Friday, March 1, 2013

Eternal Tears of Sorrow - Saivon Lapsi (2013)

When this site began nearly two years ago, many people asked if our name, Sorrow Eternal, had been inspired in some way by Finnish symphonic, melodic death outfit Eternal Tears Of Sorrow. Much to our shame, we hadn't even heard a note of their music at that point, and only come so close due to coincidence. But with that helping hand, we delved deep into their catalog and became fans of not only the music, but the ever changing landscape of their line-up. With only 2 founding members remaining after nearly two decades, bassist/vocalist Altti Veteläinen and guitarist Jarmo Puolakanaho have continued to surround themselves with the best of the best, in hopes of not only soldiering on under the moniker, but adding to the legacy the name represents. On "Saivon Lapsi," their seventh studio album to date, the now solidified six piece show what maturity and vision can do, even twenty years later.

An inspiring beginning, the barely minute long "Saivo" serves as a delicate intro to the first real track, "Dark Alliance." Mixing the keyboard touches of Janne Tolsa into a very heavy handed mix would seem to be an impossible task, yet executed with deft hands, both on instruments and the mixing board, it represents a signature sound that the band have boasted for years. The harsh vocals of bassist Altti Veteläinen are as gritty and unrefined as the music allows, without ever sounding contrived or forced. But it is the way they are layered onto a melodic death foundation that makes them work. That dynamic comes into play time and again, fortified by the wide array of synthesized sounds that are mixed throughout. "Legion Of Beast" takes the formula to exciting places, with breakneck drumming increasing an already incredible tempo. The light and futuristic sounds that float through the background do wonders for the mix as a whole, playing a great supporting role to the dueling guitar solos of Mika Lammassaari and Jarmo Puolakanaho. It is their work that makes track after track fly by in what seems like the blink of an eye. Another short interlude titled "Kuura," cemented firmly in clean guitar melodies, ties together the former with the next installment.

The lead melody on "Dance Of December," is an intoxicating one. With Tolsa taking a more center stage role here, the clean vocal lines of Jarmo Kylmänen become even more important, contrasting in very significant ways with those of Veteläinen. Even the breakdown, flooded with clean chants and orchestrated strings, maintains a level of light and dark rivalry. It isn't until the outro here that drummer Juho Raappana truly shines, with perfectly timed fills driving the final nail down. Serving as the perfect track to share with new fans, "The Day" combines the knack for constructing vocal melodies with the ability to counterbalance them with a balanced guitar and rhythm attack. The result is a song that is equal parts catchy and musically sound. By maintaining the integrity of the instrumental, it does a great service to a blossoming vocal duo.When the word enchanting comes into play for a metal ballad, you know something special has been achieved. "Sound Of Silence" embodies that word so well, seeing a male/female vocal duet emerging from a piano melody. The female voice, provided by Miriam Renvåg, could not have been more perfectly chosen. But with the lightning fast double kicks of "Beneath The Frozen Leaves" hot on its heals, you don't have long to swoon in the lighthearted affair. The verses take on a storytelling quality, one that may have been missing in earlier tracks. As a result, you get one of the most complete songs on the album, finding that thin line that connects heavy and passionate.

The first single from the album, "Swan Saivo," best embodies the Eternal Tears Of Sorrow many have come to love over the better part of twenty years. Rolling double kicks pad out a mix that is both crowded, yet expansive. The keyboard touches are frequent, yet they remain merely accents until a trading of melodies in the bridge. Veteläinen is at his absolute best here, his voice commanding the entire mix with a low, deep growl. Much more unrestrained, however, is the performance on
"Blood Stained Sea." With the band holding nothing back, you find yourself knee deep in massive waves of distortion. More than that, though, is the seemingly endless drum fills and rolls that Raappana lays down. It becomes clear that some of the most impressive musicianship is packed tightly into this four minute framework. But it is in the finally where everything comes into place, and an epic piece of writing is revealed. "Angelheart, Ravenheart (Act III: Saivon Lapsi)" is a victory on every level, musically, vocally, and as an achievement in construction. With so many moving parts, and so many pieces that are sharing equal time, it would be easy to allow one or three to fall by the wayside. Instead, they find a staggering balance among all of them, even adding a heavier dose of strings. The result is a song that is as worthy of the closing role as any we've heard.

There are more than a handful of people in this world who would consider themselves to be loyal fans of Eternal Tears Of Sorrow. Over the course of twenty years of flying their banner in the metal arena, you are bound to earn some respect from all corners of the globe. But it is the ability to continue to recruit new fans that makes this band so special. Seven studio albums later, people are still as impressed with their work as they were so many years ago. It isn't that we've lowered our standards; albums like this one allow us to expect more. For a band that has stayed essentially the same, you are still sure to find a surprise or two hidden within each album, or even within each song. By avoiding the pitfall of becoming formulaic or a parody of their original selves, they leave to door open to solider on for as long as they choose. With "Saivon Lapsi," Puolakanaho and Veteläinen have shown that despite the changes over time, the end is nowhere in sight.


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