Friday, 6 November 2020

Memoira - Carnival of Creation (2020)

Country: Finland
Style: Symphonic Gothic Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 25 Sep 2020
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They may not the most original gothic metal band I've ever heard, but Memoira do what they do very well indeed and, quite frankly, they're exactly what I need right now. I'm struggling through a painful election that doesn't seem to want to end and there's a purity to these songs that transports me to a far less troubled place. When Annika Jalkanen sings "run away with me" on Crimson Bride Symphony, I'm very tempted indeed. The temperature in Finland right now would be a bonus.

Memoira have been around quite some time but this current line-up is mostly new. The mainstays are Jani Puusa on guitars and Lassi Nuolivaara on keyboards, both of whom have been with the band all the way back to its founding in 2007. They released two albums before calling it a day in 2014, but got back together in 2018 with fresh musicians with this third album being the first for two thirds of the band, including Jalkanen.

As you might expect for a symphonic gothic metal band, the vocals are pure and all the music behind her is just as crystal clear (Teemu Liekkala's production job is impeccable). The symphonic aspect feels like the primary one, because this has all the elegance and grandeur shared between the genres, but a politeness too that conjures the class of the symphony hall over the sensuality of the vampire's lair.

There's a death growl in the backing vocals of Queen Element that seems rather out of place, as much for its earthiness as for being a growl. The wilder keyboards late in the song are great but jar a little in the context too because they're cheeky and playful but the majority of the album is far from that. These songs are generally polished and tight, with every sound precisely where it should be. It seems odd for one of them to find a moment of frivolity. The periodic dropping of Dark Passenger into brief distortion feels as dark as it's comfortable with going and, even then, only just.

There is a standout track, which I'll get to, but the whole album is ruthlessly consistent in quality, so it's hard to call anything else out for special mention. I'll highlight the heart of the album, though, which is the pairing of Hunter's Moon and Dark Passenger. The former features galloping drums and soaring vocals and it really speaks to my sense of melody, not that the earlier songs didn't. The latter does so even more, building magnificently and with a great section that features only the word no, repeatedly sung and echoed. It's a neat imaginative moment in a strong song and it gets a welcome repeat too.

I enjoyed this album from its very beginning, but those two songs cemented its quality for me and it never let up after that. Shooting Star is textbook stuff, the only thing letting it down being just how textbook it is. Memoira clearly understand the symphonic metal template and they perform it with effortless grace but, even as I was bouncing along to Shooting Star, I was wondering what they might sound like with something more and specifically them layered over the top.

And then Snowglobe showed up, with an icy and delicate piano intro shaded just a little by strings. It might sound like Jalkanen falters a little early here, but I appreciated the grounding. It's perhaps the least slick performance she gives on this album but it's also the best for being so human and enticing. This becomes a fairy tale of a song and we all sit down like children to listen together and let it take us to some other magical place. The rest of the band don't join in immediately but, when they do, the music is as characterful as the vocals. It features my favourite midsection as well as my favourite intro.

It's the pinnacle of the album for me, however enjoyable the closer, Crimson Bride Symphony, is, and I look forward to whatever will follow this. An album of songs like Snowglobe would be something very special. This isn't that but it points to its possibility. Now I look forward to hearing Memoira on Chris Franklin's Raised on Rock radio show, because this is surely right up his alley.

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