Cain's Offering - Gather the faithful 4/5
1. My queen of winter
2. More than friends
3. Oceans of regret
4. Gather the faithful
5. Into the blue
6. Dawn of solace
7. Thorn in my side
8. Morpheus in a masquerade
9. Stolen waters
10. Tale untold
11. Elegantly broken
Sonata Arctica alienated a considerable amount of people with ‘Unia’ back in 2007, not least of whom seemed to be founding guitarist Jani Liimatainen. After finding himself marginalized on a CD that saw lead guitar and proper riffs – always at a premium with Sonata anyway – cast away in favour of de-tuned chugging and an endless menagerie of irritating keyboard sounds, the shredder’s eventual departure had a certain air of inevitability about it.
His return to full time activity – after helping out former Altaria band mate Marko Pukkila with his rock band Dream Asylum and a bit of touring with legendary waster Paul Di’Anno – may have taken a bit longer than expected, but those waiting in impatient expectation for a burst of rich, melodic power metal will find the debut from Cain’s Offering well worth the wait.
The Frontiers Records logo on the inlay should give hint though that there is a certain commercial sheen to ‘Gather the faithful’, and while the band never risks their credibility, there are a few overly saccharine instances of poppiness that leave something of a sour taste in the mouth. On the whole though, Cain’s Offering have delivered an assured debut of classy power metal in the typically Finnish style of a few years back, before just about everyone on the scene began tuning their guitars down. A reference point would be Dreamtale’s recent ‘Phoenix’ CD, as they share a common ground of slightly hard rock-styled power metal with the odd bit of mostly unwelcome experimentation here and there – most noticeably the inexplicable dance beat attached to the off-kilter “Thorn in my side”, the only real outstanding weak point on ‘Gather the faithful’.
The only severe criticism that could be justifiably levelled at Liimatainen though is what he writes his songs about, which as a whole makes for possibly the wimpiest set of lyrics ever gathered on a power metal CD. With no less than the first 3 songs (and most of the CD overall) all being limp-wristed affairs about relationship troubles dressed up in pseudo-poetic guff, Liimatainen has succeeded in making his former band look like Manowar by comparison. Thankfully Timo Kotipleto is there to save the day behind the microphone, his always-excellent vocals of adding a touch of class to the delivery. Were it not for the veteran’s powerful performance there would have been a real danger of a lesser vocalist not being able to make being unable to make rubbish like “Take me in/Then tell me you hate me/Dream with me/Make love to me until I bleed/How does it feel to know/That you can't break me” sound in any way compatible with the music.
These grumbles aside, it is hard to find fault with most of the music assembled. Just hearing a Finnish band still playing uplifting melodic power metal these days is a joy in itself, and Liimatainen seems to be having as much fun as anyone back in this more familiar territory. Despite asserting his presence as the sole songwriter, there is perhaps less lead guitar than would be expected from him, with his former Sonata Arctica band mate Mikko Härkin constantly vying for attention, no more so on the blazing opener “My queen of winter” where most of the chorus is actually ‘sung’ by the keyboards.
The title track exemplifies this restrain best, as rather than being the expected blistering shred exercise instead turns out to be an atmospheric quasi-orchestral piece. Despite being a welcome return to power metal territory, one should not approach ‘Gather the faithful’ expecting ‘Ecliptica II’, as there are quite a few more daring ventures into prog and ballad territory. “Morpheus in a masquerade” ticks the former box as its sways giddily through several wistful melodies in a twisting, acoustic-assisted song. More explosive power metal masterstrokes like “Dawn of solace” ensure that the pace is picked up at all the key moments though and the speed freaks out there will find plenty to cheer them.
“Into the blue” is the big ballad, and while it adheres to every cliché that descritpion entails, makes for a quite beautiful mid-section for the CD where Kotipleto really sparkles. The only other ballad is the closer “Elegantly broken”, which is played entirely on piano. The main melody is quite obviously ‘borrowed’ from the first listen, though it may surprise you to learn that the song it resembles is Taylor Dayne’s 80s pop hit “Tell it to my heart”. How they failed to notice this I’ll never know, but even the unfortunate coincidence doesn’t dull the soothing beauty it provides as the CD closes.
Despite a few rather awkward shortcomings, in an era when power metal is being diluted further and further by many of its former leading lights, Jani Liimatainen has, if you’ll pardon the awful pun, most definitely provided a place for the faithful to gather. Just please let Kotipleto write the lyrics next time. Please.
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