NORDIC MUSIC SCENE #24 – NEWS AND REVIEWS FROM ACROSS SCANDINAVIA AND THE NORDIC COUNTRIES

NORDIC MUSIC SCENE #24 – NEWS AND REVIEWS FROM ACROSS SCANDINAVIA AND THE NORDIC COUNTRIES

Welcome to Nordic Music Scene, which is dedicated to reviews and news of artists from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland and their associated territories, focusing on indie artists and labels.

This month, two ‘competing’ Norwegian bands go head-to-head with albums, the #1 symphonic metal band advertises its new album with a surreal video, one of Finland’s top female vocalists returns in another guise, the Danish/south London barista releases a new single, and much more.

In this edition:  JANOS, Snake, Black Beach Baby, The Keep, Dagny, Löv, Highasakite, Nightwish, Selma Juudit Alessandra, I Break Horses, Jacob Bellens, Helena Montgomery, Fluqx, Signe, Johanna Kuvaja, Phlake, Papills, Simon Alexander, Hollow Ship, Winnie Raeder, Stinako & Antti Autio

Sections: New Singles/Singles from previously featured artists/EPs/Albums/News

Singles, EPs and albums are rated out of 10.

No sound-bites, no arty-farty language, no English Literature dissertations, No B-S. Just plain, honest opinion.

New Singles

(Sweden) JANOS – Sticky/Sicky

It seems Swedish born artist JANOS spends his time between the streets and pubs of Oslo and London. I don’t know how he affords it, especially in Oslo. You should listen to Squeeze, Janos. “The devil came and took me/from bar to street to bookie”.

After years of performing with other bands, he finally took the leap to go it alone, “setting him free to create the music that is true to who he is. With the desire to mix organic sounds with elements of R&B, pop and rock, JANOS was able to create an entirely unique sound, inspired by the likes of Daft Punk, Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak.”

He starts 2020 off with two new releases, both of which incorporate elements of his new found love for jazz and soul. The first is ‘Sticky/Sicky’ (or ‘Sicky/Sticky’ it seems to have a reversible title), which has been a crowd pleaser at live performances for an uplifting feel good vibe, despite its subject matter which is hiding from your worries with drugs and alcohol, while still hoping it’s not too late to reach your dreams. It’s the first track he’s recorded with a horn section and it’s a sort of Jools Holland’s Rhythm & Blues Orchestra without old twinkle fingers himself meets Jamiroquai. It certainly has a groovy feel to it.

7/10

(Sweden) Snake – Falling

Four years after their debut album ‘Cradle of Snake’ was released Snake returns with the new single ‘Falling’. The single consists of four explosive minutes characterised by what happens when Tess De La Cour (who has featured in NMS as Memoria), Madeleine Frankie and Mia Maria Johansson play together in a room. This single is the first glimpse of on album which will be released in the autumn of 2020.

In some press shots they are Goths, in others clowns, the sort you might find in a Stephen King novel. They’re eerie, the music is formidable. And it’s nice and simple, in fact I hear much of Memoria’s last tune in it; also another Swede who’s shown often in NMS, Felin. Good to know the spirit of hard driving rock is alive and well in Sweden. A simple riff, a handful of chords, simple beat, simple lyrics. Think early, punky Go-Go’s with a slightly harder edge. Very effective.

‘Falling ’was released on the 12th of February.

7/10

(Sweden) Black Beach Baby – This is the Day

In the spirit of featuring artists and bands who write to NMS directly, as we did with Anton Fernandes last month, this is Swedish indie pop duo Black Beach Baby whose covering email and Facebook page unfortunately don’t say much about them. I do know they are from Stockholm and they are evidently a male/female duo.

Their Soundcloud account labels them with a variety of styles from bedroom pop to art pop to new wave. The track opens with what could be the prelude to a full-on symphonic metal song before shifting into a sort of a lingering Chinese/Japanese riff that overlays shoegaze with an Oasis flavour. They also have a propensity to rattle off a bass guitar every so often like artillery fire.

