Eternal Tears of Sorrow // Saivon Lapsi
Rating: 3.0/5.0 — A significant lapsi of quality [My brain! It’s bleeding! – AMG]
Label: Massacre Records
Websites: eternaltears.fi | myspace.com/etos1 | facebook.com/etosofficial
Release Dates: EU: 2013.02.22 | US: 04.09.2013
Eternal Tears of Sorrow is an exceptionally fruity band name. The mere mention of it conjures images of a self-serious, black-garbed goth band [See: exceptionally fruity photos – AMG] with a buxom, pouty femme fatale as front woman. If the name was keeping you away, you missed out on a quality band that blended black metal with melodic death, goth rock and symphonic power metal, usually with good results. While I enjoyed all their albums, their crowning achievement was 2009s Children of the Dark Waters, which hit on the perfect combination of bombast, dark atmosphere, extremity, beauty and song writing that was shockingly good from stem to stern. At times it sounded like Cradle of Filth at their most symphonic mixed with early Cemetery, with traces of Kalmah, Insomnium and Amorphis added for good measure.
After waiting over three years for a follow-up, we finally get Saivon Lapsi and with the long wait after such a great album, expectations were unavoidably high. Tragically, it seems the dark waters have been diluted and watered down this time. While there are some good moments, there are also some flat, uninspired songs that don’t wow like the old material did. By the narrowest of margins, enough of their former excellence is present to make Saivon Lapsi a muted success, but this precipitous fall from the heights of past glories has Steel Druhm vexed and bewildered (and flummoxed to boot).
I can sum up my main beef with this album quite simply: the front half has too many songs that fail to impress or truly stick with me. While tracks like “Dark Alliance,” “Dance of December” and “The Day” are decent, have some nice instrumental work and make fair use of clean vs. harsh vocals, nothing really grabbed me and made me desire heavy replays. Unlike past albums, the power metal side of the band seems more in control here and everything is rife with symphonics and very melodic. The black/death side is left to take a distant backseat and growl disapproval. “Dark Alliance” at times sounds like Rhapsody of Fire or other such pirate-shirted acts, and while it has moments, it doesn’t do much as a song. “Dance of December” has a moodier, darker vibe more in line with past material, reminds of Dark the Suns and fares better due to a memorable chorus, as does “The Day,” but they all feel a bit too restrained, too much like second rate Crematory and the drop off in quality from CotDW is quite stark.
Things get even worse with “Legion of Beast,” which sounds like a Children of Bodom rip off and lacks the necessary hooks to bring the listener back. “Sound of Silence” is a big, overblown power balladwith a male and female duet styled after Nightwish (it sounds a bit like “The Islander” at times), and while it’s professionally executed, it’s dull, uneventful and leaves nothing whatsoever stuck in my mental craw.
The few songs that are up to the band’s usual standards don’t arrive until the final third of the album, which isn’t a good thing from a record planning or listening perspective. “Swan Saivo” expertly weaves gothic moods and textures with Europower excess and a near operatic sensibility. The clean vocals have pop and power and the neo-classical noodling goes down great with the keyboard runs. “Blood Stained Sea” is fairly heavy and the harsh vocals mix well with the angelic choirs and keys and it manages a pleasantly catchy, clean chorus like the ones vintage Gardenian delivered [Who? You’re digging pretty deep there, bud. – AMG]. Lastly, “Angelheart, Ravenheart Act III” has a mid-tempo rumble saturated with glistening keyboards and angelic chanting, with extra harsh vocals and heavy riffing cleaving things right down the middle like a Panzer division. Where was this level of writing on the other two-thirds of Saivon Lapsi? Indeed, the sudden step up in quality on the album’s ass end is what really rubs my rhubarb raw and leaves me looking for answers that aren’t forthcoming.
I’ve always been a fan of Altti Vetelainen’s harsh black/death vocals. He was never the most extreme screamer or gurgler, but his style added much needed heaviness to a very melodic sound. On much of the material here though, he seems subdued and less menacing, like he’s trying to dial back the rawness. He doesn’t really cut loose until the album’s back-end and this hurts the overall power of the earlier songs. Likewise, I’m far less impressed with Jarmo Kylmanen’s clean vocals this time around. They lack the impact they once had and he isn’t used to maximum effect on most of the songs. Song writing failures aside, I’m still impressed by much of the guitar work by Mika Lammassaari and the keyboards of Janne Tolsa (Tarot). I just wish their playing translated into better songs.
I’m let down by Saivon Lapsi, but I concede it’s a grower and the more I spin it, the better it gets. That’s good, because after the first two spins I hated most of it. With patience came tolerance, then a grudging respect, peppered with hate. This can’t hold a candle to CotDW or any of their older albums, but it’s worth a listen before diving into their superior back catalog. At least the music is starting to match up with their moniker. That counts for something, right? If anyone needs me, I’ll be eternally crying in the dark water.