Monday, 16 November 2020

Silentium - Motiva (2020)

Country: Finland
Style: Symphonic Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 28 Aug 2020
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It's been twelve years since Finland's Silentium have released a studio album, but this one, their sixth, has finally arrived and it's a tasty offering indeed that hopefully points a way forward. Another dozen years would mean 2032 and that's too far away to even imagine.

They call themselves a gothic metal band but there are clear symphonic elements, not unusual for the land of Nightwish, and I think the symphonic metal takes over from the gothic here. There are plenty of recognisable aspects from a few other genres too; there's prog rock here and melodic rock as well, some world melodies on Circle, even some hints at death growls here and there, but what really struck me wasn't the heavy stuff at all.

What impressed me most on the opener, Truth, wasn't that lead singer Riina Rinkinen can handle the standard powerful vocals with apparently no effort, it was that she was also able to ratchet the power way down for quieter sections and even sound delicate in the process. The evocative cover art looks as if it features water, but Finland can be damn cold and in these quieter moments, I pictured icicles on a cold but crisp day with stunning resolution. I like power but power balanced with peace is even better.

And what impressed me most about the rest of the album is that Silentium keep doing this. There are similar sections on Vow and Safer/Easier is delicate from moment one, slowly but inexorably building into something just as elegant but far less delicate, until it bounces back down to the whisper during the midsection. This song feels exquisitely crafted, as if the band has been polishing it for the twelve years since Amortean and only now decided that it's ready to be heard. Some songs conjure up visuals for me, whether still or moving. This may be the first time I've seen a ballet in a song.

By the time Safer/Easier gave way to Vortex, another song to start peacefully, initially with solo piano and then what I presume is a cello, I realised just how impactful these quiet parts were. I found myself breathing shallower so as not to interrupt the delicacy. Of course, that's the point where Silentium do the exact opposite and ramp way up into high gear for the most frantic part of the album. It's here as well that keyboardist Sami Boman provides a rough but intelligible vocal as a counter to the soaring clarity of Rinkinen. Her voice becomes almost a keyboard line for Boman to chant over as the drums of Janne Ojala get ever faster and more theatrically devilish.

Vortex sits at the heart of the album, the fifth song of nine and it's a nine minute epic. These songs do trend towards length, the peak of that the eleven minute Tide, but there are a bunch of four minuters here too, so it's not a must for Silentium. I like songs that are short sharp shocks and I like songs that know that they need to breathe. None of these felt inappropriately short or long and, while the songs I see as standouts are the longer ones, I rather enjoyed Unchained with its choral backing too.

Tide is seriously ambitious. It's entirely capella for a minute and change, before piano and strings add to the effect. When it gets serious, it does so with real character, Ojala setting jagged rhythms in play for the band to mimic. It ebbs and it flows and it does rather a lot within those eleven minutes. It's a true epic, dwarfing Vortex and never feeling uncomfortable.

Friend is the only song that feels uncomfortable and that's because it's meant to. These titles give us precious little to go in with and this particular title ought to offer the most comfort anywhere here, but it's harsh and quietly industrial throughout its first half. Maybe our friend shows up to rescue us in the second half. If so, our friend is a neatly amorphous blob that expands and contracts at will. The visuals on this album do get strange and there are no lyrics to help us on this one.

This is a generous album, at almost a hour in length, but then there are twelve years to fill here. What I took away from it after a first listen was a strong sense of dynamic play, with the quieter segments as important, if not more so, than the louder, heavier ones. It's a very patient album. It's a careful album too and repeated listens deepen it. There's so much great and interesting symphonic metal out there at the moment. If you're into that sort of material, this is another treat for you.

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