Okay, admission time: as you can probably guess, I don’t always rely on the Grymm Grab Bag™ to decide who or what to review. If it’s a band I love or have a history with, I’ll give a fair looksee and go from there. In some cases, the name alone will grab me and say, “dude, review this, please.” Hence, Finland’s Tomb of Finland. That’s a pretty benign name to most people, right? However, as a rather hirsute gay male who does wear leather on occasion, I couldn’t help but chuckle as I’m picturing those not in the know looking them up on a search engine, and forgetting one key letter in the first word of their band name, then being bombarded with drawings of dudes that looked like they walked out of a Turbonegro concert while this song will most likely get stuck throbbing in their heads (and that’s if they’ve got the proper privacy network settings engaged at work or school because, if they don’t… HOO-BOY!). But no. Instead, you get some Finnish-grade doom/death metal on their debut, Below the Green.
And thankfully, it’s pretty damn good! After a somber, short intro (what’s with all the intros these days?), “Death of the Sun” tremolo-picks its way into your frostbitten hearts with an icy cold melody that reminds me a bit of Dissection‘s The Somberlain with Jasse von Hast (ex-Charon/Wolfheart) and Mikko Hannuksela (Coughdust, ex-Cartilage) providing some excellent riffs and melodies. Vocalist Olli Suvanto does a fine job switching it up between blackened screams and guttural lows. While not the slow funeral doom most usually are accustomed to when it comes to Finland (see: Skepticism), it’s still an invigorating, enjoyable plow through the frozen cemetary.
Below the Green is also quite the varied doom/death album in terms of tempo and moods with several nods to the classics. “The Autumn Rain” is a not-so-subtle tip of the coffin lid to Insomnium and Down-era Sentenced. “Dead Forever” starts off slow and lumbering before heaving into “Forgotten Sunrise”-territory Amorphis. “Damnation” could easily fit in with early My Dying Bride. And through it all, the quality is pretty damn high. I didn’t find myself skipping over any tracks, and the album has an incredible flow throughout, which is more than I can say for the vast majority of albums I listened to this year.
Dan Swanö lent his signature ear and mixing and production skills, and despite the lack of dynamics, it sounds ominous and beefy. H’s bass pops when necessary, but is always audible. The guitars cut just right, and Janne Manninen’s drums definitely possess the necessary thunder. If anything, I wished the songs would develop a little bit more. There were a few times when I thought the songs could have gone on a bit longer (“The Autumn Rain,” “Death of the Sun”), but when was the last time I actually said that? The other concern I have is the album feels more like an homage to prior bands, and not the band itself. Not a huge complaint, as it’s just a debut, but it’s still something to be mindful of.
Tomb of Finland left a rather impressive debut on my lap. Below the Green is quite the heavy, icy dirge I was looking for in the hot summer months. Definitely keep an eye out for these guys in the future. Just be careful when you Google them.