Continuing the long and storied tradition of Finnish depressive music, Scapes is the brain-child of Olli Pirkkanen, and One: Unseen: One is his début under this name. His principle influences seem to be Katatonia and mid-era Anathema, sporting a moody and atmospheric ‘clean’ doom.’ Unfortunately, One: Unseen: One evokes the same loss and dislocation as losing your favorite toe nail to the clippers, rather than the death of a loved one.
Nevertheless, on a technical level aspects of this record are accomplished well. Pirkkanen’s guitar is very good throughout, having written some some cool riffs. The opening to “The Melancholy Cycle” fits this, using a thicker tone than the majority of the record, and “Doomscapes” breaks into doom proper, with suitably slamming chords. It’s not a coincidence that the best tracks are the heaviest, with use of more subtle atmospheric techniques, and on the latter, death vox as opposed to the prevalent cleans. I will return to these, but emotionally-crooned vocals are also used on “Every Waking Dawn,” which is another strong point. It acts as the calm ballad before the storm of “Doomscapes.” Again, the guitar interplay is good, with a layered finale featuring a simple acoustic line, electric noodling and synth effects.
However, the aforementioned clean vocals are an issue. The sad fact is that Pirkkanen does not have the quality of voice to execute the melancholic doom the band is going for. Vincent Cavanagh he ain’t, and his voice is weak for these mid-range vocals. I don’t mean to say that he cannot sing or growl: he obviously can, as in the quieter and more emotional “Every Waking Dawn,” then the growled conclusion to “Doomscapes.” But these are minority moments in the record, while the majority is bland and ineffectual.
These vocals contribute to the failure of the overall concept. Such measured and atmospheric doom succeeds when the listener truly feels dejection or frustration and is moved – Anathema‘s Eternity is a prime example. That is not the case here, as it conjures no real emotion aside from boredom. A record like this falls flat without an evocative atmosphere, especially since the song-writing and consequent musicianship isn’t super-complex either. The guitar melodies are solid enough, but in every other regard, the record is average. The production is partly responsible for the unremarkable listening experience too. The space afforded for a more nuanced song by the DR of 8 is not utilized here, and everything sounds very flat. Though each instrument has its place, none truly stand out.
This review was a struggle since it’s very difficult to feel strongly about One: Unseen: One, positively or negatively. While there are clear points to be improved, my pre- and post-review reaction is yawn. That said, if you’re an ambivalence or toe nail enthusiast, you may find a little more here.