The track stops suddenly at 4:20 like they’d run out of booked time at the studio which is a pity because I was just getting into “sorted, our kid” mode when it ran out.

Quite listenable really, if still a little rough around the edges.

7/10

(Sweden) The Keep – Cub

The Keep is the solo project of Gothenburg-based Oliver Knowles. ‘Cub’ is taken from his debut EP ‘Primer’.

‘Primer’ is a collection of drones, noise and rhythms influenced by the vibrancy and excitement of Spanish and Catalonian street festivals that take place in Barcelona each year, where the record was written.

The video here is a few simple loops of footage he took on his phone during a fireworks night on the beach in Barcelona. He says, “I felt the imagery was suited to the track in the sense that fireworks are a kind of escapism, where everyone forgets the world and stares at some explosions for a few minutes.”

Born in Singapore, Knowles then lived in Indonesia until he was six and pays heritage to his Indonesian heritage on this EP by using samples of traditional Indonesian instruments, including a small Indonesian hand drum that his mother gave him years ago.

Although the tracks on the EP are instrumental, they were created by Knowles as a means to express intense personal feelings of anxiety or sadness. He used the four tracks on ‘Primer’ to manifest these ideas in a positive way, allowing a sort of personal catharsis.

You either like ambient experimental electronic music or you don’t. It’s a bit like metal, out on a limb with a sizeable following but largely overlooked and even looked down on by some. I’m undecided about it and for the first two of the six minutes here my attention was wandering. But when it really got going it certainly held that attention.

I attended the ‘Queens of the Electronic Underground’ six-hour extravaganza at the Manchester International Festival last year, and which hosted very big names in this genre – Jlin, Holly Herndon, Aïsha Devi, Klara Lewis and Katie Gately. Hand on heart I didn’t hear anything there more convincing than this.

8/10

(Finland) Selma Juudit Alessandra – Spring Song (from the album Rubicon Songs)

‘Spring Song’ is from a debut album, ‘Rubicon Songs’ that was released a couple of months ago but which only just came to my attention and especially because Selma Savolainen, the writer, compared herself to Stinako, who we have featured on several occasions.

Externally, the band has been compared to Kate Bush, Julia Holter, and Weather Report, somewhere between avant-pop, indie jazz and 70’s car chase rock.

She says, “It was 2017 when our sound radically changed. I came back from Paris where I started imagining this certain muddiness which I wanted to combine with the acoustic sound we had back then. Back in Helsinki I started exploring some analogue synths I had inherited from my dad. It’s actually the legendary Roland’s Super Jupiter from 1984 that defines a lot of the sound of this album. Not only that, but also the Fender Rhodes and other vintage synthesizers of Artturi Rönkä, double bass by Joonas Tuuri and the wild drumming of Jesse Ojajärvi”. All three emanate from the Helsinki jazz scene.

The album is co-produced by Savolainen and the sound-engineer Markus Kärki.

She adds, “I wrote ‘Spring Song’ in Paris in spring 2017 – it was a blazing hot day at the rehearsal room and my dry and flaky skin made me contemplate on the angst of spring and new beginnings”.

It’s a quirky, intriguing song and not only because it starts with pretty much the same lingering note as does M83’s ‘Outro’ though down an octave. That alone will drag many people in. After that, in turns it’s a little sci-fi, psych, and ambient, with a hefty slug of heavy rock thrown in. I get the Julia Holter analogy, but I didn’t hear much jazz, perhaps Finnish jazz is so avant-garde it’s off the scale. Jesse Ojajärvi’s drumming sounds like he’s knocking a rivet into a battleship with a mallet.

The video is the product of director Sawandi Groskind and stars Selma’s mother, the actress Helena Haaranen.

It will take a couple of listens but this will grow on you.

8/10

(Sweden) I Break Horses – I’ll be the death of you

Swedish indie duo I Break Horses (Maria Lindén and Fredrik Balck) follow up their recent single,  ‘Death Engine’, with a video for another new single, ‘I’ll Be The Death Of You’ from their forthcoming third LP, ‘Warnings’, due for release 8th May via Bella Union.

