This is the original version released in 2013 by Inverse records of the Finnish duo's debut album "Songs of Slumber", composed by 10 tracks, of which one is an outro and one an interlude, that merge Gothic, Doom and the first wave of Death Metal with flashes of Epic, Viking, Prog and Black Metal.
The recording is a low budget one and that is especially true for the drumkit sounds, raw and not fat at all, but at least it's generally clear and balanced. It has to be noted that most of the care was given to the vocals, because they are very different, vital to the feelings that the group wants to create, and also because there are often layers of contrasting vocals in the same instants. In 2017 a remastered version came out to solve the flaw of some drum passages by making them sound louder and more present, along with some new synth arrangements and a part of vocals that were re-recorded..
Regarding the artwork, the front and back have used a real photo on which some digital elements were added; on the front cover a big spine along with another two smaller ones emerging from a
road or lake that ends before a forest, whereas on the rear one a leafless tree at the end of autumn emerges from a lake during a gloomy dusk.
All the rest in the booklet was digitally made: the first photo features Charon waiting on his boat, the second a slipknot on an unintelligible background, the third a man shooting with a gun, the fourth a skeleton in a begging position, the fifth a mask on a strange four-legged animal, the sixth the silhouette
of man screaming, the seventh a dark dead corn field, and the eighth an evil priest from a few centuries ago with a rosary in his hand.
The disk has the Venus and Mars
symbols together with the band's logo at the centre and several other cryptic symbols around it.
The container is a simple digipack containing a 12-page booklet. My copy was even autographed, so I'm immensely proud of that and thankful to the band for making it a unique piece whose value is inestimable and urges me to take special care in its maintenance.
The lyrics are linked together with the artwork and describe the following topics in detail:
-a soul being ferried across the Acheron by Charon.
-somebody hopeless preparing to die alone.
-a sadist who feels they're a failure who is begging for a slow and painful death.
-a murderer constantly tormented by the ghost of a girl he killed.
-how to be detached from everyone so an not to be betrayed and taken down.
-someone missing a girl who has long been dead, thinking of the happy gone days spent in her company.
-the same guy who decides to burn himself to die the same death as his deceased girl, and feel what she did and lastly reach her.
-desperate scared children imploring their parents to spare them and not permit that they get offered for a human sacrifice in order to earn a place in heaven as the false prophets claimed.
The first minute is composed by "...to Cross the River of...", an intro based upon lugubrious touches of keyboards, while "Acheron", the first real song, starts with the noises of oars moving water, soon replaced by a nervous ticking, a keyboards intervention, and then a pause preluding to an explosion of Gothic Metal rendered with all the instruments hand in hand. The vocals are reverberated and clean and sound like vocalist Antti's reciting a litany. They're travelling on a slow rhythm sustained by an acoustic guitar till the refrain arrives. Later on, an old-school Death/Doom Metal structure comprises a long guitar solo until the refrain's reprise, this time with more pounding drumwork, some sighs, a blastbeat and demonic vocals duetting with clean ones; finally, you can hear the ferryman's coming back.
Romantic and elegant piano lines open the strangely titled "11" along with a refined keyboards plot. The Death/Doom Metal frames alà My Dying Bride return, to the moment when the vocals attack in a double style (clean and raspy like many Black Metal acts have already done or like the voice a good number of people with damaged vocal cords have), laid one on each other. That's a musical expression of genius
followed by a Modern Metal break with clean vocals and a final axe solo. After this part we find whispers, discouraged vocals and a martial blastbeat up to the moment the dual clean/crow-like vocals start again. Then, the blastbeat becomes particularly intense and rapid in the faded out coda.
Accompanied by a lyric video available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOHqRWYA3Og, "In the Shade" begins with an assault ensued by an atmospherical portion and a few seconds later by a traditional Death/Doom Metal chop. Afterwards, a Modern Metal riff with hypnotic clean vocals added onto other wicked ones is subsequently substituted by a Viking Black Metal slice. A melodic share of guitar mixed with frantic drumming is alternated by double kick-drums. The guitars and the drums then become Prog Metal until a guitar solo paired with fast drums, sometimes doing a very Black Metal-forged long blastbeat. The modern strip with two kinds of vocals alternated or put one on another anticipates the Viking Black Metal instants we've already heard once before, obeying the order to make way for a blastbeat at the end.
