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Finns are a strange bunch of people; seemingly consisting of two entirely different groups. On one side there's the goatse loving, depraved, drunken finns who never wash and have produced things varying from Beherit to Aeoga to Thergothon to Impious Havoc etc., and on the other, similarly depraved and goatse loving finns who have a bizarre fetish for making the most polished, non-metal metal possible. Think of the most watered down, riffless, weakest metal there is- Nightwish, Korpiklaani, Avi Kounen (whatever his name is).. And with the exception of Agalloch they're all finnish. How this country isn't permanently at threat of a schism or civil war I'll never know; perhaps it's the shared love of a man with a stretched anus that keeps them together.
Anyway, SoD are proudly in the latter group; this is the most polished, new agey, non-funeral doom funeral doom there is, and probably ever will be. It's really strange that a country famous for amazing and unearthly funeral doom would crank out something like this- but lack of sunlight and proximity to Russia would do strange things to anyone.
There is a somewhat unique sound here, sort of, I guess. Get your typical "symphonic power metal" album, say, Nightwish's Century Child, slow it way down and.. well, perhaps it isn't so unique. But really there's a lot of similar hallmarks here- the keyboard symphony (nice tones on this album, btw) supplies 99% of the musical content, generally lite-classical that's weak on harmony and interesting layers and dynamics. There's female and male vocals that float over the top of the stately, despairing mire, and if you listen real closely you can make out forlorn guitar churning out backing chords somewhere in the background of the mix. Unlike their more poppy contemporaries, however, the structures are a bit more jumbled and generally all over the place- for something that's meant to be smooth, soothing and relaxing this rarely has good songwriting. Quiet These Paintings Are being the best example- listen to the really rather awkward symphonic interludes and transitions and you'll see what I mean.
Occaisonally there'll be a melody that will spring out and affect you; the doomed waltz of 'Paintings' being a good example. And while there are indeed moments where the wall of synths, guitar and vocals actually manage to fire up some emotions in me, I can't help but feel that SoD would be a lot better if they ditched the funeral doom and indeed, metal pretentious- thicken up the wall of sound with more orchestral and more textural guitar stuff, shorten the songs (something that needs to be done regardless), drop the growls and become a new age/ethereal type band. It'd be catchier, it'd be easier to listen too (which is likely one of their main aims as is), there'd be no guitars chugging away awkwardly in the background.
..And you could get away more with having less content. For such a layered sounding band there's remarkably little going on here, and the fact that it's stretched out for such a typically long time makes this album a very boring listen indeed. 'Night's Dew' has an absolute nothing, pointless intro lead, the title track a few different lead lines that don't do anywhere near enough to justify the running time. When you get down to it, none of the songs go anywhere beyond the first few minutes, beyond showcasing the keyboardist's excellent taste in synth patches and the solid production values.
That's pretty much it really; it's well produced and sounds soothing to the ears. As background music it's not incredibly hard to listen to, however for concentrated headphones action it's damn near impossible- and really, that's what it's all about. Those interested in this album could be better off checking out Enya or maybe even Mono- they do the whole "stately and rather boring music with sad strings" much better, and their songs actually go places, unlike the ones on this album. Avoid.
(originally reviewed for www.heathenharvest.com)