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Teräsbetoni have had a fairly prolific start to their career, now releasing their 3rd CD in only their 5th year as a band. Sticking to the blueprint that has won them a fair degree of early plaudits, 'Myrskyntuoja' will not feature anything to surprise a listener of their previous 2 releases, but is rather a sure and steady continuation of their established sound. Perhaps a little faster than its immediate predecessor 'Vaadimme metallia', the CD is overall a similar affair driven by chunky riffs rather than lead guitar and simple-yet-prominent, often militaristic drumming.
The obvious focal point for the band is still the distinctive, raspy vocals of Jarkko Ahola, best remembered by some for his brief time fronting compatriots Dreamtale (which should come as no surprise considering the entire population of Finland must have been in that band at some point), but the key factor that distinguishes Teräsbetoni from many of their competitors on the European power metal scene is their stylistic choice to sing in their native Finnish.
For Finnish listeners it will be a welcome change to hear one of their many resident metal bands taking the bold step of not conforming to the must-sing-in English maxim, while for those to whom the complex language is alien it will most likely be a divisive topic.
From my personal point of view, and though it probably wouldn't be far from the truth to say it is treating the band like something of a gimmick, the uniqueness afforded to Teräsbetoni by their linguistic choice is one of the biggest parts of their appeal. I remember Tony Kakko saying in an interview a few years ago that one of the reasons he did not sing his Sonata Arctica lyrics in Finnish was that it wasn't exactly the most beautiful of languages, but there is definitely something intriguing about the tongue-twisting, multi-syllable words and guttural delivery. Though having to rely on catchy riffs and vocal melodies rather than choruses to keep track of the songs, hearing the rolling R's and throaty enunciation of vowels by Ahola (with the odd bit of assistance from guitarist Arto Järvinen) is a steady source of fascination, and adds an extra dimension to the songs.
Similar to how Vio-lence fans probably find themselves screaming unintelligible noises along to the insane, incomprehensible vocals of Sean Killian, I'm sure I'll not be the only one who makes stupid attempts to keep up with Ahola and gets caught finding mispronounced English phrases in the songs. I'm pretty sure "Orjakaleeri - we had sold the car" is not really how "Orjakaleeri" ("Slave galley") is supposed to go, but I'll be damned if I can stop myself from singing it like that now.
But even leaving aside the attraction of Teräsbetoni being a foreign language band (it's not like they are the only one not to sing in English, after all), their real success comes from their knack for writing uncomplicated, memorable heavy metal tunes. The sharp, punchy music and the uplifting vocal melodies ensure there is never a dull moment, and Ahola's superb voice is a constant joy to behold. The galloping Eurovision entry "Missa iehet ratsastaa" and the dominant "Metallin voima" are among the standouts in a tracklist that is a model of consistency.
Never the most original of bands by any stretch of the imagination, Teräsbetoni nonetheless remain fresh-sounding and creative – whether this is down to the lingual device or not is uncertain and essentially immaterial. The songs they have written are powerful and crisp enough in their own right that it doesn't matter what the main selling point is, just that the CD comes with a sound recommendation.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)