Faced with making the follow-up to 2014’s ‘Chiaroscuro’, Lindén decided to take the time to make something different, with an emphasis on instrumental, cinematic music. As she watched a collection of favourite films on her computer and made her own soundtrack sketches, these sonic workouts gradually evolved into something more until she realised she was making a new I Break Horses album.

Even then it took five years, involving several studios, collaborations that didn’t work out, a crashed hard drive with about two years of work, and writing new material again instead of trying to repair it.

“It’s not a political album,” says Lindén, “though it relates to the alarmist times we live in. Each song is a subtle warning of something not being quite right.”

The video was directed by Douglas Hart who has created videos for the likes of My Bloody Valentine, The Horrors, The Libertines, and Primal Scream.

The song/track brings together mellotrons analogue synths and dreamy, layered, psych-like vocals from Lindén. The phrase ‘uplifting darkness’ popped into my head while listening to it and I can’t improve on that and the trumpet that sees it out could be playing the Last Post. It’s the sort of song they should play at Amnesia in Ibiza at 0700 before they serve breakfast to those still standing.

Live dates will be announced shortly.

8/10

(Denmark) Jacob Bellens – Bread and Butter

Jacob Bellens has become one of the most distinctive figures on the Scandinavian music scene. Bellens has been writing songs since the age of 18 and recording since 2004, and has a huge output of material. He has released music as a solo artist and with many bands and he writes songs and lyrics for other musicians. ‘The Daisy Age’, Bellens’ solo debut album, was released in 2012, followed by four others through to ‘My Heart Is Hungry And The Days Go By So Quickly’, scheduled for release in April 2020 (HFN Music) and which will offer a more organic ‘band’ sound.

This single, ‘Bread and Butter’, the first off the forthcoming album, is about being stuck in, waiting for your real life to start, a wake-up call  to live now and not postpone things until tomorrow, which seems to be a fairly common theme just now.

This really is a slow-burner. It doesn’t help that Jacob doesn’t really look the part of a pop star and he does look like he’s waiting for the good times to arrive in the back of a taxi. But then again Rag n Bone Man doesn’t exactly have Donny Osmond–like appeal either, does he?

And the song does drag a bit the first time you listen to it, with repetitive lyrucs and on some notes he seems to lose the thread a bit.

But the video, which reminded me of Emmy the Great’s for ‘Paper Forest (in the afterglow of rapture)’ kept bringing me back to it and the song got better every time. Then you start to notice the musical arrangement, which is excellent. An initial 5/10 became 7/10 and by the time you read this it might have gone up again.

7/10

(Sweden) Helena Montgomery – The Truth

Helena Montgomery manages to celebrate both Valentine’s Day and Singles Awareness Day, which follows it (and which to be honest I’d never heard of, even if I should have an honorary membership and a lifetime achievement award) on the same song, ‘The Truth’, which is from her forthcoming album ‘Ordinary Woman’ which will be released this spring.

She makes her debut on the Stockholm based label COMEDIA with this song, about sad love and unhappy relationships.

She says, “Communication can be the most difficult thing in a relationship. It’s great when it works, and devastating when it doesn’t. ‘The Truth’ is about the latter”.

I was concerned it might have been too syrupy for my taste but in fact it turned out to be a pleasant trip down Memory Lane to the late 1960s and 1970s England and hits from the likes of Mary Hopkin (who is Welsh) and The Seekers (who are Australian). Simple but melodic and memorable tunes, with meaning. The only difference is that those songs tended to be in a major key, which is the next thing I’d like to hear Helena do.

7/10

(Sweden) Signe – Sirens (From the EP Can’t wait to come)

Signe is a Stockholm-based artist and producer. A schooled jazz vocalist, she’s been pulled in for years by recognised artists to add some sparkle to their compositions. Now she turns the spotlight onto herself as an artist.

Through music college and industry networking her artistic identity as Signe started to form and resulted in her debut single ‘Over’, in 2018. In January 2019 she released the slightly more poppy follow-up, ‘Your Game’, on Norwegian label Brilliance Records.

