Melancholy: a feeling of pensive sadness. Synonyms: desolation, woe, sorrow. The word, from its Latin and Greek origins, translates to black bile: too much of which in a person could cause depression. It’s a loaded word, that’s for certain, and it gets thrown around and attached to music cheaply and without much care. Too many words of melancholy’s ilk are over-used; too much hyperbole, drama and imaginative nonsense is bestowed upon average and uninspiring music (I’m also responsible for this sort of thing) and thus certain words, phrases, and images have lost their power completely. Can I justifiably use this language to describe the might and power of this following band? Perhaps not. Nicumo play a metal that holds fragments of this emotional weight, though they present their Finnish sound on a shiny platter of faux-melancholy and despair. Nicumo are a hybridised vessel that emulate the spirit and traditions of Finnish extreme metal to new vistas – these new vistas, however, should perhaps never be reached. Let the storms, um…arise!
Following a warm yet windy atmospheric instrumental of light chimes, electronic arpeggios and faint snare drumming “Old World Burning” burns into being as simple, modern sounding riffs and gruff, constipated snarls emerge. Quickly, the flat opening switches to a tender passage consisting of sweet murmured vocals simmering alongside flittering guitar patterns, hooky basslines, and expressively tender drumming. Quicker than the previous quickly, there’s a reversion back to the gruffness of the opening until a fittingly melodramatic yet powerful bridge and solo brings the song to a rather expected yet uninspiring end. This sort of back-and-fore bassline tennis, consisting of safe forehands to the center of the court, is commonplace.
Third track “Beyond Horizon” possesses a similar hook-laden melancholy as the lulls in second track “Old World Burning.” Here, the epic melodicism and folkish pomposity of modern Amorphis is channeled, though Nicumo can only really lick their proverbial feet from below. Vocalist Hannu Karippinen is at his best, as in this song, when the fragile embers of his low and deep drawl stick to the pensive surface, rather than rocketing into the cosmos and exploding with a plastic aggression. “Unholy War” contains even stronger verse hooks, but these are book-ended by offputtingly simple and overbearing riffs, too clean, overproduced, and chuggalicious.
“Death, Let Go” is a depressive ballad of sorts, tugging at blackened heartstrings with voluptuous melodies and sappy lyrics. For what it is, it succeeds. The atmosphere is well constructed and the build-up to the chorus’ anthemic release of emotion works well. And that’s that; nothing else to hear here. But no, wait! It’s all sweet and clean sounding and going nowhere until the three-minute point. Here, the song explodes into a colorful rage of groove and bluesy soloing. It’s an unpredictable transition that manages to retain the faintest elements of the sadness of the opening in a way that doesn’t make it seem so jarring.
The album doesn’t maintain these twists and turns, and there’s very little else to make a song and dance of. “Guilt” has an uneasy opening that sounds somewhat like Disturbed or Seether combined with the entrance music of a vanilla WWE mid-card heel. Somewhat groovey, somewhat punky, and fitted with gruff shouts and banal chugs, the song possesses an energy of the sloth variety. “If This Is Your God, I Don’t Need One” also has an unpleasant opening that channels the worst of bland modern-rock and post-grunge. It’s about as painful and angry as a cock-eyed duckling wading through daisies and about as naughty as Theresa May running through a field of wheat. Traces of Down era Sentenced, mid-period Anathema, HIM, Katatonia¸ and others of their ilk are faintly audible somewhere in the music. On the surface songs like “Poltergiest” and “Sirens” are appealing, but their mid-paced rock lacks the subtle melodic touches of Anathema and Katatonia. Penultimate track “Ailolos” succeeds where they fail, but it’s all too late by this point.
Eight-minute closer “Dream Too Real” is strong yet out of place in the context of the album. It’s dark and vast melo-death sound emulates Insomnium and Barren Earth, wearing their sound as a mask. Storms Arise is probably the most inconsistent and difficult album I’ve had to review, and with a 57-minute run time there’s a lot to wade through. Inconsistency and flatness, mixed with the occasional outpouring of real musical intent, is the name of the game here, and I cashed out a loooong time ago.