Thursday, 25 July 2013

Karhu - Survival Of The Fittest

Self Released 2012
1.Lambent 2.Reality 2.0 3.B-Vera 4.KERpaser 5.Survival Of The Richest
6.Ignorance 7.The Dream 8.D-44 9.Isa 10.Darker Days
11.Feeder 12.Open 13.Vinette
'Progressive groove metal' anyone? That’s how the band describe themselves and it may have been a brave decision to send in their CD for review to an Extreme Metal review site, but let’s see what we have! Opener ‘Lambent’ is a short and extremely melodic intro track, which doesn’t give anything away at all, no clues as what the album will contain musically as this track is stripped right back, acoustic guitars and cleanly sung, whispered vocals are all that it contains. Nothing to really write home about, it is what it is – simple and atmospheric. ‘Reality 2.0’ bursts open in stark comparison, heavy guitars and growled vocals introduced immediately. It’s easy to hear the progressive elements to the band’s sound, simple rhythm sections are broken up by quite technical passages that are accompanied by cleanly sung vocals. No sooner has this song got going then it has ended. It’s quite strange actually, almost feels like the track shouldn’t finish that soon. Next up is ‘B-Vera’ which follows on in a similar vein, with more variety being added vocally. Mixing vocal styles well between the guttural death metal style, to the cleanly sung and the whispered softer style.  There is no lack of technical ability, more a lack of originality with a song that never really engages fully with the listener, mainly due to the lack of variety of paces and tempos. It’s all a bit ‘samey’ and safe, no real excitement. ‘KERpaser’ sees the band in full out melodic mode. Citing their influences it’s easy to hear why on this track, definitely more rock infused with a progressive and melodic edge. Not a song for hardened extreme metal fans that enjoy furious blast beat laden death metal; you definitely need to have an open mind listening to this album. ‘Survival of the Richest’ returns to the heavier guitars and guttural death metal vocal style and the pace is upped slightly for the first few opening bars of the song. Sadly, even when the band to try to adopt the heavier death metal style it sounds far from that, the groove and melodic edge to the bands song writing style is definitely the over-bearing influence and where the band obviously sit more comfortably.  There is no real energy to the tracks, again due to playing it safe tempo wise, remaining firmly in the slow, technical territory.
‘Ignorance’ goes against what has just be written about the temps and the energy of the tracks, as there is a definite up shift in pace, the track actually opening at quite a sharp, fast pace. Yes, the tempo does then return to the more familiar slower timing, but this is a relatively short track and the band does then return to the faster tempo to end things on. Better! ‘The Dream’ is another Dream Theatre inspired song, with great technical ability on show and some more influences do start to creep in gradually, with almost thrash influenced riffs introduced to add something extra. However, this is all about the progressive and melodic sound and a chance for the band to show off as musicians, which they certainly do, and do well, but it’s not extreme metal by a long shot. Opeth are probably quite apt comparison, mixed with a heavy dose of Dream Theatre once more.  The further into the album you listen, it becomes apparent that this album shares very little with death metal, or extreme metal in general, but that said, the band never claimed to be ‘extreme’. When the guttural and cleanly sung vocal styles are mixed, it actually sounds very good, the stark comparisons complementing each other. Following on ‘Isa’ begins in a very dark and menacing tone, but this doesn’t last long at all, the song then drops off into extremely melodic passages that utilise the clean singing and soft acoustic guitars to full effect. As before, it’s all about the technical ability of the band, a chance to shine, and why not if you can play well! In complete comparison, ‘Darker Days’ blasts open furiously in a haze of frenzied blast beats, as extreme as the bad have sounded so far. They only flirt with that style very briefly before returning to the slower, groovier style, albeit with guttural death metal vocals as an accompaniment. Again, when the cleaner vocal style is used, it all becomes slightly ‘AOR’ in sound. Whilst listening to it Whitesnake actually sprang to mind!!! The band might not thank me for that, but that’s what it almost sounded like to these blast beat loving ears! 'Feeder’ is another dizzying foray into the bands ability as musicians, with time signatures being chopped and changed with apparent ease and with a tightness that is second to none. For me, the sporadic use of the clean vocals spoils what was becoming one of the more ‘accessible’ tracks from a metal point of view. That style of singing dilutes the track somewhat, losing its edge. ‘Open’ lifts the tempo slightly to start the track, but as is heard with previous tracks it doesn’t last long, the progressive and slower melodic side to the song taking over once again and when the vocal styles are mixed again, it starts to take on a slightly predictable feel. You can second guess where the cleanly sung vocals will be placed and where the guttural death metal style will be used.  Closing the album is 'Vinette' which is as melodic as the band has sounded. Progressive, yes, melodic yes, metal? Definitely not. Rock at best, it’s a power ballad really that is trying desperately to end the album on an epic note. It’s just not working for me! As mentioned at the beginning of the review, it’s probably a brave decision to send such an album to an extreme metal review site, because extreme metal it isn’t. Definitely one for the musicians out there, its thinking man’s music that shows off the bands technical ability excellently and they all handle their instruments very well. Yes, if you’re a fan of Opeth and Dream Theatre, you will undoubtedly lap this up and wank whilst listening to this and following the songs to the tab book, however I’m going to return to my cave to drool and smash my head against a wall whilst listening to some grind!
7 out of 10 (for the technical proficiency of the band members)
Band Page: Here

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