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This is it? THIS is the source of all that hype? What's wrong with this world?
Everyone was creaming their pants over this one, so I figured I'd pick it up to see what all the fuss was about. Well, several listens later, I still don't know what all the fuss is about. This album is painfully average all the way through, and while it's definitely worth getting, there's nothing here that justifies the kind of worship it's been getting. Jari should have stuck with Ensiferum. Ensiferum wasn't (and still isn't) all that great, but their stuff is a hell of a lot more fun than this.
The album kicks off with "Beyond the Dark Sun," which opens with a speedy, "melodeath" riff. No need to pay much attention to that riff, you'll hear it again. And again. And again. "Battle Against Time" uses a modification of it, "Starchild" is driven by a choppier version of it, and so on. What drags this album down more than anything else is sheer repetition, so much so that the only headbanging you'll be doing is pounding your head against a wall.
Anyway, "Beyond the Dark Sun" isn't too memorable, but it's a pretty nice, speedy little song, less than three minutes in length. Then every subsequent song is over the five minute mark, with all but two topping seven minutes and one lasting over ten. And there's no reason for that. Most of those songs could have been half their length, easily. But no, this is an "Epic Melodic Death Metal" band, and we all know that "epic" means "long fucking songs." Not just long fucking songs, but pointlessly long fucking songs. And if you have to be reptitive to do it, then so be it, because the gods of metal do not smile on concision. Good lord. It's not artful, it's not "thinking man's metal," it's just stupid.
There are many songs that are both long and deserving of their length. None of them happen to be on this album.
Then there's the production. Now, I'm no stickler for rawness, and I don't mind slick production, but damn, this is TOO slick. There's absolutely no crunch at to the guitars, and the bass is just...there. But it sounds so "cold" and fits the mood, say the fanboys. Well, the fact is, it doesn't sound "cold," it sounds mechanical and lifeless. There are some blisteringly fast parts to some of these songs, but the production manages to suck out all the intensity out of the whole thing. Some riffs on this album, for all their repetition, could be pretty lethal if the guitar tone wasn't so blah. The whole black metal obsession with underproduction is pretty moronic, but Jari really went too far the other way.
With all that said, it's not really all that bad. There are some pretty catchy parts, and it'd probably be a halfway decent album if the songs were shorter (or just better-written), the production better, and the content a little more varied. As it is, it's still a good listen, although it gets a little boring if you try to sit through the whole thing. Worth picking up, certainly.
Bottom line: If you've got the disposable income, there are worse albums to spend your money on. It's slightly above average folk-ish metal with some fairly blatant Children of Bodom influences, and it's definitely worth listening to. But classic? Perfect? Hah, no. Not even close. What the hell are you smoking?