"Restless" utilizes an acoustic guitar and clean vocals, interrupted by the arrival of a Death/Doom Metal block, which comes before vulgar, angelic and recitative vocals respectively coupled with a blastbeat mixed low in the background and repeated a couple of times; that is broken off by a violent conclusive brief music blow.
"...Empty Words..." is a threatening instrumental interlude
just like the opener. It strongly reminds me of some separating constructions that Obituary utilized in "Cause of Death" between a song and another.
If the long "Venor Trucido" (one more strange title apparently unrelated to the lyrics) commences with a tremendously vintage, yet very effective Black Metal riff, it's also true that the next riff is on a purely Doom Metal side. Noteworthy are the moments when some whispers are hard panned to the left side and after that to the right one; this happens twice and achieves a really scary effect. The listener will then meet a semi-distorted guitar, old Death/Doom Metal, and - most importantly - the finest vocal performance: to be precise an alternation of singing that fans of early Cathedral, My Dying Bride and Kataklysm are going to adore. The new riffing stirs along a foggy swamp
for about 2 minutes, leaving room for a burst of perverted Death Metal in the vein of Immolation and Incantation, yet more Progressive, not too distant from Nocturnus. When Black and Prog Metal blend during a Doom Metal six-string solo it is obvious that the only way to conclude the composition is by a climax of massive doses of Doom/Black Metal. Masterpiece of the whole record!
A stark clash between a slow semi-distorted guitar against superfast drumming characterizes the initiatory fragment of "She Died", a decidedly experimentally arranged track. A handful of seconds passes and here come a piano solo and funeral distant drums to stress the sadness of this piece, until a Death/Doom/Black Metal portion is placed after, as if Confessor had jammed with Immortal. The mournful part is back, replaced by the reproposed previous ones; seconds later there's a blastbeat, then a dreamy part recurring to effected vocals that give the impression of nostaligic past memories. These are followed by a cemeterial Doom Metal base and later on by the last Death/Doom/Black Metal aggression, so insisting and penetrating with its brief repeated fast gunshots formed by paroxysmal drums and guitars.
A beginning full of atmosphere and horrorific elements opens "Blood Red Dawn", anticipating a few verses of merciless Death/Doom Metal, an Epic Metal segment containing heartfelt declamatory clean vocals onto which Blackish whispers and artificial vocals (almost robotic) have been set; it is then time for an experiemental riff surrounded by a vast range of processed vocals on the two channels until Death and Doom Metal reappear knocking the door down using the cruellest vocal that Timo can produce. Successively a funeral violin insertion is tied to ethereal guitars, praying whispered vocals, meandering bass lines and finally an effected guitar sound that grows gradually. A Black Metal blastbeat changes the situation again, preceding another Death/Black Metal one closed with a Prog Metal rhythm and suicidal manipulated vocals.
The longest track, "Zoar", has been chosen to say goodbye to this cruel world: it starts with the voice of the above-mentioned priest reading psalms from a bible ordering a human sacrifice. In the meantime the guitar and the violin (?) enter this composition leaving way to extreme and disquieting vocals ensued by early 90s-mannered Death Metal growls sustained by another Doom Metal riff. Natural vocals and growls get in in unison to underline that there's no way out for the children offered in sacrifice. An atmospherical central window sees the priest's voice along with guitar licks that in turn introduce to a block where clean female vocals are added to increase the dramatic power. The guitar plot is oriented towards the same goal and it reaches its apex when it delivers a new stunning solo, while the other guitar player is busy with a different texture with a method that made Paradise Lost's first albums so successful and different from the majority of their colleagues. The same components we heard in the first bit of this closing track are reproposed after brief intrusive dissonant piano notes, until the finalé featuring the last blastbeat and after a while gentle voices coming ahead of the echoed priest's recitation.
"Songs of Slumber" is an album that contains most of Finns' spirit and mentality, satisfying traditional fans, experimenting at the same time without betraying them. The two-piece's attempt to enlarge one's musical borders has success, and sometimes with really original stylistic choices. Buy this first offering from Fractured Spine if you're keen on My Dying Bride, Katatonia, Novembre, Saturnus, Swallow The Sun, old Shamrain, Myraeth, Myridian, Agonal, Lycanthia, To Cast A Shadow, Rise Of Avernus, Draconian, Fading Bliss, Edellion, and the likes, because the disc offers an interesting mix of various Metal genres, which are initially difficult to imagine in their constellation and yet form a sonorous symbiosis in the end.