I can judge a book by its cover. And I always do it. I even take the tome in my hands and I weigh it. Yes, I weigh books and decide whether or not I should go on reading the blurb on the usually polished, sensually pleasant cover. If the words convince me and the overall product smells good, I put it back on the shelves and I resume cruising through the aisles like a junkie who has learned that the best fix comes from the filthy hands of fellow addicts. They know better. In music, I follow the same criteria. I don’t get fooled too easily by a press agent all too eager to impress someone who enjoys weighing books in shopping centres on a Tuesday morning. I mean, come on.
Take this album, for instance. The band is called Circle and the record’s title is Incarnation. Everybody knows Circle. Their take on music is challenging, to say the least. No, not challenging in a Radiohead-kind-of way. I am talking real avant-garde, here. Krautrock, hypno-rock, psychedelia, drones and moans; repetitions, devastation, ambient, space and avant-rock. This stuff! Since 1991. But this album is different. It is different because the people involved have – at least not at first sight – nothing to do with the band that has given us Meronia (1991), Pori (1998) and Sunrise (2002) or the recent collaboration with Mamiffer. Their moniker has simply been given to 5 musicians from the Finnish metal underground and, maybe – just “maybe” – some artistic directions. The rest is pure death metal.
The aptly titled Incarnation is, therefore, a lease. This “underground supergroup” (uh?) is formed by Rami Simelius, Ville Valavuo, Tommi Sookari, Markus Hietamies and Jussi Rajala. Do their names tell you something? You’re joking. They have spent most of their careers playing in obscure Finnish bands like Stench of Decay, Speedtrap and Death Toll 80K, but who cares. The final result is an album which is interesting and nothing more.
The odd time the band ventures outside the canons of the genre, it does so without going too far. It happens in “Transcending” and it happens in “Burden,” when an electric soup of feedback and assorted noises leads the listener to the end of the album. But that is it. Had this album come out in 1998, half the Swedish death metal movement would have had grounds to sue these guys for plagiarism. 15 years later we call this “revival” and people buy the stuff on vinyl. Because time flies and things were better back then [They sure were! — Steel Druhm].
Entombed, Edge of Sanity, Dismember: you name them. They are all here, one way or another. And then there is me, poor me, who rushed to have this record assigned to see whether Circle had regained their hypnotic powers after last month’s faux pas. But they’re too busy researching AOR under the name Falcon to be distracted by trivialities like the future of music. This record is great. Its weight is OK, it smells good, therefore it goes back on the shelf. Thank you very much and goodbye.