On Valentine’s Day 2020 the artist’s debut EP ‘Can’t Wait to Come Down’ was released. This time she went independent, saying, “I wanted to do this my way and I finally feel like this is as honest as I can be. These songs are real, and although it took some time to get it out it was totally worth it. I hope everyone who hears it will feel that too.”

The song is an honest chronicle of a broken relationship that at one point had seemed like a dream and the bitterness in realising that the whole dream had always been as unattainable and out of reach, from the beginning till the end. Also it’s about “letting all that shit out to be able to move on.”

Well there’s no hint of bitterness about it. It’s quite dreamy and perhaps that isn’t always a good thing and it needs a little more bad-ass ness. She uses a little technique on the synth right at the end which makes it fade for a second, one which I associate with a favourite of mine from Germany, Anna Kairos.

It’s quite a good effort for a first EP and holds out the promise of more on the full record.

7/10

(Sweden) Hollow Ship – Agent

A bit of psychedelic rock for a change from Hollow Ship, a quintet from Gothenburg, following their debut 7” ‘We Were Kings’ from late 2019.  It’s from their (also debut) album ‘Future Remains’, due on April 3 on PNKSLM recordings.

The PR says, “Future Remains sees them storm out of the gate with a crystal-clear mission statement. Somewhere in the space behind a well-worn eight-track recorder and the polish of present-day production”. And they do seem to set their stall out definitively.

The part I’m not so sure about is that it showcases their unique take on psychedelic rock which sounds like nothing else around.” I’ve listened to the five-minute track a few times now and it paints a picture of a 1970s prog band, let’s say Yes, perhaps Genesis, having a jam warm up. Well, you could argue they’re not around these days, not in their original form at least, but you know what I mean.

I’m not certain what the market is for this sort of music but because you so rarely hear it today it merits 8/10 on that basis alone.

8/10

(Finland) Stinako & Antti Autio – Paino

I’m not sure just how many aliases Stina Koistinen has. Apart from her duo Color Dolor she’s recorded under her own name within another duo and also as Stinako.

Her debut album as Stinako, ‘Ikuisuus’, has been nominated for the Nordic Music Prize, which was awarded at this year’s By: Larm festival in Norway at the end of February.

Now she adds another persona in the form of a duet with the “lo-fi, sensitive” Antti Autio (that’s a bloke, not her auntie) who has a folk/rock band named after him.

Stina tells us of the new song “‘Paino’ paints an abstract moment with tremors of existential anxiety. A feeling that is both meaningless and transient, a feeling that is also eternal.”  Music for the coronavirus isolation unit perhaps. I’m guessing paino might be a deliberate anagram of piano as well as it being a play on ‘Stinako’?

It’s unusual to hear Koistinen in a song where an acoustic guitar is the main instrument and you can hear Antti’s folk background straight away. As usual though her voice makes the song worth listening to on its own and he isn’t outshone, keeping his end up well.

7/10

Singles from previously featured artists

(Norway) Dagny – Come Over

Cult pop icon Dagny returns with a new single ‘Come Over’, and news of her long-awaited debut album, which is due for release later this year.

She says, “Now – more than ever – am I able to be personal in my music. I want to tell stories that mean something to me, but that others also can relate to.”

She adds, “The song is a pretty self explanatory, cheeky little thing that celebrates the “meet and greet: phase of a (potential) relationship. Let me put it like this: if you meet someone you’re intrigued by, then ‘Come Over’ is your fearless, ballsy and excited invitation to get to know ’em…particularly if they are a fireman who likes puppies.”

This new single along with its video epitomises Dagny’s singular sound, style, and spirit. That’s from the PR and I agree with it, it’s what she’s always done. Whenever she’s been in NMS it has always been with a bubbly sugary song and video like this. She must be doing something right because she gets hundreds of millions of streams for every song and recently co-wrote Katy Perry’s latest hit, ‘Never really over’, garnering even more. And she gets nominated for top level awards, every year.

