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Prog metal with balls - 85%

Lane, July 10th, 2012

Finland's prog metallers Silent Voices are back with their sophomore album. I find many a prog metal album too soft, but 'Infernal' is in the other side of the spectrum. As its title suggests, the album is dark, but it's also playful and makes listener nod one's head imperceptibly.

Silent Voices have managed to create music they can call their own. Being influenced by Dream Theater from the start, USA's prog metallers' heavier stuff might be practically close to this. Timo Kauppinen's guitar is grinding (as not in grindcore), shredding, squealing and heavy for a lot of time, but songs are very well composed and there's quite a lot of softer and calmer parts, making the music flow nicely. Songs are also varying and not two of them sound similar. For example, 'New World' order is full-action power metal, 'Avalon' is three-part epic, 'Disease: Man' is more modern sounding groovy song with thrash metal influences, 'Prelude...' is piano/voice introduction to 'Avalon'. The band sticks to their style and sound, so 'Infernal' is surprisingly seamless entirety. I find some padding only on the two longest songs, e.g. 'Avalon's long instrumental section. 'Fate Divided' could be more biting from the start, especially chorus which is better towards the end. And 'Disease: Man's first riff is nothing good in my ears, but songs gets a lot better. But that's the only "negative" comments about the music, so it's truly quality stuff. Music and good lyrics fit perfectly together.

Michael Henneken is a skillful vocalist and while his range is quite high, he is able to transmit different feelings and also uses gruffer voice. At times, Henneken's voice reminds me of James LaBrie of Dream Theater, but Michael sounds naturally that way. Another good point is, that man can pronounce English well compared to many other Finnish vocalists! Rhythm section is tight as heck, Pasi Kauppinen's bass is heavy and flapping and Jukka-Pekka Koivisto offers a lot of different beats throughout the album. Henrik Klingerberg's (also in Sonata Arctica) keyboards have preset sounds I believe, but he's a good keyboardist who don't need to create weird stuff anyways. There's a lot of guitar and keyboard solos, but as opposed to usual dueling kind of soloing, both players present memorable solos. The Nino Laurenne production gets thumbs up, because while it is well balanced and instruments have their spaces, it kicks ass and is powerful altogether. Cover artwork is quite bad and just do not leave 'Infernal' untouched because of it! You'd do a big mistake.

All in all, 'Infernal' is my favourite Finnish metal album of year 2004. I think that's enough said, so get up and check the band out ASAP, if you have a slightest thought you might like this.

(originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com in 2005)

fuck - 5%

Noktorn, November 26th, 2011

If you've read any number of my reviews, you can probably determine that I've spent a lot of time and energy on sculpting my musical taste in such a manner as to portray myself as an exceedingly tough and cool dude. I've conditioned myself to the point where if I find myself accidentally tapping my foot to an Evergrey song, my immediate response is to draw the blinds, loop "Molesting the Decapitated" and play simultaneous side-by-side videos of Nicaraguan guerrilla beheadings and black-on-blonde gangbang pornography until I feel my Sweet Bro reservoirs have been sufficiently replenished. Much to my chagrin, the majority of power, prog, and other effete sorts of music I've been listening to (anything that does not fall into the Bolt Thrower/Lil Jon paradigm, basically) have been surprisingly enjoyable lately out of what I hope is sheer coincidence or perhaps a drug-fueled neurological chemical imbalance. I'm ashamed to admit that I actually went to a Blind Guardian concert last year and enjoyed myself. I proceeded to masturbate myself raw while eating porterhouse steak until I vomited. I felt redeemed- but just barely.

It should come as no surprise, then, that on the increasingly rare occasion that I manage to stumble across an album like "Infernal," I'm overjoyed at the opportunity to grant it the merciless, Nanking-style rape it so richly deserves. Playing a style of music that I've come to charitably refer to as "Finnish shitfuck," Silent Voices excretes a blend of turgid, unbelievably laborious prog and vacuous yet paradoxically self-assured power metal that's as shamelessly mediocre and artistically vacant as it is pointlessly yet insistently irritating like a moth fluttering around a room's only lightbulb. I can't immediately recall an album that I've felt so overtly angered by and resentful towards. Its mere existence is somehow an affront to my presence, which is truly remarkable considering that I've reviewed and survived albums by both Fall of the Leafe and The Agonist. On a very primitive, unconscious level, I want the members of this band to be attacked by a pack of wild boars. Perhaps the only credit I can give "Infernal" is that the texture of my hatred for it is remarkably different from my average simmering rage towards the world around me.

