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Now a household name in their native country, Stam1na has quickly risen to be one of the biggest bands in the Finnish scene. Their mix of thrashy riff-laden goodness in the vein of Mokoma peppered with elements from the experimental leanings of Strapping Young Lad and Meshuggah makes for a hefty dose of progressive goodness, in which originality is a defining merit. The band's taste for melody makes sure that the music still remains catchy regardless of what wall-of-sound they may be creating, and this was one of the things that made their previous album, Uudet Kymmenen Käskyä, so great. On Raja, however, they seem to have gone a bit overboard with their search for catchy choruses and the end result is definitely inferior to their past outings.
That is not to say that the album is awful, far from it, it's just mostly very inconsistent. On one hand it has some killer tracks that are certainly among Stam1na's finest like the (appropriately named), grinding, thrashy and fast Hammasratas which will leave the listener at a loss how the vocalist can produce sound at such speed, and on the other some truly ghastly abominations like Vartijaton. The presence of many relatively softer tracks like the previously named Vartijaton and Muistipalapelit, a song which has a chorus eerily reminiscent of one of Finland's top pop-rock artists, Ilkka Alanko. By ”soft” I mean soft by Stam1na's standards, songs that deviate from the fast and/or twistedly progressive style they are the masters of. They've also resulted in having a heavier emphasis on choruses than before and a result the album sounds like a collection of songs rather than an ”album”. Inevitably these changes rob Stam1na of some of their originality, making them sound far more like the rest of the pack.
Though there's no doubt they've always worn their influences on their sleeves unapologetically Stam1na have still been able to create something that is truly their own, but now it seems to me that they have taken an ass-backwards approach to their own music and ended up sounding more like their idols than one would hope for; Voima Vastaan Viha sounds exactly like Kotiteollisuus and Lääke reminds me of Mokoma a bit too much and while they are still pretty good songs this is not a desirable direction for a band who thrive on having an unique sound. Ironically they've also knocked the Devin Townsend worship down a peg apart from the occasional layered vocals and that very element was what made Uudet Kymmenen Käskyä so great.
Raja is still a decent listen, if for nothing else then for Hammasratas, Susi-Ihminen, Lääke and Muuri. The musicianship is still just what you'd expect from a band of their standing and Hyrde's vocals are as varied, instantly recognizable and unique as ever (although the leaf he has taken from the book of Townsend is a large one), and Stam1na is still the barrel of good time they've always been. Hopefully this misstep is now over, the slump is temporary and they go back to making more material like their sophomore album. What these guys need is some promotion abroad.