Karelia
Restless

Based on the liner notes that accompanied this disc, it sounds as if Karelia have been searching for a comfortable niche over their 8-year career. They started as power metal on Usual Tragedy, and then downshifted to a more mellow, poppy experience on Raise. And with Restless, it seems they’re trying on the eyeliner and fishnets of industrial/goth metal for size. But I don’t know if they really mean it.

They give it a good go at first. The title track starts as a moody mid-tempo simmer that cranks to a chorus of piercing synth strings and simple guitar riffs, with a strong power vocal carrying the melody. Aside from the clean vocals, it’s all very Rammstein, but with the edges burnished off.

The next track, “Trial,” is probably the one I’ll return to the most, despite the fact that it has all the makings of a cheesy disaster: a punchy, sneering vocal over pulsing Euro-dance beats, like Marilyn Manson playing a show on Ibiza. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable song (especially when it cranks into late-era Depeche Mode towards the end), and hell, I really like metal plus dance beats when done right (KMFDM being the best example), but I wish the rest of the album would have followed suit.

Instead, we get a lot of mid-tempo, unthreatening goth-metal with electronic flourishes. Admittedly, it’s got pleasantly poppy songwriting, some good hooks and solid production, but it never gets really exciting. The soaring vocals escalate into some appealing melodies on tracks like “Crash” and “Mirror Mirror,” but they’re not used often enough for my liking.

We get a lot of other vocal deliveries, though – to add to the already mentioned Manson sneer and Dave Gahan croon, there’s also a Layne Staley drone during the verses of “Trial,” a gothic-grandeur anthem on “Lift Me Up” which sounds like classic Sisters of Mercy (although it’s a Moby cover), and Jonathan Davis‘ whole bag of tricks scattered throughout tracks like “Please Come On In,” “Give It Away” and “Lovin’ Wife.” (Yes, there’s a track called “Lovin’ Wife.”) To put a capper on all of this shapeshifting, there’s even an up-tempo, industrial cover of REM‘s “Losing My Religion” at the end of the album.

That’s a lot of reference points to pack into one review, but Restless, true to its name, keeps grasping for an identity throughout its running time. Given the band’s history, it seems like Karelia‘s still not quite clear what they should do, so they’re doing a lot of everything. It’s a shame, because if they focused on a few elements – the clean, elevated choruses and faster dance beats would be my picks – I think they could put something compelling together, rather than just a mish-mash of heard-that-here and heard-that-there.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
June 25th, 2008

Comments

  1. Commented by: Apollyon

    French band named “Karelia”? Mainly goth metal? That’s wrong on so many levels.


  2. Commented by: gabaghoul

    why, is there a significance to the name?


  3. Commented by: axiom

    “The Karelian Ithmus” – first Amorphis LP


  4. Commented by: gabaghoul

    yeah well if there was meant to be any kind of homage here, it’s way way off the mark – there’s nothing here (or, I’d venture, in their past albums) that would remotely suggest early Amorphis.


  5. Commented by: swampthang

    tubby goth girl music eh no way not for me


  6. Commented by: gabaghoul

    one more 5-syllable line at the beginning and you have yourself a haiku

    “Karelia, swampthang?”
    “Tubby goth girl music, eh!
    No way, not for me.”


  7. Commented by: Apollyon

    While it’s part of the title of an Amorphis album as well, the actual region of Karelia has so much culture, interesting landscapes, history, conflict, suffering and emotional weight it’s stupid not to use any of that in any way. Thus, using the name for an uninspired band like this is a fucking disgrace. But that’s just me.


  8. Commented by: gabaghoul

    I’m dumb – Karelia is a real place? where is it?


  9. Commented by: Apollyon
  10. Commented by: ceno

    Yes, Karelia, the place, is much better than Karelia, the band. I have their debut and there is nothing more to it than just a collection of Goth-tinged power metal songs, most of which are pretty boring.


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