Most unspeakably mediocre albums like this have a frustrating, obnoxious quality where it feels like the band themselves are half-assing their performances, as though they're intrinsically aware that what they're recording actually sucks. After listening to this album, though, I'm starting to see that level of self-awareness as a blessing, because "Infernal" displays the alternative: an incredibly mediocre, unlikeable album which contains the sort of cocky, self-assured instrumental performances I once thought were reserved for "Hot For Teacher" alone. Even more infuriating than this, though, is that the smirking cockiness isn't actually tied to any sort of effort; it's more like the members are firmly aware of how little time it took to write this music, but are so massively convinced of their own genius that they figure even a half-assed effort on their part will easily dwarf the competition. To be completely fair, I've been up for about a full day now, so sleep deprivation might be coloring my impressions, but at this particular moment this album basically sounds like the gay baby of Pol Pot and Kanye West.

But beyond my own weird personification of the music, I can absolutely say that the content itself sucks without any mental gymnastics. The best shorthand I can think of to describe it is as though Symphony X was demonically possessed by the horrendously egotistical and mind-numbingly dreary soul of Iced Earth. Frankly, to articulate the style of this music as "power/prog" is misleading, because both of those ideas are far too distinct for what goes on here. It's more like Silent Voices took a Venn diagram of the two genres and only included in their music the elements that were in the middle. There's bombastic soloing, long songs, piano interludes, soaring clean vocals, occasional double bass or tough guy chug riffs... and seemingly nothing else. While this album is well over forty minutes long, I'd be at a complete loss to describe what the fuck actually happens at any point during its running time. It's music so audaciously lacking in personality it truly amazes me it managed to find its way onto a label to begin with.

A depressing majority of the riffs on "Infernal" are composed of the open chord chugging which seems to have taken precedence over actual riffing in power metal over the past decade, while the remainder are the sort of aimless, furtive, metal by way of Jethro Tull noodling that satisfies absolutely no one, or bombastically held chords that might as well not even be there for all the gravitas they give the music. The synths, amusingly enough, are fairly buried in the production, and tend to simply provide backing root notes or simple replication of the riffs, and as a result are so tertiary an element that they have essentially no impact on the music apart from signifying it as a prog and/or power metal band. The vocals are in much the same boat, though I must begrudgingly admit possess a talent in delivery and arrangement which, while basically unremarkable in any other circumstance, is so far in excess of the rest of the music that it might as well be the divine fucking voice of Christ itself through its heady juxtaposition.

I'm not entirely sure what I'm more offended by: the dawdling, awe-inspiringly phoned-in power metal passages, or the sneering, self-indulgent prog rock. The former are frustratingly boring through their sheer pointlessness and utter inability to convey any sort of feeling or motion, but the latter are more overtly antagonistic in their preening, "bet you don't remember THIS" ripoffs of every major prog artist that anyone reading this can probably recall. Really, though, it's the combination of the two which makes this so unspeakably odious, because the razor-sharp delineations between the prog and power metal infuse the album with a perpetual sense of false hope. When the band so clunkily and abruptly shifts gears between power and prog, you can't help but think it's going to offer a reprieve from what's already been going on, but all you find is a different but equally excruciating variety of torture. There's not a single moment on this disc that represents any sort of creative glimmer or even coincidental bit of charm. It's almost staggeringly consistent in just how much it manages to fucking suck throughout every moment of its running time, to the point where I'm almost forced to conclude that this is a deliberately designed "fuck you" to any potential listener. It's quite literally Occam's Razor in action. The mind fucking reels at the implications.

The truly reprehensible part about this album, though, is that despite the venom I've unleashed on it over the past six paragraphs, it actually doesn't deserve that sort of energy. "Infernal" manages to suck horribly in that incredibly distinct yet wholly abstract way that defies any sort of legitimate explanation. I can't point at anything in particular; it's just a systemic failure at literally every level of the album, all the way down to the bullshit, slapped-together cover art. Over the years, I've come to despise mediocre music tremendously more than actively abhorrent music; the abhorrent is rarely arrived at out of laziness or a lack of creativity. "Infernal," though, represents what is in essence the nadir of a person's possible artistic output: the opportunity to create something of import squandered in favor of cliche and convenience. I'm going to buy a gun and put it in my fucking mouth.