If you like big pop bangers (and this is very Norwegian) and Chippendales pretending to be firemen who love puppies (of all varieties) this is right up your street but as I’ve argued previously there is another side to her I’m sure, and I’d love her to surprise us one day with something entirely different, a bit of folk rock perhaps or a meaningful ballad on a serious subject.

‘Come Over’ is out now via Universal / Ingrooves.

7/10

(Denmark) Fluqx – Feather (from the album Monolith)

Unfortunately, not enough time to cover the whole of the debut album of the Danish duo which featured in NMS #22 with ‘Staring at the sun’. ‘Monolith’ is released on 6th March (HFN Music).

Just a reminder that Fluqx are producer Joel Krozer and singer Brian Della Valle. They got together when the former heard the latter singing in the studio below his and wondered how his dark voice would sound over the work Joel was producing. They use historic analogue equipment to produce their sound.

‘Feather’ was actually released in 2019, seeking to bridge the gap between down tempo electronica and art-pop. The video brings some very arty references of ‘2001 – A Space Odyssey’.

7/10

(Finland) Johanna Kuvaja – Back for good

Johanna Kuvaja featured in NMS #18, Finland’s answer to The Spice Girls, Madonna, Kylie and the rest and indeed this single is promoted as being reminiscent of Madonna’s ‘Crazy For You’. In fact I suppose you could add Take That as they have of course a famous song by the same title.

This single was produced, mixed and mastered by award winning London-based producer SEFI CARMEL, known for his work with such music icons as David Bowie, Phil Collins, Bruno Mars, Michael Buble, Massive Attack and Tina Turner but she is credited as the sole writer.

So there is certainly a pedigree there.

She says, “When I wrote this song, I was at the lowest point of my life. I had lost everything; our house and belongings, health (she’s had serious issues related to mold toxicity) my job, my marriage, and I was on a sick leave due to depression. I wasn’t loving myself and was desperately seeking love outside.”

I can’t honestly say I hear Crazy For You here, nor Madonna in any shape or form. In fact it owes more if anything to the Take That song. But to be fair to Johanna she has a good voice. I don’t know if it’s enhanced or not, nor do I care; she gets the benefit of any doubt. And she has a vocal six-octave range, which isn’t to be sniffed at.  It’s a pure pop song, slightly schmaltzy, so it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but she gets kudos for being a fighter and a winner.

7/10

(Denmark) Phlake (with Mercedes the Virus) – Slip Away

Danish duo Phlake entertain us with some 90s soul with new single ‘Slip Away’ in their second collaboration with the oddly-named Mercedes the Virus, which hasn’t been put into quarantine.  They say, “It’s a tropical-pop influenced song about sucking it all in. Keeping something too close, so it doesn’t slip away, but you actually keep it too tight”.

They are much bigger than I suspected, with over 200 million global streams to date. They arrived on the scene with their 2016 debut album, ‘Slush Hours’, landing a place in the Top 20 Danish Album Chart and winning five Danish Grammys, including ‘Best Danish Album’ and ‘Best New Danish Artist’, and was awarded ‘Best Album 2016’ by Apple Music, ending up being certified double Platinum in Denmark. Their 2017 album, ‘Weird Invitations’, was certified double Gold and produced the biggest hit on Danish radio in 2018, with ‘The Rascal’. So it’s fair to describe them as one of the fastest rising acts to come out of Denmark in recent times.

It’s fairly standard R&B to an untrained ear. My difficulty is in knowing how to assess what makes a good modern R&B song and how to separate them out from the mainstream; to be honest they all sound much the same to me. But I’m sure it will be appreciated in all the appropriate quarters.

7/10

(Sweden) Papills – California Surfin’

I was completely thrown by this. I was expecting, not unreasonably, something akin to The Beach Boys but its more Haircut 100 meets The Monkees.

The single is taken from the band’s forthcoming debut album ‘Too Hot for May’ (22 April). Previous singles attracted interest from the Osaka based independent label Rimeout Recordings. They also have a publishing deal with the Los Angeles based Urband and Lazar Music Publishing, whose roster includes Papills’ favourite band The Kooks, rap superstar Lil Wayne and English-Swedish indie rock band Razorlight among others.

