REVIEW: STAM1NA – “Elokuutio”
Finnish progressive thrash metal. That alone should be enough to capture your interest, but in case you need to be persuaded further, let me tell you about a band that I have been obsessed with for a while now: Stam1na. From the very first moment that I heard Stam1na, I was instantly hooked, despite the fact that the majority of their lyrics are in a language that is, unfortunately, completely foreign to me. Then again, perhaps that adds to the intrigue. Their latest release, ‘Elokuutio’, marks their seventh album in just over a decade, which is even more impressive when considering that they haven’t come out with a bad album yet. Although they have accomplished a great deal at home, Stam1na is highly underrated outside of Finland, which is likely due to North America’s ignorant distaste for lack of accommodation. Regardless of the language barrier, this is a band that isn’t afraid to experiment with sounds and fuse various styles of metal together. Whether you’re listening to a more lighthearted album such as ‘Nocebo’, or something slightly heavier like 2014’s ‘SLK’, Stam1na always delivers a healthy mixture of both worlds, packed with passion and talent.
The first of ten tracks on ‘Elokuutio’ is “Ikoneklasmia”, which opens from what seems like the depths of the ocean. Once the song kicks in fully, the listener is launched into a very catchy groove, with frontman Antti Hyyrynen immediately showing off his beautiful lower clean register, before going into a deep rumble that makes several appearances on this album – including on one of my favorite tracks, “Meidänkaltaisillemme”. The way he switches from his usual high yell to a low death-like growl during the verses provides a fantastic dynamic, over top of the constantly changing complexity of the drums. By far one of the catchiest songs is “Pala Palalta”, the chorus’s vocal melody brilliantly supported by Emil Lähteenmäki’s keyboards. The relationship between the guitars and drums offers great dynamics throughout, especially when layered with spoken vocals and background chanting. Hyyrynen’s held notes over top of the keys during the last chorus add an extra climactic element as well. And what is a Stam1na song without a glorious shredding guitar solo?
Speaking of classic Stam1na, the opening riff of “Mätä Hohtava Omena” is reminiscent of their older material, featuring that standard thrashy punk-beat. It quickly evolves into a more emotional 7/8, only to go back into the faster lick, where Hyyrynen once again showcases his cleans. The chorus is also in 7/8, but with the snare-driven pace of the verses. Overall, this is one of the songs that make me wish I spoke Finnish the most, just to be able to sing along. The following track, “D.S.M.”, is hands down my favorite off of ‘Elokuutio’. It has the most dynamics and diversity, both in general songwriting and in performance. Teppo Velin’s drums really shine here, particularly his snare work during the verses. The piano provided by Lähteenmäki supplies a darker feel, accentuated by the eerie vocals and cymbal accents. There is also a point where bass kicks in without too much else going on to mask it, which made me crave a solo from Kai-Pekka Kangasmäki. I’ve already touched upon Hyyrynen’s experimentation, but “D.S.M” incorporates many different types of vocals and I can’t get enough of the fluctuation in style. His clean singing voice shouldn’t be that gorgeous considering how harsh and powerful his screams are. I was able to pick out the Latin phrase, “Deus Ex Machina”, which made me like the song even more – and, of course, it also involves that 7/8 time that enthrals me so.
Next up is “Marttyyri”, which is the darkest track on the album. The drums are groovier, which is a nice contrast, and the black metal-like vocals during the verses make it even more sinister. The heaviness of the guitars mixed with the mysterious keyboards delivers an intense, dream-like ending. As the following track begins, however, the listener is launched out of their reverie and into a 1980’s guitar solo by Pekka Olkkonen, before jumping right back into thrash territory. The chorus of this song is another one of those superb, triumphant vocal melodies, which is thrown into contrast with the deep growls that appear in one of the verses. This is a more classic head banging song, and the video is pretty cool, too (though not as comical as their older ones). The final track on ‘Elokkutio’ is “Valhe”, which has a great guitar melody on top of a simple yet groovy beat, Velin’s accents once again taking things to another level. It is an outstanding finish to the album, the keyboards winding everything down beautifully.
‘Elokkutio’ is a fantastic album that shows a whole new side to Stam1na, while staying true to their familiar sound. Lähteenmäki’s keys are better than ever, as is the vocal performance by Hyyrynen. Each and every member is extremely talented, and it really comes through on this album, as it feels more on the progressive side than some of their previous material. I would definitely like to hear more from the bass, but I can’t complain; I love everything these guys do. The sound is delicately balanced, with nothing getting lost in the mix, and I discover more with every listen. Stam1na is on top of their game, and I highly recommend them to any metal fan.