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It was quite disappointing that after just one CD (‘Escapexstacy’), Poisonblack vocalist J.P. Leppäluoto (Charon) decided to leave the band, leaving Sentenced frontman Ville Laihiala to regroup and press on. The forging of the big wigs from Charon and Sentenced worked extremely well, with fans seeing a different side of Laihiala; who played guitar instead of singing. With the bassist Janne Kukkonen and 2nd guitarist Janne Dahlgren leaving at the same time as Leppäluoto, Ville Laihiala took it upon himself to take over the vocal duties as well as continuing on with lead guitar. A new bassist and guitarist were hired (Antti Remes and Janne Markus), Poisonblack survived the setback and re-shuffle of musicians, and continued to move forward with ‘Lust stained despair’ in 2006 and ‘A dead heavy day’ in 2008.
Due to the departure of Leppäluoto and Kukkonen, the sole songwriting responsibilities belonged to Laihiala, which is why there is a strong Sentenced influence from ‘Lust stained despair’ onwards. While not a carbon copy of Sentenced, Ville has incorporated aspects of Sentenced’s sound and songwriting, delving into depressive, dire and “don’t give a crap” self-hate feelings with the lyrics. Songs like “Pain becomes me”, “Nothing else remains”, “Low life” and “Human-compost” could easily be mistaken for songs on any recent Sentenced CD.
2010 brings the latest Poisonblack CD, titled ‘Of rust and bones’, again through Century Media records. While it is again similar in feel to Ville’s departed Sentenced, this time round however the songwriting has a lot more depth, maturity and melody to it than ever before. More emphasis and time has been given to instrumental passages during songs, while the amount of actual singing has been reduced. A few tracks are quite mellow and sombre, especially the 3 lengthiest songs on the CD (they clock in at 8:07, 8:03 and 7:33). Ville’s vocals also change during these longer tracks, singing with a slower delivery and more harmony, rather than the typical hoarse and raspy way that we are used to. It is a refreshing change to the direction Poisonblack had been heading in, while the CD as a whole is an improvement over the previously lacklustre ‘A dead heavy day’.
The CD begins quite strongly with the opening track “My sun shines black”. Fairly heavy and upbeat with powerful guitar chords from both Ville and Janne, the song is very catchy and keeps your head nodding the whole way through. The high standard continues with the Sentenced-esk sounding “Leech”, featuring low end groove guitar riffs and heavy bass. Ville is sounding at his passionate and emotional best, while a swift but precise guitar solo caps the track off as one of the best on the CD. “Buried alive” is another catchy melodic top-notch track mirroring Sentenced and already I am surprised by the considerable improvement, knowing that ‘A dead heavy day’ only had just a few kick-ass tracks. Also quite noticeable is the emphasis of the extension of instrumental passages throughout each track on the disc (as I mentioned earlier). The songwriting is allowing each track to flow naturally, not forcing the songs through the wringer and be done with it, which has been the case with a collection of tracks from the previous 2 CDs. I consider the “take your time” approach to be quite creative and something vastly different to the usual songwriting.
“Casket case” is another brilliant track on the CD, which features an angry Ville almost growling in his delivery. The track is very dark, very emotional, but also memorable and catchy. The twin guitar blasts are working like a treat and on “Casket case” they come to full fruition. This brings us to the biggest surprise on the CD, the 3 lengthy tracks. They certainly need to be heard to be believed as they are the jewels encased within this release. All 3 sound sombre, mellow and beautiful (with heavy passages here and there); the keyboards and acoustic guitars adding further depth to an already emotional mixing pot. Ville’s vocal delivery is quite haunting to hear, as he sings with great melody and passion. Hearing a Lake Of Tears similarity, all 3 tracks leave me very impressed and I consider “Invisible”, “Down the drain” and “The last song” to be the pinnacles of this CD.
I must admit that I was expecting more of the same of the previous CD, with an even more Sentenced feel, but this is not the case. While there undoubtedly is an obvious Sentenced influence and feel, I think Ville this time round came to the writing table with new and fresh ideas for Poisonblack to become into its own. I believe that he has done that very well on ‘Of rust and bones’, with the creativity and unpredictability of the songwriting leaving me astonished and wanting for more. Those who thought ‘A dead heavy day’ was uninspired and lacked that little something should really take a listen of this new release, as it will restore your faith in Poisonblack. For fans of Sentenced, this is a no-brainer, while fans of the gothic rock/metal genre should also pick this one up quite blindly. No doubt, ‘Of rust and bones’ is one of the biggest surprises for 2010 and best Poisonblack release since ‘Escapexstacy’.
Originally written for www.metalcdratings.com