Altaria – Wisdom Review

Finland’s Altaria are one of those fourth-tier melodic metal acts I stumbled upon back in the early aughts and took a flyer on. 2004s Divinity had a few worthwhile cuts but was largely forgettable faux-power/hard rock in the vein of Allen/Lande or Eden’s Curse. By the time 2006s The Fallen Empire hit I was less interested in what they were doing and essentially consigned them to the darkest corners of my music collection. I slept on 2009s Unholy and was mildly surprised to see their name emerge from the skunk weeds of the promo sump some 12 years after they last sallied forth. So what does fifth album Wisdom offer the curious listener? The short answer is…not much. This is very mellow, low-key melodic metal verging on hard rock, and much of it is so safe and bland that it’s a challenge to string together 700 words about it. I must do it though. I must, I must, I must, I say!

My issues with what Altaria are doing here are not based on a dislike of the genre itself. I still soak in the glory of the Allen/Lande platters and deploy the Fullforce catalog regularly, and both projects are anchored in the same harbor as Wisdom. I won’t even go into my notorious love for Jorn, but melodic metal with hard rock influences can be loads of fun, as Avantasia regularly reminds us. Sadly, the fun factor here was lost at sea, and in its place are a collection of mid-tempo tunes that are professionally executed but cold and soulless, almost like an AI algorithm composed them. The opening title track is one of the best on offer, rocking an inoffensive quasi-power delivery with mildly urgent riffs and a restrained vocal performance by the well-traveled Taage Laiho (he’s guested on many Finnish power metal platters). There’s nothing offputting about it, and if I was at some dark dive bar sipping bourbons and beers, I wouldn’t mind it in the least. I also wouldn’t pay much attention to it or wonder who was playing. It’s just kind of there. Slightly more aggressive cuts like “Power to Heal” and “History of Times to Come (2022)” may hold passing interest for the less discerning melodic metal fan, but nothing here will get anyone excited or reaching for the replay button.

Much of Wisdom sits a level below these “better” cuts, in a dried-out wash of meh. “Diablo Rojo” is cheesy, “Without Warning” is drab in the same way third-tier hair metal acts were in the late 80s and early 90s, and “Sometimes” and “Lost in Time” are the musical versions of that red light gadget the Men in Black bring to every UFO crash site. Sometimes the music reminds me of the long-forgotten Fifth Angel, but they were so much better at this stuff that it’s an insult to them to draw the comparison. This is all puzzling and frustrating as the members of Altaria clearly have talent and enough experience to do so much more than this, especially with 12 years to put it together.

Speaking of talent and experience, all involved have been around the block several times. Guitarists J-P Alanen (Celesty) and Petri Aho (Blindside) curate a collection of riffs based in hard rock that only occasionally heat up into real metal territory. Their solos are pretty and pleasant but forgettable, as are the bulk of their leads and harmonies. Taage Laiho has a good voice, riding a firm mid-range and avoiding high-pitched hysterics, but his delivery doesn’t do much to pump up the energy or get you invested. The extra oomph he brings to “Power to Heal” stands out and makes you wonder why that forceful delivery is absent on the rest of the album. It’s all just so dull and anodyne, and that, my droogs, is not what I want in my metal.

Polished and competently executed as Wisdom is, it’s unlikely to trigger a reaction in anyone beyond boredom. I suppose it could be a decent gateway album for your grandmother, but aside from that its utility is greatly limited. I won’t be poaching anything for playlists and none of these songs will be remembered on my deathbed, even if I find myself in it tomorrow. In short, Wisdom is a bland, timid entry, suitable perhaps for patients recovering from surgery. Be wise and avoid.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Reaper Entertainment
Releases Worldwide: July 8th, 2022

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