Lost in Grey – Under the Surface Review

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed female fronted symphonic metal, or to use a common colloquialism, Nightwishcore. This has not been entirely happenstance; though I do blindly grab an album from the bin on occasion, I’ve otherwise avoided all the usual markers wherever possible. But I’ll make an exception for Lost in Grey, the only Nightwishcore I’ve ever granted my wholehearted recommendation for attempting to escape the tightly cinched corset of the genre’s many clichés. The Waste Land was fun and diverse, whereas neither word seems to be in most of their peers’ dictionaries. I had no doubt cheesy theatricality would be abundant once more, as the Finnish band has retained the self-descriptor of ‘theatrical metal,’ but to what extent?

And indeed, it’s a circus of soprano and synthesizer we are presented with. “Disobedience” kicks off after the largely inconsequential intro with a solid, hooky chorus and a questionable bit of rhythmic recital that stops just short of becoming rap. Nonetheless, it shows again that Lost in Grey are devoted to great diversity in their vocal line-up, with operatic styles and more Doro-like heavy metal both represented by lead duo Emily Leone (who also plays violin) and Anne Lill. Their counterpoint is embodied by Harri Koskela (Embassy of Silence, ex-Thaurorod) with an excellent, diverse performance that even includes a solid bout of death growls when “Souffrir” switches pace from a circus tango into full-blown symphonic death for a delightful spell. With numerous excellent solos, a tight rhythm section and an uncommonly spacious master, fans of the genre won’t be disappointed here.

The record is roughly split into two parts, with intro “I” up to and including “Souffrir” making up the first half. The second half is a three part epic called “Stardust,” opening with an actual ladies and gentlemen speech and including a few spoken word sections to set the story, which sounds decidedly young adult. On the whole, “Stardust” is far more grand and bombastic than the first half of the album. Unfortunately this also means leaving behind some of the more interesting variation that is the band’s main strength. Coupled with the inherently diffuse nature of the many choirs and layered synthesizers that are supposed to propel the heroic scope, and it falls well short of the band’s more idiosyncratic material. It leaves the impression that there’s not that much separating Lost in Grey from its many peers after all.

That impression isn’t entirely without merit, either. Certainly compared to The Waste Land, Under the Surface has simultaneously expanded the scale of its story and decreased its range of influences. The remaining variation shakes off fewer expectations of the genre, with primary example the competent but tired folk ballad “Varjo,” which stands out only by use of the band’s native Finnish. “Souffrir” is the only highlight left in this regard with its sprinkling of symphonic death, and it serves largely as a reminder of how capable this band really is. And still is, for even considering the stronger feeling of ‘been there done that,’ the album still has better hooks and more surprises than most of their peers. I just can’t help but be left feeling that given their songwriting qualities and their self-applied ‘theatrical metal’ tag, there should be more theater and more outlandish approaches, because the majority of the album is simply an above average version of something released hundreds of times by hundreds of artists.

I’ve avoided Nightwishcore so much because of two reasons. For one, I feel like it’s a largely played out genre, and for two, it’s not really my cuppa in the first place. By proving me wrong about the first statement, Lost in Grey skirted around the second, and traces of that inventiveness still linger on Under the Surface. But they’re no longer the main portion, and while this album is a little more cohesive as a result, it’s also more homogenized and misses the rebel spirit of its predecessor, catering much more to those who still love this particular subgenre with all of its warts and clichés intact. If that includes you, this is one of the better choices out there, with excellent performances and a few smart hooks, but I am missing the innovation too much to enjoy it to its fullest.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 VBR kbps mp3
Label: Reaper Entertainment
Websites: lostingrey.bandcamp.com | lostingrey.fi | facebook.com/lostingrey
Releases Worldwide: July 2nd, 2021

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