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Melancholic and Haunting. - 79%

dragons_secrets, September 1st, 2011

The debut full length from the Finnish goth metal purveyors SaraLee may not be the most complex or innovative record out there, but it gets the job done in terms of what gothic metal should do which is be heavy on atmosphere and emotion. On the surface, one can compare this release to other Finnish goth contemporaries such as HIM or Sentenced but that would be doing it a disservice. After many listens, I can't really say that SaraLee sound like anyone else in particular. Closest I can really think of would be Negative, though SaraLee are somewhat heavier and bleak sounding. The vocals and keyboards are in the forefront throughout. There is not an emphasis on guitar solos, as the guitars only generally provide the crunchy sounding backdrop to what the vocal/keyboard melodies are doing.

The band's strong suit, however, is when they slow down the tempo as they do on (most notably) the title track because when they do this, the mood becomes even more intense and sad. The album does jump around tempo wise, though. It's pretty evenly split between uptempo rockers and more midpaced moments, with a few slower 'doomier' moments towards the end. The overall emphasis in the scheme of things is atmosphere. There is nothing technical anywhere to be found but this is a great album for rainy days, as it really grips with a sullen atmosphere right from the start and doesn't waver from this overall feel until it gets toward the end.

Really, I feel that the tracks Cries A River and Like Dreamers (the last 2 songs) don't necessarily break the flow of the record (being at the end) but they don't exactly fit the album either. These two are slow paced, but more doomy or bleak sounding which is in stark contrast to the rest of the album's moody yet hopeful feel. There's even the one instance of death growls at the end of Like Dreamers, a track that sounds like it could be a November's Doom song. It's not a bad song, but I feel it could've been left off the record.

Overall, this is a very solid album that really strikes a chord. The production is clear and really the only fault I find with it is that the drums are mixed a little too low in the mix in addition to sounding like a drum machine at times. The bass isn't exploited either. There's not much bottom end on this album but with the hauntingly beautiful melodies, this isn't an issue. What is on display here may have been done many times, especially in the days when gothic metal was becoming more of a trend, but definitely do not write this one off. If you're into melancholic rock, definitely pick this one up. You won't be disappointed.

Strongest tracks: Darkness Between, Black and Hollow, Falling Star
Weakest tracks: My Sweet Craving (really just that it's too similar to a few others but less exciting)