You know the moment when your privates get all wet or hard (or both) when you hear something that’s undeniably good? Like, say for example, stumbling for the first time upon Disillusion’s Back to Times of Splendor or Devin Townsend’s best of compilation with all your to-be favorite tracks on it? Stam1na’s latest offering, Elokuutio — a playfully crafted new Finnish word that combines life/living with a cube and hints towards ‘evoluutio’ — just had that effect on me. For a band that’s been altering their angle from album to album, whilst still sounding like themselves, I have to say this fresh mint caught me with my pants down re-enacting scenes from Spaceballs with 3D-printed dolls of myself. Or in layman terms, holy-shit-what-in-the-actual-fudge?!

“Now hold onto your Nokias my Finnish compadre! Comprende?”
– The phones or the tires?
“Whatever. Just keep your hands where I can see them and back up a little with that gun in your pants there, buckaroo. Now s-l-o-w-l-y… Stam1na who?”
– Oh. Right.

Widely popular in their native Finland, Stam1na are practically unknown outside the borders, especially in the ‘murica. Maybe it’s that they spout neatly formulated, thought-provoking texts solely in Finnish, making it tough for Trump to follow (cause you know, it’s not in English and he doesn’t give a flying fuck) or perhaps the name can be easily mistaken for something a nu-metal group would don after picking up their face paints from the local drama club. Against any and all misconceptions though, Stam1na deploys a varied but coherent sound that isn’t afraid of detours. The versatile basis relies on highly energetic thrash/melodic death oriented riffing, catchy choruses spiced with both clean and growled vocals. Naturally, there are some more reflective parts or songs thrown into the mix to provide a well balanced array of material. One could argue that there’s some progressive tones to the music as well, but without the wizardry being overly emphasized; it just manifests itself in some screwball moments that support the songs at hand.

Granted, during the past 10 years or so, not all of Stam1na’s albums have been pure ten out of tens; Nocebo and Raja weren’t exactly as memorable as the stuff that came before, between and after. 2014’s SLK-album wasn’t able to avoid a few misses either, despite featuring some really good songs (see the single “Panzerfaust” or “Kuoliaaksi Ruoskitut Hevoset” for example). Where Stam1na hasn’t faltered, as far as I know, ever, is on stage. Even through overexposure they’ve always been a highly entertaining and a hard working live act.

So back to the review part.

Elokuutio, is the second concept album from Stam1na (first being 2010’s excellent Viimeinen Atlantis). The theme revolves around humanity’s tragic path of digitized evolution. You’d think all would be lost in translation, but luckily the musical textures adhere to the words and with a little bit of babelfishing, one can easily make simplified guesses about what exactly the band is trying to say from the song titles.

For those uninitiated, the two bands mentioned right in the first paragraph will throw you some kind of a bone as to what to expect here musically. On this very CD. But not quite. A handful could have namedropped Gojira in there too, but that’s just something you’d do in a haste. Ultimately the point being, is that the music goes from suave melodies to full-on, party hard riff raff thrashing faster, then furiously all the while screams and shouts echo hookier rock-leanings and the choruses drive earworms through your eardrums like a hollow point bullet paints walls red. Come to think of it, Stam1na might be Finland’s very own Die Apokalyptischen Reiter if that makes any more sense?

Indeed. Elokuutio is an album full of shapeshifting passages that blend through various states of aggression, wonder and astoundment whilst still being playful and masterfully executed. It’s not a new thing for Stam1na as that describes pretty much all their stuff, and the bulk here appears to be a direct continuation from the previous album (SLK), but it’s all less streamlined here and even more frilly, free to explore — it’s a minuscule difference but makes for a significant impact; almost as if the last album was trying out things and building up for this.

There are so many goddamn layers but Stam1na keeps them all under very tight wraps that no surprising element is out of place as they effortlessly intervene with one another; one time you’re thinking you’re listening to Blackwater Park only to find yourself punching holes through walls looking for Vangelis’ records and then trying to figure out where all the pent up emotions inside your head stem from. And that’s just the sinister first song (“Ikoneklasmia”)! Hell, don’t get me started on the last, “Valhe” which is Elokuutio’s, nay, Stam1na’s, finest hour as it paints with an atmospheric brush not too far from the palette of certain Finnish melodic doom/death bands or *cough*Atoma*cough*.

Between the first and last song, there are a few more traditional and classical, faster, Stam1na-tracks in there as well, including the single “Kuudet Raamit”, which might be the weakest cut on the album simply because the other pieces offer so much more. Actually no. That dubious honor surprisingly goes to one of the fastest song “Meidänkaltaisillemme” (“ToOurKind”) or “Mätä Hohtava Omena” (“Rotten Shimmering Apple”). But to counter the known, there are also tracks such as “Marttyyri” that tuned towards Bethlehem’s Schatten aus der Alexander Welt for me at times or the slightly industrialized “D.S.M” with a slightly techier death-y feel to it

Quite possibly the more traditional leanings are the biggest negative point to the album; the highest moments on the album make you wish the band would have twisted all the familiar aspects much further, boldly venturing deeper towards controlled beautiful chaos. And honestly, saying that out loud comes off erroneous and contradictory too, as Stam1na’s strongest point on the thing (and in the past) is that no matter what they do, they sound naturally themselves. Except this time it appears there’s a bit less tongue in cheek amidst the serious observations than one would have expected. But overall, perhaps I’m just awestruck and shell shocked by some of the songs here (again, first and last especially), and more things will stand out later on, in good and bad, but there’s no denying of how goddamn capable the band is and how much still untapped potential creativity there is. In fact, it makes your head spin and fills it with all sorts of ideas and hopes for Stam1na’s future outputs…

To help the message come across, some extra vocals on a few tracks are provided by Tomi Joutsen (Amorphis), Tuomo Saikkonen (Mokoma), Kalle Lindberg (Cardinal Sin) and Janne Joutsenniemi (Stone) who is also responsible for the fine, clear production on the album. It doesn’t hurt Elokuutio that the band itself consists of pure talent, most notably guitarist-vocalist Hyrde who has no problem machine gunning the cleverness of the text with his cleans, shouts and growls. I’m also going to point out the great synths from Emil Lähteenmäki that continue some of the themes heard on the previous albums, but play a heightened role in selling Elokuutio’s thesis.

The brilliance of Elokuutio shines so bright that although one’s accustomed to expecting the unexpected from the Stam1na, the maturity and sheer excellence in songwriting makes it nothing short of inspiring and at the same time, impossible to fully grasp fully in just one go. Stam1na seem to have taken a look at what they’ve done in the past, nodded in agreement about all the best parts, punched it all up to eleven and shaken it around to summon the 48-minutes that will no doubt define their musical legacy from here on out. Seven albums in and dropping something this hot to be genuinely excited about is quite the feat!

After this review was written, it was announced that Elokuutio had reached the number one spot on the official Finnish top ten list.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Mikko K.
March 30th, 2016


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