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Stamina's debut full-length album released in 2005 marked their return to singing in the Finnish language, instead of singing in English like they had done for the three years prior to this release. Stam1na's musical style is best described as melodic groove/thrash metal with influences from everything like nu-metal (or to be fair, alternative metal) to progressive metal and the various works of Devin Townsend. Their music does however not stray all too far from the regular formula of popular music. By that I mean that they still use a lot of dynamics in their vocal lines and melodies, the band employs seriously infectious refrains entwined with some quite linear and downtuned but also at times technical heavy metal riffing. Throughout the years they have begun adding in more progressive metal influences and various technical touches to their songwriting. Some of which is displayed on this very album.
The album starts off with the three-minute track Ristiriita, the song begins with what sounds like very high-pitched notes played on the lead guitar in an iterate manner, if you wouldn't have paid attention to it you may have thought it was someone's phone ringing at first. These notes only last a few seconds before being completely interrupted by vocalist and guitarist Hyrde's loud proclamation of the band name Stam1na, then the energetic riffing and straightforward pounding of the drums make their entrance on the album in a very pummeling manner. As the verses begin you quickly notice the amazing lung capacity of vocalist Hyrde, who is shouting the lyrics of the verse in a very fast rhythmic manner in accordance with the guitar riffs. After about a minute of thrashing the chorus appears, filled to the brim with crazy vocal lines and thick riffs. The singer's range is quite something to behold. The vocals consist of straight-up thrash shouts or screams mixed up with melodic and emotive singing, there is also the occasional rap-sounding verse, which may be one reason why this band is deemed an alternative metal band. The guitar-accentuated production of the album couldn't be more fitting to the almost garage-like nature of some songs, namely "Koe Muhra!" and "Peto Rakasta Sinua". The rhythm guitars often sound truly gritty and raw, while the lead guitar has a clear tone working well for both fast leads and slower solos.
Stam1na released a music video for the song "Kadonneet Kolme Sanaa", the song starts off with a loud distorted guitar slide and then breaks into some mid-tempo riffs and drumming. The chorus is absolutely bombastic and comes off as almost melodramatic in nature, blending dynamic riffs and open chords in a seamless manner, with Hyrde's frantic, yet melodic screams and singing as icing on the cake. The track is however not my favorite on this album, that would be the 7th song entitled "Tuomittu, Syllinen". The song starts off with slow and dark palm muted riffs before breaking into an amazing long scream. Then the verse kicks in which consists of mid-tempo start and stop riffs featuring almost narrative vocals that sound spoken rather than sung. A short but sweet lead then sets in right before the amazing chorus, The sorrowful open chords played in the background of the refrain compliment the vocals perfectly. The intro returns disguised as the bridge before a huge break emerges at 3 minutes in and the chorus returns yet again to epically end the marvelous song.
The album also contains a few blunders inbetween the goodness. The track "Erilaisen Rakkauden Todistaja" starts off with an uninteresting palm muted riff reminiscient of nu-metal. The song is very boring and plodding and doesn't have much going for it except for a merely passable chorus. Another track which did not work out well was the slow track "Kaikki Tanttyy Vielä Pärhäin" which sounds like a half-assed attempt at an alternative rock ballad.
The final track is named "Paha Arkkitehti" and is another superb mid-tempo track with a memorable chorus much like "Kadonneet" and "Tuomittu", the song ends with a machine/industrial-sounding sample which increases in volume drastically for half a minute until the album ends in a cacophonic climax.
The self-titled Stam1na release is a superb debut release and certainly a landmark within the finnish metal scene. Most songs here have some amazing stuff going for them, and the musicians in Stam1na are more than capable of conveying epic emotions through their playing and songwriting. Although I think they topped this album with their next release "Uudet Kymmenen Käskyä", the self-titled Stam1na album still remains an important stepping stone for the band and a great introductory release to the band for curious listeners.
The three-member Stam1na hailing from Lemi, a small rural Finnish town with 3000 inhabitants, rose to Finlands public eye somewhere in 2005 after releasing their chart-topping single Kadonneet Kolme Sanaa (“The Three Lost Words”) and the later release of their first, self-titled album.
Stam1na plays a type of Alternative, "modern" version of Thrash Metal that owes as much to their big brother Mokoma as it does to bands like Slayer. The music is driven by the melodic and catchy riffing of Hyrde and Pexi, while the drummer plays along without doing anything all that special, yet keeping up with the band fitting the music perfectly. At this point Stam1na has no bass player so the bass is played by Hyrde, who prefers keeping the bass clear from the musical limelight and just giving a boost to the guitars. Vocals are an explicit highpoint here, Hyrde sings and screams exceptionally well, reminding me of Marko Annala of Mokoma and at times even Devin Townsend (while not exactly reaching his ridiculously high standards).
The members are all in their early twenties which is shown by both their incredibly energetic and enthusiastic output and a certain childishness that’s still present in their songwriting. In terms of production this album is crystal clear and loud, bringing the energetic sound forth even more. I would even dare to say that the production is too good for its own good. It’s too damn flawless even for me, and I usually can’t stand production that’s shitty on purpose. The production is like a cake that’s too sweet. You get sick of it and go eat some jerky instead.
The band trots along through 11 songs and 39 minutes of mostly fast-paced and aggressive pieces of music full of hooks that won’t let go. Somewhat progressive in structure, the compositions remind me of Mokoma mixed with System Of A Down or Strapping Young Lad with solos and no Industrial elements, which is not too surprising since Hyrde is a fan of Devins work. There are a few highlight tracks here like the opener Ristiriita ("Conflict”) with an interesting main riff, some impressive screams by Hyrde and the best guitar solo on the album, the slower-paced Tuomittu, Syyllinen (“Doomed, Guilty”) with crushing heavy riffing, the fast, mean and short Koe Murha! ("Experience Murder!"), and the menacing closer Paha Arkkitehti (“Evil Architect”) with a main riff reminiscent of early Gothenburg and some of the best lyrics on the album.
This fine debut is however not without its flaws. Between the kick-ass songs there are a few songs that are below-average like the slow and tedious Kaikki Kääntyy Vielä Parhain Päin ("Everything Will Turn Out Fine"). Tracks like this do not belong on a Thrash album, alternative or not. Sometimes the clean vocals after a minute of throaty screaming sound awkward and unnecessary. The guitar solos are okay but nothing to write home about, they are not as memorable as one would hope for.
Lyrically the band does not separate themselves from the traditional melancholic and pessimistic outlook typically shared by bands that choose to use the Finnish language like Viikate or Kotiteollisuus, keeping the play with words, the poetic feel and the metaphorical descriptions also present in this lyrical style. While some of the lyrics do deal with violence, as Thrash lyrics should, Stam1na mostly cover different subjects like religion in Ristiriita and Sananen Lihasta (“A Word On Flesh”), love in it’s different forms in Erilaisen Rakkauden Todistaja (“A Witness of a Different Kind of Love”, a track dealing with Sadomasochism and inspired by the song Love? by SYL) and Peto Rakasti Sinua (“The Beast Loved You”), and world politics in Paha Arkkitehti. The bands young age comes to play here; the lack of maturity is still present, resulting in few not-as-good parts.
All in all, this is a good album with more strengths than weaknesses. While the band has not yet reached their full potential here they still play some impressive and original music. This is not exactly Thrash, some may even call it Half-Thrash, but this is good music nonetheless. Thrash purists stay away.