Soulgrind - The Tuoni pathway 4.5/5
1. The call of the dancing waters
2. Rain before the dawn
3. March butterfly
4. Song of tomorrow
5. My sweet thought of death
7. Among the graves
8. Farewell to misery
9. Vuoret ja metsänmaa
Soulgrind is a pagan death/doom metal band from Finland and this is their 9th studio CD. The songs are generally extremely heavy with mid-paced to occasionally quite rapid drumming, wall-of-sound guitars and pervasive symphonic keys; the arrangements tend to be dense and busy with an epic, dramatic feel much like a faster version of Draconian. Every song features an extremely catchy, often poppy chorus that, on first listen, hardly seems appropriate for such serious, dark and intense metal; yet this is the genius of Soulgrind, and their blend of these apparently disparate styles is as close to perfection as I've heard in any gothic/death/doom metal band. Comparisons to early Tristania and Sirenia come to mind, but Soulgrind is much less gothic and much more fierce and menacing than those bands, yet the choruses are much more light-hearted and enchanting. This is probably in part due to their heritage: although this is their 9th studio CD, the first 7 were dominated more by symphonic/gothic black metal, and it seems Soulgrind has very effectively incorporated the intensity and menace of this style into their new death/doom approach. There are also frequent acoustic interludes and a couple of really hard-rocking straight-up death metal songs.
The vocals are "beauty and beast" style. Their female vocalist, Tanya Lilith, is a far cry from your typical soprano or operatic vocalist; she has a strong, deliberate alto style with an almost anthemic intensity at times; she sings with a passion and conviction that perfectly complements the music, especially on the choruses. The death vocals are awesome: fierce, yet deep, warm and engaging, very much like Anders Jacobsson from Draconian; indeed, they add significant menace and intensity to most of the songs. There are also occasional black vocals dueling with the death vocals on the straight-up death metal songs.
This is one of the most intoxicating CDs I've heard in years; it is so refreshing to hear a band that's been making music for nearly 20 years reinvent themselves with a style that is fairly unique and completely captivating. It still amazes me that any band could blend crushing death/doom with lively and infectiously happy choruses to such powerful effect - it's strange to feel so heavily oppressed while fighting the urge to dance around the room.
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