Laika was a stray dog from Russia who would become the first animal to orbit the earth back in the 1950s. Sadly, Laika did not survive her trek around our planet, but her story would help inspire a group of six dudes from Winnipeg to form a melodic death metal band named after her, because… well, fuck if I know. Anywho, Laika the band have their second album coming out entitled Somnia. Naming yourself after a pioneering canine takes a lot of guts, so how does Laika fare on their second trip around the sun? Well, first (and second) impressions can be a bit misleading, but it started to reveal its charm on subsequent listenings.
After a clock-and-keyboard-infused opener in “The Restless Mind,” we finally get to the meat and potatoes with “Escalation of Terror.” The riffing and drumming reminded me of The Mind’s I-era Dark Tranquillity, only slower and not as tight or melodic. One thing that brings the song up is the vocal performance of Jordan Dorge, who has a clearly enunciated high growl that sounds a bit like a younger Tomas Lindberg. The leads of guitarist Ian Garraway are quite impressive, but the riffing and song structure could use a bit of work. There are times when the riffs and musicianship are impressive, but then they devolve into simple chugging on the open E-string as a build-up. Not a good way to start things off.
Do things get better, though? Thankfully, they sure do! “Fidelity” recalls a bit of Liberation = Termination-era Mors Principium Est at parts, with tasteful guitar solos, a tight bass solo by Mike Mason, and some very impressive drumming by Blair Garraway. “Predictions (The Tide Bearer)” has a good, strong build and is catchy as all hell. However, it’s overshadowed by album standout “The Immortal,” which is just incredibly rousing, with one of the catchiest guitar melodies in the chorus, some of Dorge’s most insane screams at the end, and easily showcases what this band is capable of musically. More of this, please!
My issue with the album is that, besides the keyboards being up a bit high in the mix, the quality of the writing goes from supercharged (“The Immortal”) to basic and vanilla (the bassline break in “Somnia,” “Caligae A Galea”). In fact, even though it features some strong keyboard skills by Steven Tedham, the instrumental “Dream of Nothing” could be left off the album entirely without any ill effect. Again, these dudes have talent, there’s no denying that. But it’s frustrating when you can hear the potential (and the band fucking owning it on “The Immortal”) and yet doesn’t capitalize on the majority of the material.
Somnia shows a young band with some serious promise and a hint of what’s to come. I’m keeping an eye on Laika, they have what it takes to bring it, but they have to do some editing in the studio if they don’t want to burn up on re-entry. Keep at it, guys!