Wednesday 16 January 2019

Rifftera - Across the Acheron (2019)

Country: Finland
Style: Melodic Death Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 18 Jan 2019
Sites: Facebook | Metal Archives | Official Website | Wikipedia

No, Rifftera are not the Pantera tribute band their name might suggest. They're yet another interesting band from Finland, this particular bunch hailing from Vaasa on the west coast, facing Sweden across the Gulf of Bothnia, and the base of their sound is melodic death metal of the Swedish variety. However, there's a thrash influence here too to add an interesting alternative edge that makes them particularly interesting. It's like they're pulling themselves in two different directions but without that seeming like a problem.

Eye of the Storm and especially Cutthroat Game ably highlight that by being singalong songs with vocal and guitar lines that seep into the soul but that merely happen to have a crunch behind them. This is catchy stuff when the vocals are clean. They're pretty catchy when they're harsh too, growling over the heavier material on offer. I'd sing along with the thrashy Cry Wolf too if it wouldn't kill my throat.

None of these songs are short, only Deep Waters clocking in at under five minutes. The six minutes of Burning Paradise is followed by eight minutes of Two Sides of the Story but neither outstay their welcome, because they're not just doing one thing. There are crunchy fast bits and soulful slower bits with vocals that sometimes sound like Ozzy trying to audition for Depeche Mode (and I don't mean that in a bad way, honest). The two styles interweave surprisingly well and never lose their power.

This sort of thing is so mature that it really doesn't sound like second album stuff. Rifftera have been around since 2010 with a notably consistent lineup. Janne Hietala, Jupe Karhu and Antti Pöntinen have been there from the beginning and they were the entire band when they released their first demo. All three also played together in an earlier melodic death metal band called Chain Reaktion. Second guitarist and clean vocalist Mikko Kuoppamaa joined in 2012, easily in time for their first album, Pitch Black in 2015. Ville Härkönen is the new guy, having only taken the seat behind the drumkit since 2016. They've played together for quite a while and it feels like it.

Warmonger and Deep Waters are good examples of this. They're less catchy than earlier tracks but there's a depth to them, pun not intended for the latter, that makes them just as viable for favourite status. Deep Waters, in particular, does a great job at cramming a lot of different sounds into a brief, for this album, running time.

And, after the shortest song comes the longest. The title track is something of an epic, though, to be fair, over a minute of its eleven is spent fading out and another minute is spent getting ready for power to take over from atmospheric keyboards and subdued guitarwork. When that power hits, the drums go fast but the rest stay slow before the song finds the groove it'll spend time building. It's a patient song but a good one.

The Acheron, in Dante's Inferno, was the border of Hell, over which Charon ferries souls. If Rifftera are going to lead us across the Acheron, at least that'll be some justification for Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be.

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