When it comes to Finnish metal, my go-to bands are usually of the folk/melodeath variety. The old-skool Finnish death metal bands have somehow escaped me up until recently, and like much old-skool death metal, the crushing riffs and distinctive style of the scene got my head banging. One of those bands is Convulse. Admittedly my experience doesn’t go beyond their 1991 classic World Without God, however reading the press release for the new album instantly piqued curiosity. Entitled Deathstar, the LP is set to expand on the band’s progressive side and blend genres which always makes for interesting listening!
The album opens with the longest number “Extreme Dark Light”. Straight off of pushing the play button, the sound is not what was expected. The intro uses ambient clean guitars and atmospheric synths that take you straight back to the prog rock legends of the 70’s. Building to the heavy swing of the verse, the riffing is straightforward and the melodies catchy. The guttural croaks and ghostly whispers work well with this style, making for some cool prog-tinged death ‘n’ roll. Follow-up “Whirlwind” gives a more melodic-black metal vibe in the riffing. The 6/8 timing with the intricate jazz drumming invokes the feeling of an oncoming storm before the epic 4/4 mid-section using melodic clean guitar tapping backed with atmospheric 80’s-style synth pads. Next number “The Summoning” brings a more sombre feel with the blended low clean and deep growling vocals. The second half is much more epic with it’s euphoric synths and melodic guitars.
Things get a little conflicted in “Chernobyl” blending ambient but haunting surf rock-esque vibes with the heavier main riff. The riff uses bizarre sounding chords which sometimes sounds jarring with the rest of the song. All of the ideas in the song are good in isolation but combining them sounds awkward at times. The album picks up again in “We Sold Our Soul For Rock ‘N’ Roll” giving some classic blues and prog-tinged hard rock fun straight from the early 70’s. Given the vast array of influences and styles on display, it might seem weird at first to imagine guttural death growls with them. However frontman Rami Jämsä’s style works really well making for some overall cool death ‘n’ roll. Deathstar’s title track follows bringing a more groove metal sensibility in the main riff, balanced with a mysterious clean arpeggio idea backed with ethereal chorus vocals. The ideas overall are good, however there’s something about repeated listens that makes the song come across rather monotonous.
The closing stretch of Deathstar begins with “Make Humanica Great Again”. Making the album great again, the song has more dynamic riffing its catchy intro and more major sounding chorus. The jazzy mid-section also stands out building the epic feel as it transitions back into the main riff underneath a cool jamming solo. Penultimate song “Light My Day” brings another unexpected turn into more 80’s style post-punk territory in the verse. The more mellow feel and more heartfelt lyrics. The melodic choruses climax into another epic jam, this time almost NWOBHM-esque in feel before the final melody. The album closes with the aptly titled “The End”, a short sombre spoken word piece by Jämsä sounding like the words of one’s sadly departed lover. The melancholic clean delay-drenched guitar riff adds a beautiful sense of poignancy – short but it sticks with you.
Convulse have released an overall awesome collection of songs on Deathstar. There’s a lot of different genre vibes from across the rock and metal spectrum on display here which for the most part blend seamlessly. On paper this kind of genre-mashing might seem questionable but Convulse have pulled it off making for some truly unique music. The band perform brilliantly, making catchy simple riffs mixed with elements of complexity that complement the overall songs. Drummer Rolle Markos showcases some stellar skills behind the kit with groovy beats and killer jazz moments that emphasize the feeling of the songs as they progress. The production is also a solid job, maintaining a sense of that gnarly fuzzy death metal tone but mixed with a slightly softer sounding approach to everything else that makes for a more palatable sound. Death metal productions sound appropriately harsh, suiting the brutal music but the more rock/prog style of the production on Deathstar gives a more accessible sound without heavily compromising the extreme elements of the overall sound.
To summarise – an interesting, unique and cool album that’s definitely got this Convulse newbie interested in checking them out further.