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Unbelievably fucking gay - 10%

Noktorn, August 8th, 2007

I... don't even know where to begin. Fall Of The Leafe's 'Aerolithe' is so horrifically embarrassing an album that it literally makes me grimace with shame while listening to it. Having never heard the band before this, I can safely say that I would murder every man, woman, child and farm animal in the world with my bare hands in order to never hear this again. 'Aerolithe' is the sort of album that would, upon being played for a priest, make him lift his rosary high into the air and then cast it to the ground, his soul shattered with the confirmation that there in fact is no god. In most circumstances I would find this to be a pleasing reaction, but this album has made me question my very purpose on earth and ask myself whether I am willing to go on in a world with things as horrible as this. The very presence of 'Aerolithe' in the world casts a cold, dark shadow on all that is good, causing the eyes of children to boil in their sockets and dogs to spontaneously combust in pure, unbridled terror.

If I was forced to attribute a single adjective to this album, it would be the word 'gay'. Fall Of The Leafe's music, at least on this album, is spectacularly, enormously, monolithically gay in ways described only in scrolls thought to have been destroyed in the burning of the Library of Alexandria. I have no idea how anyone in their right mind could call this heavy metal, or even significantly influenced by the genre. Even the most abrasive moments could easily appear on your average rock radio station. This is poppy to an insane degree and it makes even the most tame and accessible heavy metal look like Vlad Fucking Tepes in comparison. The only hint of 'metal' on this record is occasional double bass, some (very) brief tremolo riffs, and mildly harsh vocals that are more palatable to the musically conservative than your average Linkin Park record. The vast, vast majority of the music here is pure, poppy radio rock that would offend essentially no one, so tepid are the tracks on 'Aerolithe'.

Now, unlike many metalheads, I don't have a problem with rock music on principle. I like a great deal of it, grew up with it, go to rock concerts, etc. However, there's a thin line between rock music that is dramatic, emotional, even feminine, and what we have here. As stated before, 'Aerolithe' is fundamentally gay in stunning fashion, and overblows every display of emotion into a mockery of whatever the root feeling was. The guitars play riffs more sugary and accessible than Nightwish (and composed of even more hopelessly predictable chord structures), the drums are basic rock beats 'spiced up' with the addition of a second bass drum, and the keyboards (omnipresent and lurking like a great faggy vulture in the sky) mostly echo the guitars or use terrible 'electronic' effects stripped from the latest awful eurobeat single. However, none of this even remotely matches the utter humiliation that stems from the vocals of the war criminal known as Tuomas Tuominen.

No, he's not 'bad' in the traditional sense, but nothing on this record is. The agonizing hilarity of his vocal performance stems from the incredible melodrama that he inserts into every single line of cheesy-ass lyrics. Imagine, if you will, bleeding to death from a massive puncture wound in your thigh on the side of the road, and in the few brief, precious seconds of your life, a Band-Aid truck passes by. The final hacking, sputtering, bitter laugh that escapes your lips in that situation is the only sound that accurately describes Tuominen's performance. Every word has some level of absurd rock vibrato, and the content seems to alternate between emulation of Bon Jovi, Eddie Vedder, Sully Erna, and a moocow. Yes, a moocow. Tuomas Tuominen, for the record, at points on 'Aerolithe', sounds like a fucking moocow.

The music is catchy. Yes, many of the melodies on this record are pleasing and stick with you. But you see, the simplest pop melodies really are good regardless of whether it's quality music or not, so having a few pleasing moments of such hopelessly populist music really has no reflection on the band itself. Additionally, the concept of something being 'catchy' is something that needs to be reevaluated. Simply because something manages to be catchy does not represent any sort of quality. Case in point: the Macarena. Numa Numa. A dozen offhand Simple Plan songs. The Ebola virus is extremely catchy, but it is DISPLEASING, regardless of how well it sticks to you while it liquefies your organs. So, yes, Fall Of The Leafe is catchy, but instead of liquefying your internal organs, it merely does it to your brain and possibly any male genitalia you may so happen to possess.

