Last year, no fewer than eight AMG staff members placed Queen of Time by Amorphis somewhere on their year end list. If you’re reading this and happen to be one of the eight people whose names are written in bolded burnt orange in support of that album on this page — especially if your name starts with Angry and ends in Guy — please stop reading now and go about your business elsewhere. I’ll be honest with you, I never once made it all the way through that album in one sitting despite trying in earnest six times. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to love on Queen of Time, but that’s just it — there’s a lot of it. The sugary melodies are great, but the album and most of its songs are far too long and there is not enough heaviness to balance out the pop. I was content to remain silent in my dissent until I began spinning Godsend, the fourth record from a different Finnish band, Bloodred Hourglass.
The eternally kvlt Madam X reviewed and enjoyed the band’s 2012 debut Lifebound, a slab of Lamb of God and Pantera influenced groove/thrash, but over the course of their next two albums, the band began to incorporate a more melodic approach. I can’t shake the fact that Godsend reminds me of a more concise, riff-driven version of modern Amorphis, but Damage Done-era Dark Tranquillity may serve as a better point of comparison. Guitarists Antti Nenonen and Lauri Silvonen lay down a thick blanket of Gothenberg Swedriffs, weigh down the corners with enough groove metal heft to keep it from blowing away, unload a basketful of beautifully melodic leads, and invite us to sit and partake in a 42-minute picnic of pensive yet heavy tunes smothered in sorrow. Almost all of the sadness is channeled through the mediums of Nenonen’s guitar and keys while vocalist Jarkko Koukonen mostly provides contrasting aggression though raspy shrieks and snarling growls.
Clean guitars momentarily welcome us to the proceedings before the sadboi leads and crushing melodeath burst in on embedded single “Waves of Black,” a perfect example of how BRHG will mix heavy grooves with melody throughout. The keys play a huge role, adding a ton of emotion on “Alysia,” “My Route,” and the hauntingly beautiful and melancholic closer “White Feather.” The latter features some of the albums most heartfelt instrumental and vocal performances, and “My Route” even includes some black metal tremolos, sounding like a condensed version of one of last year’s Shylmagognhar masterpieces. Not to be outdone by the band’s newfound sound, their old thrash and groove habits manifest strongly on “Devourer” and “August,” with “Ask and You Shall Receive” and “Pieces” even employing breakdowns effectively.
The production is über modern with punchy guitars and thunderous drums, but it suits the music perfectly. About the only complaint I can level at Godsend is that it brings nothing new to the table, but it succeeds despite this by delivering a set of well-played and memorable tunes, with melodies that have been wvrming through my ears for weeks.1 “On My Throne” isn’t a dud, but it has a rather stock melodeath vibe that positions it below the rest of the songs which are very good to great. If forced to choose, “Alysia,” “Ask and You Shall Receive,” and “White Feather” take the cake at this picnic.
Maybe my attention span is too short or my poser shirt is too tight, but Godsend‘s tight package of thrashy melancholic anthems does a lot more for me than Queen of Time‘s sprawling ambition could ever hope to do. Perhaps it’s comparing apples to (invisible) oranges, and perhaps Bloodred Hourglass isn’t even trying to run in the same musical race as their Amorphis countrymen, but I think I’ve made it clear which band stands the best chance of crossing my Finnish line.