Infernal - 80%

EmilyMaddox, January 4th, 2005

Silent Voices is a band that can be pretty much anything it wants. There are so many elements in this album. There are keyboards, crushing guitar riffs, melodic guitar riffs, steady drumming, random drumming, harsh vocals, mid-range vocals, and even a falsetto. It’s all here somewhere on this album. They can sound like Children of Bodom and one point and John Tesh at another point- and everywhere in between.

A major element of this band is the keyboard. It is used almost like another guitar. It helps bring everything together and provides much of the melody.

Unlike most bands, Silent Voices has only one guitarist. However, with the steady baas and keyboards and a skilled guitarist, the band is lacking nothing.

The vocalist is quite good. As I mentioned earlier, he has quite a range. He mostly remains at the mid-range but when he does use a falsetto it sounds very natural. However his harsh vocals sound a little too much like James Hetfield on St. Anger for my taste. Thankfully, he uses harsh vocals very seldom.

Now I mentioned earlier that they sounded like John Tesh at some point. This is true. Track 7 is a keyboard intro to track 8. If I didn’t know what I was listening to, I would swear it was John Tesh. That’s not to say it isn’t good. It’s a very pretty melodic piece. It just proves how blended a band Silent Voices really is.

The very next track is an epic. It is more than 10 minutes long. I think it is the strongest track on the album. It really says who they are and what they can do.

The vocalist, Michael Henneken, also writes the lyrics. His lyrics are deep. They speak of pain and anger. He seems to like writing about fire and its effects.

In short, the album is a very good one. It is perfect for any fans of prog metal that want to hear something different for a change. Fans of COB, Sinergy, Dream Theater will most likely love this. I can’t wait to see where they’ll take the next album. I think it will be very interesting.

SILENT VOICES 'Infernal' - 82%

HarleyAtMetalReview, December 21st, 2004

Inspiration and influence are both tools best implemented in subtlety. Silent Voices does not entirely demonstrate this adage to a tee, but this isn't necessarily a downfall. With a progressive recipe that is equal parts Dream Theater, Symphony X, and Rush, with a scattering of the more power metal driven acts such as Masterplan and Warmen, this Finnish quintets sound is disciplined, dynamic, and diverse. On their follow up to 2002's critically acclaimed Chapters Of Tragedy, the band (made up of members from Sonata Arctica and Requiem) managed to effectively borrow some of the musical traits of the aforementioned groups without completely standing in their shadows. On Infernal, each musician steps into the spotlight, showcasing their own talents and proving that said abilities are far more relevant than which well known bands they play in fulltime.

The oddly timed and technical arrangements meld splendidly with the bombast upbeat segments in each track. Like different eras of progressive music colliding somewhere in time, Infernal could be accurately described as a conglomerate of Signals, The Odyssey, and Awake, with the latter coming through as the most dominant attribute of the three. The Symphony X comparison serves more or less as an example of the heavy modern edge that the album hosts. Opener "End Of Days", which is probably my favorite song on the disc, holds a very close resemblance to certain phrases of Dream Theater's "6:00" and "The Mirror", while "Avalon", the remarkable trilogy that closes the album, breathes a sort of new life into the classic composition process that the masterminds like Rush originally set in stone. Other shining moments are "On The Wings Of Rage" (a total power metal title if there ever was one) and, with one of the most impressive keyboard solos ever put on tape, "Infernal Mind".

When I listen to Infernal, I don't imagine the band called a group meeting one day to discuss how these other acts have all been very successful in making the genre so popular and that they should try to cash in on their hard work. With each member being more than proficient on their respective instruments, not only can one easily visualize their apparent idols, but more importantly you sense that the band is honestly attempting to (re)create something special and unique from an age old blueprint that was drawn up by those who came before them and shaped the scene into the greatness we all know it as. Not only this, but Silent Voices really do somehow pull it off in a way that comes across as their own. I genuinely feel as though this record is more of a tribute to the prog gods that they respect and admire than an attempt to steal their fire. This is music written from the heart, not the wallet.