Posionblack front-man, Ville Laihiala, may have one of the best knacks for melody in the entire metal business. In his 10 year run fronting the classic Finnish metal act Sentenced he managed to take some of the thematically darkest and most depressing lyrics (mostly about suicide) I have ever heard, and meld them into the catchiest and most memorable melodies this side of Paul Stanley. The dissolution of Sentenced, after their aptly titled 2005 release THE FUNERAL ALBUM, allowed for Laihiala to focus full time on Poisonblack, stepping up from his place within the band as a guitarist to take over the reigns vocally as well. 2006 saw the first release of this new incarnation titled LUST STAINED DESPAIR, and the album was well received both by critics and fans alike.
While the band’s sound can be labeled gothic metal, they are far from the paint your face and go haunt the chapel theatrical sound of many others that fall into this category. Instead the band’s sound can better be described as an equal mix of Sentenced and Paradise Lost (during their ONE SECOND/HOST era) with a sprinkling of the dark rock sensibilities of someone like Glen Danzig.
It is this mix of sounds that the band brings once again to their new effort A DEAD HEAVY DAY. Their new effort is darker sounding than LUST STAINED DESPAIR but at the same time it is also more (to invoke one of the most taboo adjectives in metal) modern sounding as well. The album is a mix of heavy, gothic tinged, rockers and airy gothic/doom based mid tempo tracks. The former bring forth some of the more modern sounds while the latter tread some of the darkest waters the band has yet to venture into. Tracks like “Left Behind,” “Hatelove,” and the lead single “Bear the Cross” are straightforward rockers, with emphasis placed on heavy stop-start guitar rhythms and pounding bass and drum lines, which are made winners by the immediately catchy melodies laid down by Laihiala. But when the band slows the tempo down a bit and opens up their darker side is where the album really shines. Both the title track and “The Days Between” venture more into the territory of the “gothic ballad,” in which we see distinct atmospheric use of keyboards, and more spacial arrangements to the instruments themselves. This allows for Laihiala to add vocal depth to the tracks by having the ability to add nuance through sustaining notes, which in turn ads an atmosphere that really draws the listener in. This helps to make tracks like “The Days Between” rise to the top and become standouts on the album.
The band also tests the creative waters a bit with a track like “X” which I can best describe as gothic blues. The song is sung in the raspy soulful cadence of many old blues legends, and includes a guitar solo that you would swear is being played by some Transylvanian incarnation of Stevie Ray Vaughn or Billy Gibbons. The album wraps up with, the nearly eight minute long, “Only You Can Tear Me Apart.” It is a beautifully structured and rendered track, providing multiple blues influenced guitar solos throughout, and stands as the highlight of the album.
A DEAD HEAVY DAY proves to be an album that finally sees Poisonblack breaking free of any past ties and really standing on their own. While LUST STAINED DESPAIR was a great album in its own right, I felt it still had a bit too much of the feeling of being the next new album by Sentenced. Laihiala finally seems to have cast away the remnants of the past and is standing on his own doing what he wants to do. And for that reason, above all others mentioned above, the band should be applauded for the work they have done with this album.
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