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Hopefully the last. - 20%

Diamhea, December 6th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Spikefarm Records

What the hell is going on with this project? I can't say I am the biggest proponent of purely instrumental exercises in strict shredding excess, but I am a keyboardist myself after all, and Beyond Abilities got quite a few spins from me back in the day. "Trip To," "War of Worlds," "Salieri Strikes Back..." all great examples of ivory-blistering technical mastery helmed by Janne's beyond-deft fingers. However, Warmen as a creative unit has been playing us for fools ever since. Amongst occasional teases of more overt, spastic instrumentation, every album since (including Accept the Fact) has been beyond-dogged by the forced inclusion of guest vocalists. I sort of see what Janne is going for in this regard, trying to recapture the spirit of the '80s keyboard rockers that were clearly a huge influence on his style, but the sleight of hand still burns, and First of the Five Elements is not the return to form after Japanese Hospitality most of us were pining for. Thanks for taking the criticisms to heart guys, enjoy your well-deserved lambasting.

So just like the last record, the deception dials in right as proceedings kick off. "Intromental" sets the mood in a pretty upbeat manner, with Janne running up and down the predictable scales. It serves as an appreciable warmup, and when "The Race" fires up you brace yourself for the incoming "too many notes." It sounds like the most standard melodic power metal song ever at first, but then, of course, the expected happens. Guest vocals that vaporize any chances that First of the Five Elements will go anywhere of value. Sucks for Pasi Rantanen too, as he is a decent vocalist in Thunderstone, but he sounds uncomfortably out of his element here. He rotates in and out more than any of the other guests, and it just ain't working in any regard. You bear through the worst of it in anticipation of the obligatory solo break, but even these are as rote as it gets concerning Janne's abilities. It isn't that he is incapable, heck one of the greatest solos he has ever done was on "Roundtrip to Hell and Back," and that was just a few years ago. It is more that he just doesn't fucking care, and refuses to consciously appease anybody but himself.

Okay, cool deal Janne, then stop shoehorning in vocalists like Laiho in an attempt to connect to your primary fanbase. Even Alexi grips the shaft on this one, sounding strangely out of vigor on the otherwise meaty "Suck My Attitude." If you are going to include the dude, you might as well let him contribute some riffs, as I don't exactly go out of my way to enjoy Children of Bodom on a vocal level. The one true glimmer of hope is the title track, which while consistent concerning the level of soloing it delivers, isn't exactly causing Warman to break a sweat or anything. Plus it isn't even four minutes long, and half of that is just the intro motif played again and again! I will concede and admit that Kosonen's two contributions are just okay. The female vocals just seem to fit the sold-out aesthetics of the band better at this point, but the lyrics are horrible! I can handle some love songs, but "Like a Virgin" is just man... thanks for letting us know, Janne. It all makes sense now.

Is this a massive disappointment? After Japanese Hospitality, not exactly, but that doesn't mean this isn't a complete waste of time either. There are so few standouts I can lay them all to to bare right here. "Like a Virgin" is musically strong, "Devil in Disguise" has some monster riffs, and the two instrumentals are both just average, truncated outpourings courtesy of Janne. Oh and the cover at the end is basically on the same level as Children of Bodom's other "joke" efforts, so just forget it, it is atrocious. That would have been the one song that could have put Rantanen to good use, but of course Laiho kills it. Quarter-baked power metal with vocalists who are out of their element, all manned by a keyboardist who is phoning it in? Pass!