'Aerolithe' is unbelievably awful and unbelievably gay. Please, for the sake of all that is good about heavy metal or music in general, don't listen to this album. If you feel the need to buy it to complete your Fall Of The Leafe collection, feel free, but don't listen to it. Simply do whatever you can to avoid exposing yourself to this ridiculous, soul-crushing album. I took one for the team so you don't. Excuse me while I go nail myself to the fucking cross.

(Originally written for www.vampire-magazine.com)

Why does this leave me disappointed? - 75%

Susitaival, August 7th, 2007

Fall of the Leafe takes elements from melodic metal, progressive rock, even pop music and weaves out a package, which is quite hard to describe. In their first album this group hailing from western Finland toyed with some black metal influences but has since moved closer to mainstream metal. There are guitar melodies and passages clearly inspired by Amorphis, yet the structure and themes of the tracks are totally different than their great predecessor’s. Fall of the Leafe’s 2005 album “Vantage” was that year’s greatest surprise for me, much heavier than preceding ones and full of small musical hooks. The band has remained in marginal fame, perhaps just because their music combines so diverse elements and doesn’t fall neatly into any well-defined genre.

Songs on the new album contain multiple parts and many different layers with complex guitar patterns and usually many changes in rhythm. Music can transfer from metal part into a slow, melodic passage before transforming again into something else. Check out “Graceful Retreat”, having some fast yet fluent transitions between passages. Some of the tracks totally lack chorus, a feature that can be sometimes confusing if you’re used to straight-forward rock music, but which for me is an essential part of Fall of the Leafe’s charm. In some of the songs a multitude of different tracks feels like crushing the poor listener, then a guitar solo or melody intervenes at the right moment and saves it all (“Lithe”).

Despite what I said in previous passage, song structures are more coherent than in some earlier albums, specially “Fermina” and “Volvere”, where the ideas sometimes seemed to disappear under winding melodies and guitarists presenting their skills. All the trademarks of Fall of the Leafe are present here, though. Typical song by the band goes something like this: peaceful intro, then low-tuned rhythm guitar comes in with powerful riffing, higher-pitched guitar picks a melody over this and vocals top it all. A good example is “Especially by Stealth”, where every feature is present right from the beginning. What comes to the album as whole compared to “Vantage” which had several excellent songs the rest being nearly as good, “Aerolithe” really doesn’t have any jaw-dropping moments. There are fine passages and verses on many songs, but the album en bloc leaves a somewhat bland after-taste.

Guitar sound is more metal than in previous albums, and the mixing puts guitars clearly in front. Keyboards are here in secondary role, as befits a metal-band. Otherwise I can’t really find anything to criticise about the production, if the bit muffled keyboards do not count. Sound is clear as a mountain brook with separate instruments standing out well. Musicianship is top-notch. Jussi Hänninen and Kaj Gustafsson are probably two most undervalued guitarists in Finnish metal scene. Drummer Matias Aaltonen makes a reliable performance giving a good support for rest of the band.

Vocalist Tuomas Tuominen continues the same style he adopted in “Vantage”. His vocal performance is again very recognisable; clean, edgy vocals occasionally rising to high roar, at times faltering near breakdown and then almost miraculously pulling through again. Most of the time Tuomas’ vocals are almost flawless, but in some songs he tries too hard, resulting in not entirely convincing and sometimes even embarrassing parts. Listen to “At a Breath’s Pace” and “Look into Me” to hear what I mean. In “Vantage” Tuomas’ phrasing made it hard to distinguish the lyrics, now I can most of the time even make out what he’s singing about.

Lyrics in previous albums have been written by an American called Jessica Cerrato. In “Aerolithe” all but one are by Tuomas himself. Texts are quite unique for a metal band: they are like modern poetry, only part of which is actually sung. And to add complexity, some of the lyrics are not even written down in the album leaflet. Bearing this in mind, it is imperative to listen carefully if the listener wants to know what the heck is really going on.

So, despite all the aforementioned good things, why do I still feel that something is lacking? Maybe it’s because there are no highlights and all the tracks sound too much like each other. Album lasts 41 minutes, during which time you feel basically satisfied with what you hear, but what raises no feelings. For me, that’s the yardstick of excellent musical piece, and “Aerolithe” fails that test. Maybe after a few months and more spins I would give this album about 90 percent score; now I only feel that Fall of the Leafe’s latest is a step backward from “Vantage”.