Released: 2006, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
When The Crown split up in 2004, it was a sad day for me since they were (and are) one of the best groove-based, melodic “death ‘n roll” bands to ever scorch my ears. Vocalist Johan Lindstrand formed One Man Army & The Undead Quartet who released the brilliant 21ST CENTURY KILLING MACHINE earlier in 2006 but the only other member of The Crown to make a ripple on the metal landscape so far is Marko Tervonen, the main songwriter of the band. Tervonen’s new project is called Angel Blake (named after a Danzig song from 2002’s 7:77 I, LUCIFERI album) and could not be further from the tear-yer-face-off aggression of The Crown. Instead of blastbeats, blazing riffs and growled vocals, Angel Blake employs a mid-tempo, almost modern rock accessibility but with a metallic edge. The ten tracks found on ANGEL BLAKE are all big, hook-filled songs that fans of Sentenced, Evergrey, Amorphis and Danzig will enjoy, with a darkly melancholic cloud that hangs over them. Tervonen has written everything, as well as handling production, recording and mixing himself. He also plays all the instruments but leaves vocal duties up to Tony Jelencovich (ex-Mnemic, Transport League) whose versatile rock voice runs the gamut from a smooth, gothic croon to a straight-forward, hard-edged clean vocal that handles things well. Tervonen is clearly a multi-talented musician and skilled, flexible songwriter. These tracks would not have flown on an album by The Crown, so it is interesting to hear the other side of Tervonen’s musical tastes. My first impression of ANGEL BLAKE left me quite unhappy and I actually disliked the album quite a bit (Madman and I both dismissed it) but repeated listens allowed the haunting melodies and dark, rich atmosphere of the music and vocals really sink in. It will take a lot for die-hard fans of The Crown to join Tervonen on his trek to the more melodic side of things but fans with an open mind and who are suckers for a melody will be pleasantly surprised by what they find inside ANGEL BLAKE.
After opening with a short and actually worthy placement of an instrumental, “Retaliate” kicks off with an aggressive tempo that is easily the fastest and heaviest track on the CD. Tervonen’s riffs are pointed and hit hard. He later delivers a quick burst of a solo that adds just the right amount of crunch without forsaking the melody. Jelencovich utilizes a growled vocal in the verses before switching to a deep, clean baritone that captures every angle of the song. “Lycanthrope,” probably the best cut on the CD, features a killer riff and Jelencovich’s harmonized “whoa ohohohoh” in the chorus will be stuck in your head for days. “Self-Terminate” is another heavy track with a chugging riff and clean vocal reminiscent of Sentenced. On the other hand, the modern rock feel of “Solitude, My Friend” gives Jelencovich another chance to really stretch his vocal range and Tervonen’s guitar parts are rapt with enough ear-friendly flourishes (listen for the flamenco-like acoustic section midway through) that this track could easily be marketed as a cross-over hit. “The Forsaken” carries on the similarities to the darkly melodic material of Amorphis and Sentenced, while “Thousand Storms” features a massive drum and bass groove that wraps around the eerily melodic chorus, a real show of achievement for Tervonen’s songwriting versatility. Jelencovich seems to channel Glenn Danzig’s baritone croon here and it makes for one of the most memorable and musically diverse tracks on the CD. The Danzig/goth influence is further felt on “…’Til The End,” a slow, brooding track that carries an ominous feel of doom and darkness before a soaring, angelic chorus featuring Scar Symmetry’s Christian Alvestam swoops in. The final two and a half minutes of the song seem to drift into a tacked-on guitar outro that doesn’t mesh with the first half of the song but is an amazing display of Tervonen’s skills as a musician nonetheless.
ANGEL BLAKE is a real surprise for me. The first listen left such a bad taste in my mouth that I didn’t even want to give it a second spin but after dismissing that as a personal shock at how far away from the music of my beloved The Crown it was, I was able to relax and open my mind. The inclusion of a forgettable cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It, Black” is a questionable use of valuable space on a debut album but it is what is, I suppose. Other than that, there is not a stinker to be found here. Considering Tervonen’s do-it-yourself take on this band, ANGEL BLAKE could have been a bloated colossal mess without an objective voice to reel things in, but thankfully, it is one of the most auspicious and enjoyable debut albums I have heard since Communic’s stunner last year.
KILLER KUTS: “Retaliate,” “Lycanthrope,” “Self-Terminate,” “The Forsaken,” “Thousand Storms,” “…’Til The End”