The band members Eric describe themselves as ”flat earthers” and insist that “the 20’s WILL be a decade of indie rock music” and that they are ” proud of not being part of the greasy heavy metal scene that dominates our local region. Together with our partners in crime we now look forward to finally achieve the global success we deserve!”

Well the song certainly isn’t metal. In fact it’s a metal antidote: undemanding fun, sing-a-long, put-a-smile-on-your-face stuff. I’m not sure it will bring the global success they crave but they’ll be noticed.

7/10

(Sweden) Simon Alexander – Good Friends

It’s been 17 issues since Simon Alexander last showed up here, when he was described as from (originally) the west coast of Sweden, initially a drummer, who had decided to have a crack at song writing and found himself being compared to the likes of Jeff Buckley, Neil Young and Hozier.

Nevertheless his score for that song (‘Last dance’) was modest at 6/10. So what about this one?

It’s the third single from his forthcoming EP (February 28th release, Rehn Music) (‘In the Rust’) and he says,

“I have for a long time wanted to have a song that would show my appreciation for the dear friends that I have been lucky to have in my life, in both good times and bad times. Because when it all comes down to it good friends stay, and the memories created together is always carried with you. When writing the songs for my EP, ‘Good Friends’ was the last one to take form. I wanted to write a real feel-good song that I hope can help strengthen old friendships, re-forge broken relations, or perhaps form new ones.

An energetic track with a solid melody, he’s got a strong ‘international’ voice. I would have given this 8/10 but for the fact it lacks a little variety. The bridge could be a little more different.

7/10

(Denmark) Winnie Raeder – Baby

Discovered making coffee in a south London café Winnie Raeder featured in NMS #14, in which she was compared to Adele.

This is her new single, ‘BABY’, released on February 26th.

She’s announced for this year’s Great Escape, a BBC Introducing showcase at The Lexington on March 5th and another London show supporting Benjamin Francis Leftwich on Feb 27th.

Winnie decided to produce ‘BABY’ on her own, having tired of the lack of female producers in the industry and the discouraging effect that being so under-represented has on young musicians like herself,  and teaching herself as she went.

She has a sumptuous voice for sure. Actually, I’m not sure that the previously-reviewed track, ‘Don’t You Dare’, wasn’t a better one than this, with a much richer vocal. But then that was exceptional.

8/10

EPs

(Norway) Highasakite – The Bare Romantic Part II

Highasakite have been busy during the last couple of years, recording an album and two EPs, the latter of which, ‘The Bare Romantic Part II’, was released on 7th February, 2020. It signifies the consolidation in the duo’s change of direction to a more intimate and pop-oriented style since their politically heavy 2016 album ‘Camp Echo’.

A brief synopsis: “There’s nothing wrong with these songs, they’re perfectly listenable. Norwegians by the hundreds of thousands will buy the EP or stream it (they are still probably the biggest band in the country). But the innovation that shone through on the first two albums is still missing. There is little to catch and hold the attention in the way ‘Since last Wednesday’ (‘Silent Treatment’) or ‘God don’t leave me’ (‘Camp Echo’) did.

Read the full review here: https://www.godisinthetvzine.co.uk/2020/02/07/highasakite-the-bare-romantic-part-ii-eppropeller-recordings/

Albums

(Norway) Löv – Nostalgia

Löv is the band formed by two ex-Highasakite members, Øystein Skar and Marte Eberson, together with vocalist Martin Halla.

The release of their debut album, following five singles, comes just a week after Highasakite’s EP and affords an opportunity to compare the different styles and it is interesting how a few of the Löv arrangements have a familiarity about them. At the same time they have managed to form an identity of their own at the first time of asking.

Brief synopsis: “Accordingly, the soundscapes were influenced by factors that generated nostalgic feelings, such as the noises of a city, reminiscences of after-school parties with an acoustic guitar and synth sounds that recall ‘Twin Peaks’, while the lyrics concern childhood dreams, a terminated love affair, the need to find the way home, good and bad choices made along the way, and a desire to forgive, but not forget.”

