Synestesia - _Feeniks_
(Kampas Records, 2009)
by: Mark Dolson (10 out of 10)
Synestesia are a fairly young act coming out of Pori, on the west coast of Finland. Aside from _Feeniks_ (2009), I had never heard of them before. Formed in 2001, they've put out a live album, _Eloperformanssi_ (2002); a single, _Talvimyrkky_ (2002); and three EPs: _Aikamme Orjat_(2003), _Heikkojen Heralle_ (2006), and _Ihmisen Nimeen_ (2007) -- all of which were put out independently by the band (no wonder I had never heard of them).

I knew after listening to a few tracks from the band's MySpace page that _Feeniks_ would be an amazing album, and as soon as their CD arrived in the mail (it set me back a whopping $37.00 CAN with shipping, but it was worth it), I was not disappointed. I'll tone down the use of superlatives here, and just say that this is really, really well played melodic death metal. Each of the ten tracks (totalling a fairly short thirty-nine minutes) is a gem unto itself, and leaves you with a feeling of wanting more and more.

I'm hard-pressed to find comparisons here, but what I will say is that Synestesia's brand of melodic death is in similar fashion to old In Flames (_The Jester Race_), Autumn Leaves (_As Night Conquers Day_), and mid-era Dark Tranquillity (circa _Damage Done_), though without DT's over-use of keyboards. The production is crystal clear and heavy; the guitar tone is fitting for the music (not too heavy, but edgy enough); the bass is audible (heavy and rumbling in parts, soft and pulse-like in others); and the drumming is flawless -- not too technical, but varied enough to hold your attention. There's also violin in one song ("Suvanto") that doesn't sound unlike something from In Flames' _Subterranean_ EP.

Now, what I found really interesting about this album was the vocals. Instead of a higher-register rasp -- which is standard fare for this genre -- Eero Kuusisto's growls are actually really deep and low, yet each word is articulated clearly and audibly. The clean vocals, though used sparsely, are very deep and unique (think of Peter Steele, but not as cheesy). A few songs also feature some nice spoken word passages. Although unintelligible to me, since I don't speak a speck of Finnish, they add a distinctive quality to the music. The other aspect that is just fantastic about this album is the female vocals. Though used infrequently, there's just something ethereal and other worldly about "Tessa Laurila and Elina Saarenmaa"'s voices -- yes, there are two female vocalists, though they sound very similar. Anyways, their voices are the perfect leaven to a fairly heavy and melodic album. I find they sound quite a bit like Sarrah Marrion, who was featured on Paradise Lost's _Gothic_(1991). Parenthetically, the first time I ever heard female vocals in metal (aside from Lee Aaron) was when I bought the aforesaid album on tape way back in 1992. I'll never forget the experience, as it was truly moving -- the kind that brings a tear to your eye with accompanying goose bumps (a rare experience indeed).

So, then, what are some of the highlights on _Feeniks_? Well, for starters, I would say the second track, "Minun Hymyni Kirkastaa Kasvosi", with the contemplative and subdued duet between Eero Kuusisto and "so and so" -- it comes out of nowhere in the song, but is just simply amazing. The atmospheric female vocal accompaniment, the male spoken word, and the super-melodic guitar solo are definitely worth mentioning in the fifth song, "Merituuli". Finally, the last track, "Tuli Palakoon", with its doomy pace and dolorous refrain is such a great way to end the album. The best part of the track, though, is when the double-bass drumming kicks in, and "so and so"'s vocals make their last appearance by easing in and fading out in a light and ghostly register -- it doesn't get much better than this.

In closing, if you're a fan of melodic death metal, you have to give Synestesia's _Feeniks_ a chance -- you won't be disappointed. Make sure to visit the band's official website, too, as you can download their last two EPs (which are great) for free.


(article published 14/2/2010)

7/15/2012 M Dolson 9 Synestesia - Nereus
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