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Emptiness Depicted by Majestic Melodies - 91%

Lay of the Autumn94, November 29th, 2012

Fresh and versatile melodeath. That’s how the band members themselves describe their sound and after listening to their sophomore album, one can’t doubt that statement is true. Of course, you can’t set apart their influences of melancholic, dark and moody melodic death, like Amorphis or Sentenced. You don’t have to be a genius neither to compare them to Insomnium or Be’lakor, since none of these bands rely on a heavy use of keyboards and they share a similar style of extremely melodic guitar leads and a deeply emotional atmosphere.

What really differentiates Noumena from their peers is the folk feel they incorporate through pleasant melodies, acoustic passages and clean vocals. The band as well mixes competent melodic death riffs with simpler, yet effective rock infused riffs, which make their songs catchier. Formed in a Finnish town called Ähtäri in 1998, Noumena took four years to release their first full length, due to difficulty finding a label. They quickly progressed until they received praise by underground metal fans with “Absence”.

This album couldn’t start in a better way, because the first track; “The End of the Century” is instantly memorable and extremely catchy. If the riffs present in that song don’t make you fall in love with this band, then I can safely claim that you don’t like melodic death metal, or at least non-cheesy melodeath. It sums up everything that is right with this genre and makes the listener hungry for more of this kind of excellence. With a beautiful acoustic break, deep growls and featuring the one and only solo of the album, you can’t go wrong.

“Absence” flows smoothly, introducing the listener to their true folk roots and the nature evoking music they produce. A really catchy chorus emerges from “Everlasting Ward” and the simpler riffs show up in “The First Drop”. The fourth song features one of my favorite acoustic sections of the album and cements the more melancholic side of the band by adding the music both male and female clean vocals. “A Day to Depart” returns in the vein of the opening song, containing glorious, powerful riffs and a sticky chorus. “Prey of the Tempter” showcases, in my opinion, the best use of male clean vocals, which are supported by a backbone of solid, penetrating melodic leads.

The last four songs are in general slightly weaker, playing with a similar formula, albeit less successful. Not even that can compromise the excellence of “Absence”, since those songs are still very worthy of being visited constantly. For example, “The Great Anonymous Doom” follows a similar style showed in “Slain Memories”, although giving the listener less surprises, with more predictable patterns.

The atmosphere that these introspective songs carry always makes me think of a beautiful, yet forlorn landscape located in the middle of a forest. The lyrics reinforce those aesthetics, giving the idea of being trapped in a room of a high tree, while observing the landscape from a bleak, empty spot. This sort of environment that Noumena creates is rarely matched in terms of quality.

Production-wise, the album offers no flaws, with the guitars provided by Ville Lamminaho and Tuukka Tuomela clearly taking protagonism and producing the most fulfilling sounds. The bass and Antti Haapanen’s growls are both muscular and deep, giving the overall sound much more power and heaviness. Tuomas Tuominen’s additional clean vocals never seem out of place and sound really good.

When it comes to quality melodeath, “Absence” will always be a reference of a very unique style. It is never boring and its catchy and reliable songwriting gives shape to a solid, little gem. Where I consider this album slightly falters is that aside from “The End of the Century” the album rarely demonstrate signs of brilliance or those chilling moments that Insomnium are so adept at.