Shade Empire – Sinthetic – 2004 – Avantgarde Music
2) Pain & Pleasure
3) Human Sculpture
4) Designed for Blood
5) Creation of Death
6) Ja Pimeys Laskeutui
7) Extreme Form of Hatred
9) End of Dreams (instrumental)
Wow. I haven’t had this much fun with a new album on its first listen in a long time. Something about Shade Empire just grabbed me, about thirty seconds into the first track and just wouldn’t let go. There’s something about this album, something dark and heavy yet exciting and invigorating at the same time. Only upon deep investigation will I be able to crack the mystery of Sinthetic.
First, a little about the band. Shade Empire formed in Finland in 1999. After three demo releases, Sinthetic is their first full-length album. They play a very interesting style of extreme metal, one that is difficult to place in one category. There are death and black metal elements prevalent in the guitars and vocals. But what really define this band are the synthetics – an almost insane amount of electronic effects are used throughout the CD. These range from atmospheric chords and ambient noises to fast paced rhythms and melodies to epic organs and chants. Oftentimes there are several different electronic things going on at once – keeping synth master Olli Savolainen very busy. It seems like this band took all the good aspects from …And Oceans and combined them with those of Stormlord.
Anyway, Sinthetic kicks off with the track “Conjuration.” Almost at once I noticed the keyboards, which completely carry the song at first. Like I said before, these effects give Shade Empire their trademark sound, and it is a magnificent one. I was literally bouncing along with the music, something that usually only happens when I’m listening to humpaa or something else crazy like that. Secondly, I was struck by Juha Harju’s voice. He tends to vary between a blackened shriek and a slightly lower, more deathy growl. Almost instantly I was reminded of Christiano Borchi of Stormlord – their voices are very similar and they implement the same alternating style.
After “Conjuration” took hold, “Pain & Pleasure” handcuffed me and threw away the key. I thought the synthetics were great on the first track – here the efforts were almost doubled. What really amazed me about this track was its diversity. The first half really reminded me of an …And Oceans song, with fast, high-pitched synth sounds coupled with blazing guitars and harsh vocals. Then, there is a subtle change, and the synths move more into the background. All of a sudden, the song takes an epic turn, slowing down a bit at first, and then spewing forth a beautiful chorus backed by organ-like effects. For a split second I thought my player had suddenly turned onto a Moonsorrow track without warning. Soon enough, however, Shade Empire were back to their old form, but this variation exemplifies their diversity and creativity. This little “moment” has become one of my favorite song segments.
As much as I would like to, I can’t possibly go through all nine tracks, and I hope you already have a good idea of what these guys are all about. A few more notable things, however, cannot be passed over. For instance, track five, “Creation of Death,” has the most guitar variation on the album. At one point Juha Sirkkia and Janne Niiranen are shredding away, and then almost instantly make an excellent transition over to a slower, more melodic part, in perfect harmony with the keys. During the song’s conclusion, we find a very nice solo, one of the few on the album. The sixth track, Ja Pimeys Laskeutui, is sung entirely in Finnish. I’ve always thought (and this really isn’t the time for it, but in brief) that the metal bands coming out of certain countries almost always have certain similar distinctions about them that mark them to that country. For Finland, I feel that almost all it’s metal has, at the very least, the tiniest bit of folk influence to one degree or another. We’ve already seen one Moonsorrow-esque epic folky melody, and now this track, whose overall melody also just screams “Finnish!”
Sinthetic is one of the best debut albums I’ve heard in a long time. This band obviously has a whole lot of talent. I cannot picture any fan of extreme metal not liking them. Well, okay, maybe not the ultra-kvlt black metal purists, but they don’t like much of anything made after 1994 and actually released on a label. But I’m digressing; the point is that there is something here for everyone.