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Interesting, outside the box, yet flawed - 70%

autothrall, October 22nd, 2009

Waltari is one of Finland's long lasting progressive metal entities, and a rather strange one who have always thought well outside the box. Below Zero is their 12th full-length album, and a mixed bag of electronics, metal riffs, and Kärtsy Hatakka's emotional hard rock vocals. There are moments where the album shines with a good melodic chorus or a great rhythm, and a few points where the album sinks into an almost hip hop/funk stupidity (similar to Faith No More but not as cool).

Title track "Below Zero" leads off the album with a great, driving thrash rhythm and some piano accompaniment, before a techno pulse and some rocking verse rhythms that are quickly interrupted by some dopey sounding funkish metal vocals. Then the chorus is actually quite good, catchy in the way Amorphis' more melodic albums were. "I Hear Voices" is a cool track with an industrial edge, bluesy rock vocals that transform into a crisp, memorable chorus. "In the Cradle" is a great mix of gothic/electro metal with some chugging melodeath hooks. "Without Lies" is awful, and sounds like a Clawfinger track. "Dubbed World" has excellent vocals and nice descending, gloomy guitar work from Sami Yli-Sirniö (Kreator). There are a few more songs with the dopey vocals that I couldn't get into ("Syntax Error" and "My Own Satisfaction"). Closer "Travel On" is perhaps the most metal track here, I did like the atmosphere brought in by the strings, and it has some excellent riffing (and only a few dumb vocals).

Below Zero has an excellent mix to it, the guitars sound great as do the cleaner, higher range vocals and the electronic effects. Waltari is a unique band, of that there can be no doubt, and they have always done whatever they wanted and will continue to do so. They sound very little like any other progressive metal band. It's a shame that the strengths of this album are thrown off by a few silly sounding vocals, it could have been so much better. But if you're a fan of some of their prior records you'll still want to check this out.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com