Released: 2009, Off Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Either Finland is the new epicenter of gothic metal (sorry Norway) or it’s just a really, really depressing place to live; I prefer to consider the first option. Consider the evidence – Sentenced, Amorphis, Swallow the Sun, and now Soulfallen. Soulfallen’s newly released second full length, GRAVE NEW WORLD, is the album that I wish My Dying Bride had had released this year. Strongly influenced by the early days of death/doom metal and “the Peaceville three” in particular, GRAVE NEW WORLD is a magnificently crafted slab of gothic metal. Though the band wears its old school influences on its sleeve, pristine production qualities and fresh arrangements keep the songs from feeling dated.
Imagine if My Dying Bride or Anathema were to re-record their earliest records with a fresh coat of production polish and the layers of sound that they’re currently associated. That’s a good starting point to conceptualize what Soulfallen’s got to offer. Vocalist Kai Leikola follows a pretty strict death growl approach, but his delivery is intelligible enough that it doesn’t detract from the more emotive, gothic musical tendencies. In a world of whiny and minimalistic doom riffs, the twin guitar team of Aapeli Kivimäki and Simo Rahikainen opt for an old school thrash inspired approach. The guitars are thick and angry and are the heart and soul of the nine tracks that comprise GRAVE NEW WORLD. Layers of violins and keyboards create the ambience surrounding the songs, but make no mistake; this is a guitar driven album. As a long time fan of this genre, I can’t begin to tell you how good it is to hear guitars up in front again.
“A Hearse With No Name” opens with a sad, simple guitar line that is slowly built up by the violins and keyboards around it. Just when you think it’s another sappy goth metal record, a wall of guitars enter and let you know it will be okay. But the following tracks, “Devour” and “To the Wolves at My Door” is where the fun really begins. Thrashing, galloping down tuned riffs and some respectable double bass drums, coupled with just enough harmony lines accenting the rhythm, and you’ve got a great formula for success. Song after song continues, expertly combining the old school with just enough new school Euro thrash. The title track is a more somber affair while “Embracing the Scythe” comes close to Soilwork territory. But without a doubt, GRAVE NEW WORLD is worth the price of admission for the closing track “We Are the Sand.” This one track takes all the best elements of the preceding eight tunes and closes the album with a brilliant combination of despair and melody. Leikola uses this one song to showcase his “singing” voice (which is actually pretty good) in conjunction with his death scowl, making the song seem that much more important to the album.
If you miss the days when Anathema played metal and when My Dying Bride weren’t so damn unpredictable, GRAVE NEW WORLD is a no brainer. Soulfallen have proven that you can play doomy, depressing, and emotive metal without trading your cajones in the process. Niche enough to please the doom die hards but still broad enough to appeal to fans of traditional heavier metal, Soulfallen just might be your new favorite band.