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This band is in the business of being gloomy. They've been whipping the horses a bit since that lumbering behemoth Ghosts of Loss, and their hearse has picked up a bit of pace as a result. What's evident right out of the box is that these guys have been practising with their spit and polish - the arrangements, orchestration and yeah, even the individual playing has had the screws tightened in a big way. Miko Kotamäki's clean vocals are getting better with each release (though he's got some big-time assistance in the form of guest vocal perfomances by Jonas Renkse from Katatonia and Tomi Joutsen from Finnish compatriots Amorphis) and his growl's still that familiar full-throttle roar. Somehow though, there's still something holding it back from topping the quality of their debut - perhaps the added slickness and the hometown hero status they've attained since the early days have robbed them of the outright despair that most fledgling bands wear like a badge.
Minor peeves aside, there's quite a bit here for those who like the death/doom formula. The title track and The Justice of Suffering pull off the mid-tempo catchy dirge angle remarkably well and Don't Fall Asleep, despite having to live with a totally defeatist name, is another high point, going through the flow between tranquility and the heavy sound in a smooth, pleasing manner. In fact, if not for the extreme growls and the occasional prohibitive length, a lot of these tracks could be considered radio-ready. Towards the end, Doomed to Walk the Earth evokes shades of their earlier gloomy brilliance, from the evil rumblings in the beginning, the creepy orchestral/piano bits worked into the middle and finally, the way it builds up to a hauntingly beautiful close.
The remaining tracks are alright, though they seem to have their fair share of filler here and there, and the album does seem to drag like an overloaded mule towards the middle. The songs that work, however, are worth the price of entry. So, for those of you who like the symphonic death/doom trip and don't have any hardline principle against occasionally skipping tracks, this is definitely worthy of your attention. Hope is a pretty appropriate title in that regard - there's still some of it left.