Contrary to widely held belief, it is not true that 100% of metal emanating from Finland is awesome. The actual statistic is 95%. We’ve speculated before that this is because of something in the water supply over there that mutates 3 out of every 4 fetuses in the womb into riff-meisters. Or maybe it’s Finland’s proximity to Estonia.
Seriously, the whole damned country has only got a population of 5.4 million souls — a little smaller than the population of Wisconsin. How many awesome metal bands are from Wisconsin? No offense to Wisconsin, but we’re having trouble thinking of even one. Now, how many awesome metal bands are from Finland? The actual count is 2 gazillion. It’s true.
No, seriously — it’s statistically demonstrable (as shown here) that Finland has more metal bands per capita than any other country on Earth — and a high percentage of them are good.
So, it should be no surprise that we write about Finnish metal bands a lot here at NCS. This year, we’ve written long or short reviews of music by Kalmah, Kivimetsän Druidi, The Jasser Arafats, Cyphosis, Cavus, Apocalyptica, Blastanus, Sole Remedy, Sotajumala, Survivors Zero, Man-Eating Tree, Gloria Morti, Amberian Dawn, Radiance, Amorphis, and Before the Dawn, and probably some others we missed in our searches.
But we’re not finn-ished writing about Finns. We’re doing a little impromptu series on Finnish metal. We’re calling it Finland Tribute Week, though we’ve gotten so many intriguing suggestions about Finnish metal bands from our commentators since we announced this series that we may have to re-name it Finland Tribute Month. It started two days ago with a post about Amorphis, and that a-morphed into a post yesterday about Before the Dawn. And today, we’ve got Ghost Brigade. (more after the jump . . .)
Ghost Brigade was formed in 2005 in Jyväskylä, Finland. And no, we don’t know how to pronounce that. But we can pronounce “Ghost Brigade”. We can also pronounce the names of their two albums — Guided By Fire (2007) and Isolation Songs (2009), both of which were released through the reliable French label, Season Of Mist.
For this post, we listened to the more recent of the two albums, not knowing what to expect, but feeling hopeful because our UK contributor Andy Synn recommended it highly in his comment on our post about Amorphis a couple days ago.
The album turns out to be yet another Exception to the Rule — the third such exception in three days. And what that means is that Ghost Brigade features strong, clean vocals as well as satisfyingly raspy un-cleanness. In this case, both styles are voiced by the same singer, Manne Ikonen. His clean vocals are particularly strong — clear, powerful, mid-ranged expressions of heart-felt feeling.
Stylistically, Ghost Brigade is reminiscent of the better-known Katatonia and, at times, of Insomnium, with each song anchored by sweeping, melancholy melodies in a predominantly slow or mid-paced tempo. Some of the album’s offerings, such as the opener, “Suffocated”, and the closer, “Liar”, are hard-charging relatives of melodic death metal. Some (such as “Lost In A Loop” and “Birth”) feature thick, near-sludgy riffs that bring an air of doom to the proceedings. “Into the Black Light” is a standout offering of powerful, dreamy music with clean instrumentation and perhaps the best clean vocals on the album.
The mix of clean and harsh vocals is also especially effective on “Concealed Revulsions”, which also successfully blends slow guitar-picking in the verses and ringing power chords in the chorus. Its gothic melody is emotionally powerful and laden with melodic hooks. “Secrets of the Earth” is another track that weaves a path between the beautiful and the bestial. It takes flight on sky-bound wings and then dives like a raptor on the hunt.
The music includes frequent acoustic instrumentation, including subtle but effective use of synthesizer ambience and keyboard-generated passages of piano (on “Birth”) and cello (on “Lost In A Loop”) that accent the sometimes doomy, sometimes dreamy atmosphere that are the album’s prevailing motifs.
There’s not much headbanging to be found on Isolation Songs, but for those times when you want to take a pause from cathartic onslaughts of tooth and claw and get dreamily carried away, as if drifting at night beneath a cloudless sky a on moonlit sea, this album will do the job nicely. Here’s a track for you to check out. Not surprisingly, given the site you’re currently visiting, it’s heavier (and heavier on the harsh vocals) than most of what you’ll find on the album:
And now for something a little more exemplary of the album as a whole, here’s a video of “My Heart Is A Tomb”, from Isolation Songs (with apologies for the obnoxious ad at the start):
For more info, here are links to the band’s web pages:
UPDATE: A comment below referred to a live Ghost Brigade performance not long ago of “Into the Black Light”, which is a very cool song from Isolation Songs. So, we hunted and found this live performance of the song at Summer Breeze in the summer of ’09. Looks like these dudes can pull it off live, too.