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Evolution - 92%

Bash, May 29th, 2006

After releasing their excellent self-titled debut, Stam1na have decided to reinvent themselves instead of falling prey to the Finnish tradition of endless repetition. Though “Stam1na” wasn’t exactly straightforward either, “Uudet Kymmenen Käskyä” (“New Ten Commandments”) is where they really incorporate the strange compositions and odd melodies that they have been promising (and delivering) since their demo days. They haven’t exactly changed their sound, in fact they still sound pretty much the same, only this time around there is the dreaded wall of sound, something very few bands actually pull off.

This could be one of the major flaws of the album, there are too damn many things going for the casual thrash metalhead who just wants to have his ass kicked and head banged. While UKK is at times catchy as HIV, there is very little to grab hold on. That probably doesn’t make much sense to anyone that hasn’t heard the album, but trust me on this one. It’s like the boys of Stam1na decided to throw their fans a 3-ton block of music smashed together and say “There. Decipher that, dumbass”. This album is definitely a grower though.

Once properly unravelled, you’ll find that the thrashy-yet-not-really-thrash goodness of their first album is still present even though you won’t find another Ristiriita or Paha Arkkitehti here. In fact, you don’t need one. Instead of repeating themselves Stam1na have come up with a new set of head-bangers and crowd-pleasers. This is something that immediately earns this album a few extra points, not many bands manage to avoid redundancy like these guys do here. They have taken the road they have travelled from day one, covered it with new asphalt, added a few curves, and thrown the road signs to the goddamn gutter.

The band is beginning to sound less like Mokoma, now sounding like noone else but themselves. Hyrde is high in the mix with his remarkable screaming and even better clean vocals. He switches back and forth between his vocal styles effortlessly (Devin Townsend being an obvious influence), often singing in a whole different tune than the rest of the band plays and joining in to whatever his bandmates are playing when it’s time for the chorus. This makes the music even more frantic and complex in an SOAD-esque (only less crap) manner. Oddly enough this works like a charm, gone is the awkwardness of his vocals that plagued their previous release. The riffs are chuggy, one minute sounding like Mokoma, the other Strapping Young Lad (spot the riff from Detox?), and a few seconds later neither. Smash them all together and you have something excellent in your hands. Solos abound, flowing unforced, still a little forgettable. The drumming is A-OK, if you can find it in the mix that is. The drummer does keep the music together, but I would still like him to show off a little. The bass, however, is excellent. Their old session bass player is now a permanent member and does a great job, even daring to embark on some more daring endeavours.

Lyrics are again top-notch. They are much more serious and vague than on "Stam1na", though keeping the same methaphorical style as before. They deal in religion (mostly criticising, with biblical quote galore), terrorism, politics ("Democracy is only an option") and even such rather unusual topics as conformity ("You're materia, you're paper mass") and mental breakdown ("My psyche is pieces on the floor").

There are really no bad songs here, possibly save the rather ineffectual instrumental Lapsus. Even the token slow song is good this time around. Stam1na have created something of their own that defies classification, something that is fast, angry and blunt, yet managing to baffle the listener with strange compositions and keeping away from dull wankery; Progressive Thrash if you will. Gone is the immaturity and tongue-in-cheek humour of last year, it amazes me how they can grow so much in so little time and still keep the energy of an 18-year-old on speed. They are indeed on the top of the Finnish sung metal, with such visiting artists on their album as Saikkonen, Hynynen and Nygård of Mokoma, Kotiteollisuus and Diablo respectively.

I have hard time foreseeing where the band goes from here. Hopefully they keep tossing the rule book even further away and creating something even more unique, but I have a hard time believing they will ever make anything better than Uudet Kymmenen Käskyä. I wouldn’t mind being proven wrong, though.