Read the full review here: https://www.godisinthetvzine.co.uk/2020/02/10/lov-nostalgia-need-music-records/

News

(Finland) Nightwish release video of first track from forthcoming album Human :II: Nature

Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish has released a video for ‘Noise’, the first track from their ninth studio album, ‘Human :II: Nature’ which is set to drop on 10th April.

The 24-year old band has transcended its original metal fan base during the last two years in particular, courtesy of literally hundreds of ‘reaction’ videos on YouTube, posted by professional voice coaches or aficionados of other genres, and mainly in favour of third female lead vocalist, Floor Jansen. The scope of that growing fan base can be gauged by the fact the video was watched over 1.2 million times in three days and that figure increased by 20,000 while I was writing this. It has become one of the most anticipated albums of 2020.

The direction they were likely to take has been a talking point amongst fans, as some, including me, do not consider them to be a metal band per se, with elements as diverse as folk and prog in their makeup. Chief songwriter Tuomas Holopainen had indicated that the orchestral arrangements they are noted for would be “different” this time out and the album will come in the form of a dual CD package with eight tracks on the first and a concept piece, also in eight parts, on the second.

Whether or not they will try to get to the bottom of what human nature is all about on this album, as they attempted to tell the story of evolution in 22 minutes on their previous one, remains to be seen. It is their propensity to write about challenging subjects that perhaps separates them from most other metal bands. Apart from the ‘evolution’ track (‘The Greatest Show on Earth’) they previously touched on subjects like the Columbine school shootings (‘The Kinslayer’).

The subject matter of ‘Noise’ isn’t entirely new. Many artists in recent years have had a pot at the digital society and particularly the influence of the internet and social media. The object of Nightwish’s ire is the smartphone. I suppose it carries on where Stephen King’s novel ‘Cell’ left off (although that was surely his worst piece of work, ever; did the 19-year old creator of ‘Carrie’ actually write that?)

If Nightwish has a weakness (and I’m struggling to think of any other) it is that some of their lyrics are both bombastic and nonsensical. Even their epic signature song, ‘Ghost Love Score’, a contender for the Song of the Century to date contains the puzzling “Redeem me into childhood/Show me myself without the shell/Like the advent of May/I’ll be there when you say/Time to never hold our love.”

So I went through this one with a fine-tooth comb and I’m impressed. It’s wordy for sure but it contains some lyrical gems:

“Now you’re astar/Vain avatar/Feeding the beast/In your loud Egoland”

“Noise/ From a sunless world/Your mirror is black, only a copy stares back/At a slave of brave new world”.

As for the musical style, well the fundamental metal riffs are there and possibly more of those, and a little less of the orchestration, than one might have expected given recent form, together with some spoken passages. And Holopainen has opted to avoid his traditional big ending, preferring to let the story play itself out.

The surreal video, chock full of imagery and the exterior scenes of which I suspect were shot at the founding members’ home town of Kitee near the Finnish/Russian border, has elements of ‘Monty Python’, ‘Alien’, ‘2001 – A Space Odyssey’, ‘Alice through the Looking Glass’ and any one of a number of Dan Brown novels and films. The entire band has an opportunity to act with the main roles going to Holopainen and bassist/vocalist Marco Hietala although “newly-promoted” drummer Kai Hahto, who had been standing in for the original one, Jukka Nevalainen until the latter formally retired from front line action last summer gets a look-in, and Cumbrian pipes player Troy Donockley quite a big one. Meanwhile, poor old guitarist Emppu Vuorinen gets knifed and booted for his trouble.

While this song hasn’t completely grabbed me yet I just have a feeling that Holopainen has shifted in the direction of a full rock opera with what he seems to be doing on this latest work.  He has talked of writing one in the past.

Fasten your seat belts, this album is going to be one hell of a ride.

7/10

Main image of Snake courtesy of the band’s Facebook page.

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