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Painfully beautiful hopelessness - 93%

ReDevil, July 23rd, 2007

Right. What we have here is a Finnish masterpiece when it comes to doom metal. I read one review of this album, and went off right away to buy it. I’ve never ever bought a CD that brings as much feelings up to the surface as this one. Several times, I found myself having gooseflesh all over, solely because of the unbelievable atmosphere StS manages to create.

The album starts with the song Hope, which is also the album title. Either the band is mocking the users, or they have a strange form of humour, since “hope” is mentioned in all songs but two, and I’ve never encountered a CD that radiates such hopelessness as this one does.

Well, on to the music, then. As I said, Hope starts the slow, dark trip toward the hopelessness the listener will probably feel after listening to this record, if he/she isn’t completely emotionless. It starts with a nice guitar, that builds up slowly, then in kicks the drums, which, I think, sound excellent on this one. Pasanen has got rid of his usual style to do too much work with the drums, and now he manages to keep it simple when it fits in the song. Then Kotamäki starts to sing, with a beautiful, clean voice. He sings the first verse clean, but when the chorus comes, the growl starts. I like Kotamäki’s voice, he manages to even growl in a way that still makes it possible to hear what he’s singing.

All this, wrapped up in an emotion- and melody-filled song. The guitar is pretty clean, nothing to complain about here, either. And the lyrics – so hopeless it could make a grown-up man cry. All in all an excellent start for the album.

Right after comes “These Hours of Despair”, a tad faster than “Hope”, and probably one of the fastest, if not the fastest song on the album, which still doesn’t mean it’s fast. I really like the drums on this one, especially in the tempo-filled beginning. Kotamäki starts his singing almost immediately, whispering this time, but soon turning it into the familiar growl from their earlier albums. Also, the guest female “vocals” on the track are worth a mention. She doesn’t sing, but is in a chore in the background, building up the emotion of the song.

Many of you may now Katatonia, and Jonas Renkse. He’s starring on guest vocals on the third track on the album, “The Justice of Suffering”. It’s really a bit sad that Kotamäki and Renkse sound pretty alike when Kotamäki is singing cleanly. Of course, on this track he leaves the clean bits to Renkse and concentrates on the growling. Renkse wrote much of this tracks lyrics, and you can feel the difference in the song. He seems to steal almost all the attention from the original artist.

Off then, to the single song of the album, “Don’t Fall Asleep (Horror, pt. 2). Maybe a little odd choice, if you ask me, to pick this a single, since this is the song on the album that sounds least like StS used to on the earlier records. The keyboards on this track is one thing you’ll notice, they’re not used too much, but still, they are an essential part of the song. Kotamäki’s clean voice lays a calm over the already calm song, and then, again, in the chorus part, hell breaks loose. The guitar sounds simply awesome on that part, really, really nice. Here, too, you can hear the female voice in the background, which adds a nice flavour to the song.

The longest song on the album, “Too Cold for Tears”, starts very slow, very calm and soothing, as if preparing for a funeral or something. Kotamäki manages to sound so hopeless again, that it almost brings tears to one’s eyes when listening to this. A little odd way to sing this, he sings the verse first clean, then repeats it growling. Not really one of the greatest songs on the album. The next, “Empty Skies”, ain’t so special, either. The lyrics are pretty boring if you compare them to the other songs on the album, and there’s nothing really special about it.

“No Light, No Hope” has a nice bass in the beginning, and the main riff is worth a mention, too. This song is the only one under five minutes on the album, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, either. I don’t think it would have been as good, had it been any longer than it is.

The second last track of the album is THE reason this album should be bought. “Doomed To Walk the Earth” starts really, really slowly, and Kotamäki makes some really good singing on this, maybe his best performance on the album. The depressive emotion that seems to spread from his voice takes a hold of you and refuses to let go before the track is over. From the beginning to the end, when he, with his heart-breaking, harsh growl sings “I am doomed to walk this Earth”, and again with the female singer backing it all up. Also, the music stagnates in the middle of the song. StS are not afraid to let everything drive to an almost complete halt, where there's only some faint melodies playing in the background. It's used to build up the emotion in the song and it works really, really well.

It should have ended with that song, but the digipack version has one bonustrack, “These Low Lands”, which doesn’t exactly impress me. Of course, it's not their original song, but a cover of the Finnish band Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus, so it's not really their style, anyway. Nothing wrong with the cover, though.

The lyrics is found in the booklet to all songs, but not the last. It’s a shame, really, to leave one track out. I would comment on the lyrics more, if I could find words to express how I feel them, but sadly I don't. They have to be heard together with the music, otherwise they'll lose their magic. Otherwise, the artwork is really great, and personally I prefer the digipack artwork before the original.

If you like doom, you almost surely like this. It doesn’t really get better. I have listened to this album ever since it was published, and I still haven’t got enough. It simply MUST be experienced. Go. Buy it. Now.