Friday 26 July 2019

Bloodred Hourglass - Godsend (2019)

Country: Finland
Style: Melodic Death Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 5 Jul 2019
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Back in March when I first went virtual globetrotting, I started out in the heavy hitting country of Finland, which has a population lower than Arizona but where everyone and their dog seems to be in a band. In tribute to that, I'm finishing up this fresh week of virtual globetrotting in Finland, partly because I really want to review the new Sacramental Smoke album. To contrast with that, I'll kick off with something utterly different, a melodic death band from Mikkeli, which is not, for a change, on the Baltic coast.

Bloodred Hourglass aren't new, having formed as far back as 2005, and this is their fourth album. It's not the most original record ever recorded, with a sound similar to many other melodic death metal bands, but it's done well and it's consistent. As if to defer to standards across the board, Godsend runs just over forty minutes and breaks down into ten four minute tracks, with only one breaking five. It's not the sort of album you pick up for its surprise value, it's the sort of album you pick up because it's reliable.

It's upbeat and up tempo, a thrash influence obvious, and Jarkko Koukonen's vocals find that good balance point between harsh and engaging. It's rare to hear good intonation in death growls, but he's clearly been listening to the delivery of James Hetfield or Martin Walkyier, maybe both. It helps that the producer knew his stuff, because the balance here is solid across the board. It's Koukonen and Jarkko Hyvönen's driving beat at the front of the mix with guitars taking their turns as needed and keyboards floating over everything else. Even the bass is there if we pay attention.

The problem with such a consistent album is that it's hard to call out this song or that for special attention, especially on a first listen. Waves of Black starts things out well, with good riffs, good runs, good melodies, the works. The catch is that the other nine songs do a similarly capable job as well, so does it really stand out in a quality crowd? Yeah, it kind of does, but not as much as you might expect.

After two or three runs through, only Devourer really starts to emerge as a favourite and that may be because of my bias towards thrash, because it's a speedy one. It shifts between mid-pace and fast, with the thrashier parts a delight and the rest memorable too. It's my favourite but it may well not be yours. There are nine others to choose from.

In fact, what I found was that the album became a single forty minute track for me. It never faded into the background but the songs did start to merge and become parts of a whole rather than their own things. There were subtle differences, The Unfinished Story being a slower, more thoughtful song than the two around it; Alysia having a gothic flavour to it; Pieces being more epic in nature.

What I realised though was that most of that is due to Antti Nenonen, who's the band keyboardist in addition to being the lead guitarist. I presume he doesn't handle both duties when playing live because it seems like he'd be a busy man often taking care of both at once. He's fine as a guitarist, with my favourite melodic line from him coming in August, but I'm thinking that he's bizarrely a lot more important as a keyboard player.

On Waves of Black, he provides the texture that everything unfolds against. On Alysia, he sets up that gothic feel with piano and synths. On My Route, a bludgeoning song, he counters that with perky keyboards early and sweeping ones late. Pieces and Ask and You Shall Receive are epic because of him. He may be playing what we might expect is the least important instrument in a melodeath band, but he makes it count and I honestly wonder whether I'd be praising this album so much if those keyboards weren't on it.

That's not to say that anyone else is letting the side down, but most of the songs would blur together even more than they are. The power would still be there. Devourer would still blister and My Route would bludgeon but the feel would be different.

But hey, I'm not reviewing the album that might have been, I'm reviewing the album that is and Godsend has kept me entertained four or five times through and it's still feeling fresh.

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