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Oh no, a female-fronted band! Whenever I come across such acts, I am always overcome with the same unease that a man feels whenever he finds himself, as misfortune would have it, in the girly aisle of the grocery store. The thought inescapably brings the smell of feminine products to my nose, and it is not without a little bit of shame that I think to myself, “My sister would like this.” However, you can be sure that The Mist and the Morning Dew encourage a different reaction and, for any fan of folk or doom, the band is a welcomed respite from the ferocity of death or black metal groups.
The Mist and the Morning Dew is comprised of an immensely talented cast of musicians who come from some of the most successful Finnish folk and doom metal acts. It is natural, then, that the EP should be a blend of folk and doom sensibilities. The music is slow but never assumes the sluggishness or the crushing heaviness of doom metal. In fact, all of the tracks stick to a digestible plodding pace, with only little variation. Like folk, acoustic instruments have a constant presence and mix well with the electric guitars, but they never take the lead, save for in Agalloch-like interludes, or take to traditional melodies, as they would in folk outputs. This not-quite-metal style makes for a release that is peacefully melancholic, without the sort of melodrama or abrasiveness that one might find in a more metal approach.
The EP’s overall sound is appropriately organic. Beyond the occasional layered vocals or tasteful touches made to the lead guitar, the EP contains very little effects. Furthermore, the whole of the release has a very “warm” sound. Melancholy for The Mist and the Morning Dew is not about, say, the bitterness of winter. Instead, the EP’s atmosphere is more appropriate to summer’s giving way to autumn. Full and inoffensive, the guitars—whether lead, rhythm, or acoustic—all have a characteristic softness to their sound that is both soothing and immersive to the listener.
Because it is so inoffensive, the EP is inevitably a very “pretty” release. Despite what one might expect from a female-fronted band, Veera Muhli is not a diva, and she is not advertized in the way that other female singers are. In the mix, her vocals are not even fore-fronted but, instead, exist unclearly beneath the melodious, albeit sometimes flowery, guitars. Muhli’s style is dispassionate, but it’s the good sort of dispassion that is most appropriate to melancholy. While many might prefer clearer enunciation, that approach might allow for too much melodrama to creep in and, if anything, make the EP too pretty.
A predictable objection against the EP would be that it lacks balls, and that would be true. For listeners who are not already fans of this style, the EP will probably leave an unwanted taste in their mouths. But, for listeners who enjoy melancholic music or softer doom metal, this release will fit nicely beside the works of Agalloch, October Falls, or Ikuinen Kaamos. As an EP, it lacks the longevity of a full-length, but it’s a worthy introduction to a band that, though their status is currently unknown, certainly has more to offer.
[FOREWORD – Just to make things clear, this EP is similar to the 2002 demo, only with an extra song previously recorded with a different line-up.]
So, a side-project of a famous funeral doom band (Shape of Despair) and an equally famous folk metal band (Finntroll), what do you think it is likely to sound like? Not really easy to foresee. The Mist and the Morning Dew lurks eventually closer to its doom metal genitor than to its folk metal one, though a pure Shape of Despair clone it definitely isn’t. More accessible to the layman, could we say.
The band plays so-called atmospheric doom metal, with a strong emphasis on “atmospheric”. But I can’t prevent myself from thinking of Agalloch, even if at first glance both bands don’t exactly play the same kind of music. That means long, unnecessarily long songs, with little variations, beautiful melodies and an overall eerie mood, to which unfortunately the listener ends up lending only an inattentive ear. Every track eventually gives the same impression: one is caught by the first two minutes, but generally gives up once this delay has expired.
More than the songwriting in itself, the production is the main responsible. I don’t care if it’s supposed to be a demo or whatever, if a release can’t be fully enjoyed because of its sound then it’s flawed, period. Everything is lost in some sort of mist, to come back to the band’s name. The female vocals sound monotonous and fully ununderstandable, given how much they’re drowned in this overall mud. You may sometimes hear a violin – old My Dying Bride fashion – which would probably have sounded beautiful under other circumstances, as well as an acoustic guitar – that’s when Agalloch’s spirit rises again. The drums are muffled down as well; actually the only instrument standing a bit out of the pool is the electric guitar. To sum up just imagine you’re walking out by a very hazy morning, and suddenly you hear some eerie music you’re wishing to find the source. But this source you’ll never be able to find given how much you’ve lost any of your landmarks – that’s exactly how this release is: terribly frustrating.
The most interesting song surprisingly is the instrumental Tuoni Vie, which ironically had been recorded before the 2002 demo. Don’t ask me what makes it more enjoyable, I don’t exactly know, the production being as bad as on the previous songs. I just guess it’s because you’re not desperately trying to understand what the singer is saying, or to hear the violin, as there is none to be heard on this track. For the rest it’s exactly in the same vein than the four other tunes, maybe with a catchier leading melody, but it’s more or less a matter of taste.
Thus, this EP undoubtedly had potential, but ends up being nothing more than background music. In some ways, it’s very sad.
Highlights: Repentance, Tuoni Vie
Few demos convey as much as this one does. Most of the members have been parts of folk or doom metal acts before. Putting their skills together they’ve made this very atmospheric yet light doom demo. They have put much time making the melodies really work, fitting both the electric and acoustic guitars they have. Veera’s vocals are sweet yet expressive… There’s a lot of emotion in there, and she does a really good job even though she’s not such a technically good singer. All the instruments and her voice blend very well; painting sound pictures that causes these tears in my eyes.
Most atmospheric bands use keyboards. The Mist And The Morning Dew has a violin. Without that violin this wouldn’t have been much more than a normal melodic doom demo. With the violin it’s almost perfect. Few instruments, if played correctly, are as expressive and sensitive as violins. And Jaako here sure knows how to play it. Oh, how it adds flavour to every song, it’s hard even imagining this demo without that violin. I am weak for bittersweet music but this is something special. I really feel privileged having heard it.
This demo was quite a surprise when I listened it for the first time. The similitudes with Shape Of Despair are quite clear all the time (in fact this is the project of some of its members) but The Mist is more emotive, less depressive... there is more rhythm and melody, guitars sound less heavy and there are no grunts at all, just sweet female vocals. The way of singing and some of the melodies have reminded me to what The Third And The Mortal used to do ten years ago. I think this is the best comparison, because even the name of both bands is similar. Perhaps The Gathering era 'Mandylion' could be similar as well.
This demo should be perfect for all those who enjoy Doom Metal in its less heavier side, with lots of keyboards, acoustic guitars and nice female vocals.
The four songs are very well produced, but I'm sure the full length album will sound completely breaker. Hope they record it soon.