Almost four months ago to the day, we wrote that sometimes, life just isn't fair. The talent pool is like the one you swam in at your friend's house years ago; there is a shallow end and a deep end, and rarely is it a gradual progression from one to the other. On Exthenia's debut, "Dominate The Wind," we were introduced to a group of young men whose talents run deep, and run wide. Six months into their run, and they have already joined the upper echelon of melodic death. It's with this in mind that we branch out, as rhythm guitarist and vocalist Juho Raita steps out on his own. It isn't a complete departure from his lead band, but this solo project is the sum of one man's talents, visions, and execution. For this first demo, "Beyond The Speed Of Light," Raita takes on all of the duties from start to finish, and shows that while he is part of an exceptional group, he is just as explosive on his own. Two songs may be a small sample size, but what it lacks in length, it more than makes up for in staying power.
What stands out from the onset is the focus on composition, something Raita does with delicate skill. The combination of ringing piano keys and humming synthesizers gives added depth to the main melodic death theme of "Beginning Of The End." His voice, straight from Exthenia to now, is raspy in tone, but with a knack for being as intelligible as it is fierce. Not to be forgotten, the guitars here are solid in both lead and rhythm capacities, showing that he is anything but one dimensional in his musicianship. With multiple layers coming together around the three minute mark, he creates a fairly flawless soundscape. But it is the title track that best exemplifies the versatility Raita possesses, allowing the keys and guitars to come together as one, a successful marriage of melody and majesty. Even with programmed drum beats, the pop and crack of snare and kick bursts through your speakers at just the right frequency. Would a live drummer be preferable? Of course, but what you have here is a suitable replacement, doing enough to fill what would have been a sizable void in the mix. There is plenty of fodder for hair swinging and head banging in the latter half, with bending guitar strings and some dense chugging strong enough to start a mosh pit or four.
When you have it, you just have it. Juho Raita made a statement with his work in Exthenia, a band that will go as far as they choose to; but his solo work says more about the man himself. By taking on every aspect of the production, every instrument on the demo, and every word on the page, he is investing himself in a way that many outside of the music world could fully understand. By putting so much of himself into the music he makes, he allows you, the listener, into his head, if only for the eight minutes or so the album lasts. But that few minutes is more than enough to see the bigger picture. This isn't a melodic death album, or a folk album, or a power metal album. It isn't any one or two of those things, either. It hovers somewhere in the void between all of those styles and more, bending and swaying between that shared space. Just when you think you know exactly where it's going, a punch of keyboard or a shift in riff takes you down a tangential path. Raita might not have the whole world figured out, but he knows himself well. And that is what makes "Beyond The Speed Of Light" a worthy window into his mind.
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