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Just a bloody sampler, nothing more - 70%

Napero, July 30th, 2008

Considering that it's most probably a release that will at some point of time fetch nice sums on EBay, the Dirty Black Summer EP is a relatively useless little "split" album. At the same time, it does pretty well the task it was created to do... or perhaps even two of them.

Stay Heavy Records is a newcomer on the field of finnish metal labels. Their first release was was the To the Slayground EP by The Scourger in 2005, and ever since then The Scourger has been a frequent side-stage act on metal-oriented festivals in Finland; while their music has been finally and gradually drifting from their initial Gothenburger melodeath towards the thrash they allegedly set out to play, they haven't quite made it into the nationally big league, at least not yet. But in any case, the small label is virtually guaranteed to grow in the future, with the kind of bands and releases promised by this curious little sampler. Because that's what it is in its innermost essence: a sampler, nothing more, nothing less.

The five bands presented on the EP are a mixed bag; such a mixed bag, in fact, that the purpose of the EP in any other capacity than as a sampler is impossible to define. On serious label compilations, one of the important ideas is to have a theme; see such compilations as Relapse Singles Series Vol. 4 with Exit-13, Phobia, Goreaphobia and Amorphis, for example, and note the central theme of early death/grind singles. There is a theme on the compilation, an idea to carry it higher than what the simple sum of the parts would suggest. There is no such theme on Dirty Black Summer EP, and the five tracks vary all the way from stoner metal cover version of a Beatles song, via death-doom, to deathcore. It's virtually impossible to see what kind of audience was the target, but there is a reason to believe that getting a copy is a good idea for a smart metalhead with too little money.

The EP begins with Before the Dawn's "Silence", a track that straddles the borders between melodeath, gothic metal and melodic death-doom: it's too slow and atmospheric to be melodeath, and too fast and gothic-tinged to be proper doom-death; it's even too riff-based to be typical gothic metal. The clean vocals and solid rhythm foundation create a layered, enjoyable melodic feeling of mild sadness, but in the end it provides little of anything that hasn't been seen before. This kind of metal is one of the current trends in Finland, with many bands doing something similar, or at least something like the aforementioned constituent parts of the whole. There's nothing new under the Sun, even Before the Dawn, and even if the band has a few albums out already and they have the skills to play pretty good live gigs, they will need a few decent new hooks in their songs to compete with such bands as Swallow the Sun.

The second band, Silentrain, is actually a renamed band, earlier known as Dunces, and even if the EP is the only release they have listed under their new name, they are veterans of two self-released full-lengths. The song, "With Pain and Sorrow", is good, basic heavy metal with a gothic edge, and enjoyable as such. This kind of rocking heavy metal will always have its fans, and since the track is a sampler of a future full-length called Wrong Way to Salvation, it will likely reach nice but not spectacular sales numbers.

The third band, Godsplague, is a local stoner veteran, and perhaps the best-known of the bands on the compilation. Their song, "Eleanor Rigby", is a Beatles cover, and while the song translates to light-weight stoner metal rather well, it's still an odd choice, to the point of being a curiosity on the EP. It's fun, though, and the only track on the EP that is not off any past or future full-length.

The song that really mixes the bag on Dirty Black Summer EP is the one by a newcomer, The Final Harvest, whose first commercial appearance takes place on the EP. Their deathcore song, "Bloodgod", is among the better examples of the genre, closer to actual death metal than most, and with a decent lead bit on the breakdown part; they do not overdo the breakdown, it's rather inoffensive. The track is the spiked cast-iron flailhead among the wooden play blocks on this EP, however, and does not blend in, no matter how hard the listener tries. Without "Bloodgod", the EP might be a collection of relatively easy-listening metal, but this track probably ends up being the official skip button track for the fans of the other bands. It's hard to see a big, bright future for such a band in Finland, but perhaps the younger generation of metalheads will accept them better. In any case, the song does not fit among the rest, and while including it must have been a marketing method for the upcoming full-length The End, the list of better-known bands on this collection means that the people buying it on impulse won't most likely be among the band's target audience.

The last, and most interesting by far, among the bands is Black Sun Aeon, a pseudo-mysterious super-group with members reportedly from such bands as Amorphis, Before the Dawn, Moonsorrow, Moonspell, Sinamore and Sotajumala, and featuring Tomi Koivusaari. That's almost like having Teemu Selänne as a five-minute visitor in an ice hockey line with Wayne Gretzky, Jaromir Jagr and Jari Kurri all playing in their prime level: an almost ridiculously unnecessary reinforcement to a line-up of excellent professionals who do not need help. In any case, "3rd Chapter" is a melodic, atmospheric, professional, beautiful piece of death-doom with a gothic taint on it. If this track, and the super-line-up behind it, is anything to judge by, Black Sun Aeon's 2009 album First Book of Death will be a future favourite of many friends of this kind of music. The song takes the kind of music Before the Dawn opens the album with to a new level, and adds new spices to an old soup. This will be a big thing in 2009, mark these words and study them in your heart.

So, what is the value and final verdict on this sampler? Is it useless, interesting, valuable, perhaps even a future rarity? Well, the answer depends on the point of view the listener wants to take. As an EP, aquired to be listened as a summer EP, it has little to offer; the mixed bag of incompatible styles and genres, the overall shortness of the 18-minute CD, and the inescapable fact that the EP carries the looks and feel of a sampler rather than a compilation, unfortunately mean that it does not really work as a listening experience for casual spins.

On the other hand, if taken as a sampler, with no other intention than to check out new bands by a young label, it does the work just fine. It's easy to get interested in Black Sun Aeon after listening to "3rd Chapter", and for the low price of a few euros, that's good enough; finding a good band or two at the meagre cost of less than an euro per track is enough bang for the buck for a lot of people.

It should also be noted that since Stay Heavy Records is a new label, they probably don't run on huge budgets; perhaps this EP has worked as a small trickle of income for them, and served its purpose that way. That is worth supporting: while most people have little against Spinefarm/Spikefarm, a little bit of competition for the hegemony cannot hurt finnish metal in the long run.

There is, eventually, a piece of advice to be offered for a smart, greedy and financially challenged metalhead: get this EP. Get a few copies if you will. Then store them safely out of harm's way, and keep them for a decade. On a gloomy SUnday morning in 2018 log in on EBay, and get a good interest on your investment. Every fact here points to a good potential profit to be reaped ten years from now. The EP is only available in the Anttila supermarket chain in Finland, which means that the international spread of the copies sold will be mostly confined to Finland and possibly parts of Scandinavia. A few bands on this EP are potential major sellers in the future, especially Black Sun Aeon, and there are thousands upon thousands of future metalheads in the wide world, all willing to spend nice sums to get the Metal Archives-certified discographies of their favourite bands complete. A tiny, unremarkable EP from a small record label in the very beginning of a major band's career might well be worth tracking down and purchasing for them in 2018, even at a considerably higher price than 4 euros... try 40.

The financial advice offered herein is free, and comes without any warranty whatsoever. Believe it if you wish, but don't come here and whine in 2019.

Thank you.