic melodic death angle Altti’s been going with since the reformation, and that’s the gist of the band’s formula. Eternal Tears Of Sorrow was a formidable force on Chaotic Beauty and A Virgin And A Whore, and while I might backflip if I heard another one of those from these guys again, I know I’ll take what I can get.
Time was I was a big fan of these guys. Couldn't help but have mixed expectations for this latest though when a) the previous album was one of the band's most consistent, quality records to date and b) the band stated in their studio diary that "you find it harder to come up with ideas as you get older". Although I appreciate their frankness, I couldn't help but fear that this latest record might lack quite the sparkling gothic whimsy and creativity of its predecessor. Mixed expectations become mixed reactions, as this new work of grunting Finnish melody swings wide of the mark too much to provide a worthy sequel to Children of the Dark Water.
First things first, this album has 'Swan Saivo' on it, as brilliant a piece of gothic power metal as they ever crafted, swimming in earwig melodies and big hooks. There's quite a bit to get through before that mind. The thickly atmospheric and melody-driven sound of recent efforts is appropriated once again here, the glimmering synths of Tarot vet Janne Tolsa merged into brutish, simplistic rhythm guitars and competent, crashing drums.
The album proceeds in a spotty fashion, unable to really hit its stride until right at the end. In fact it starts out pretty weak - no ripping 'Sweet Lilith of my Dreams' or epic 'Angelheart, Ravenheart (Act II: Children of the Dark Waters)' here. Beside the majority of its uninteresting bulk, 'Dark Alliance' is in fact pretty reminiscent of something Insomnium or maybe Omnium Gatherum would do, at least in the verses - fair enough you might say, as Eternal Tears of Sorrow have long been overtaken by those bands in the popularity stakes. Outside of some predictable melodies however, 'Legion of Beast' raises the stakes in tense melodic death metal and passionately rasped vocals, and raises the question why it wasn't used to open the album. The middle of Saivon Lapsi then wanders along presenting some great material, and some that is completely forgettable. The acoustic instrumental 'Kuura' is a very fine piece of atmospheric work, and 'Dance of December' hearkens to earlier days of gothic drama akin to something from the excellent A Virgin and a Whore, but it would be a lesser track from that record if anything. Here, it is one of the better songs. 'The Day' features bursts of great, somewhat neoclassical leads, killer solos and some big hooks that recall days of glory. But throughout, it is usually hard to enjoy all of one song, which makes for a somewhat sexually frustrating experience.
I think I've got to the bottom of why this is. The record has a funny habit of the clean vocals either detracting from decent songs, or improving otherwise dull ones. Jarmo Kylmanen's great vocals remain, but in a lot of songs he's left with fairly uninteresting material - or he himself hasn't bothered too much with the vocal lines, either one. In the otherwise great 'The Day', he fails to impress, but he really only comes into his own with the otherwise mediocre 'Beneath the Frozen Leaves' and 'Blood Stained Sea', which really has a cracking chorus. The great video track 'Swan Saivo' and Kylmanen's "big moment" 'Sound of Silence' (thankfully, not yet another cover of the Simon and Garfunkel classic, but instead a fairly unremarkable bit of gothy cooing from Kylmanen and Miriam Renvag) are the major exceptions to the rule. One brill, the other crap.
That song 'Swan Saivo' only deepens the mystery - suddenly the synths are cooler, the vocals bigger and manlier, the leads utterly inspiring - why has this not been the case throughout? Fuck if I know but, readers, y'must at least download this song from iTunes or wherever if you can unashamedly enjoy slightly sweetened Finnish pop metal. The album plays out with another installment of the 'Angelheart, Ravenheart' saga. Exciting, naturally, since the first part was a triumphant mammoth and the second an eerie journey through titular dark waters. Well, 'Act III: Saivon Lapsi' opens slow and moody and stays that way - crescendos and symphonies rumble during the song's peaks, and all-round it does make for a pretty atmospheric and efficacious climax. And all three parts in a row would probably sound pretty damn good.
Somewhere in this record, if you took vocal hooks and melodies from some songs and cut-and-pasted them into others in place of their own, trimmed off a couple other songs entirely and put 'Swan Saivo' somewhere up front, you've got a shorter, harder-hitting album. As it is though, the Finnish lads find themselves bogged down by dull areas that insist on infesting between glimpses of inspiration, and all but the most uncritical or green of pop metal listeners will probably find this a disappointing listen sans the last couple of songs.
Let's just start by saying this is one of the greatest releases for this band. They've waited a long time to release this album. True, but I can guarantee it's worth the waiting. The work they've put through in this album is really worth mentioning. They've managed to improve their performance and live up to their legacy. So this album is a must buy.
The atmosphere of this album is very promising. The band did not turn themselves into a total symphonic death metal band. If I were to specify their genre I would definitely call it symphonic/melodic death metal. Their techniques have really improved and their range, too. Altti's vocals have improved a lot, going from a high, distinctive pitch to a low, more of a death metal pitch. Some of their tracks aren't consistent with their genre such as "Sound Of Silence", but it really fit the mood they are driving you into. The usage of the clean vocals in this album is more of gothic metal, but they still manage to keep it more of a melodeath type.
Their guitars have really progressed in producing the melodies since their latest release. The mix between the rhythm and lead guitars is really good, too. The keyboards provide a very good atmosphere for the album of both symphonic and melodic death, not falling to any of the two genres completely. "Angelheart, RavenHeart Act III (Savion Lapsi)" was a great epic sequel for a 3 epic tracks of melodic/symphonic death history. To be honest, I was sad at the end of this album because I wanted more of this music to play, I couldn't get enough of it.
Bottom line short story version, "Savion Lapsi" is a great joy ride to those who values true music. If you are a fan of this band, this album would be a very good release to add to your collection. If you like the the unparalleled mix between symphonic and melodic death, buy the album. If you want to experience a wondrous journey into the minds of a great artists, buy the album.