Review: Finnish Rockumentary 2003 (Promotional CD) More information: www.fimic.fi By: Doug Millaway This CD is rather eclectic collection of songs from 18 different groups from Finland. It provides a range of music spanning from fairly typical Europop to some rather catchy Progressive Rock. As I listen to quality of the musicianship involved in may of these tracks, I’m reminded once again about how difficult it is to crack the international music market and achieve the level attained by top rung artists. The creativity demonstrated by groups such as Kwan (Shine), The Crash (Lauren Caught My Eye), and Mighty 44 (Mighty 44), to name a few, is very appealing and entertaining. To be honest, I would put this collection of tunes up against any compilation CD I own. The previously mentioned Mighty 44 may serve as a model for taking Hip Hop to another level. So much of the drivel heard on the radio nowadays sounds so much alike I feel as though there’s only been one Hip Hop song written, and all they is pass it around. It is so formulaic. That’s why the piece by this band stands out. It blends the best of alternative, Hip Hop, standard rock, and even the presence of some ambient pads. Nice work. The group Lordi contributes a prog rock piece called “Would You Love A Monsterman” that is quite interesting. It starts with some intelligent vocal harmonies and then develops into a more thrash metal rant. In the end though, it works. Overall, I would recommend this CD as a very good window into the world of what the Northern European musical community has to offer. It is a well packaged collection that I would highly recommend for those craving a wide variety of musical styles. It is definitely one of the better “teaser” Cds I’ve heard. Ratings: 7 out of 10 for musicianship (instrumental, vocals, programming) 9 out of 10 for production (arranging, engineering) 7 out of 10 for presentation (song order, packaging, etc.)
Various Artists, "Reindeer Rock 2001" Listening to this album reminded me of viewing a rather derivative French romantic comedy with a friend of mine. My friend, an even more ardent xenophile than me, said that while the film was no great masterpiece, it was still interesting to see how different cultures interacted with and imitated American pop culture. I could see his point of view, but I had to insist that despite being sociologically interesting, imitation of another country's tripe was still tripe. That is not to say that Reindeer Rock 2001 is tripe, but compared to a previous entry in the series (which compiles various popular Finnish bands yearly), there seems to be less stylistic originality and distinctiveness on this disc. The last Reindeer Rock CD I seemed to be awash in Nordic melancholy despite great stylistic differences between groups. While there are hints of such elements, this CD still seems much less Finnish. The album's opener, Pool's "When Nothing Can Be Saved" is fairly indicative of the quality of the rest of compilation. The first guitar chord is darkly suggestive but almost immediately is overtaken by a generic chord progression leading to a fairly generic melodic pop-rock song, albeit a little more minor-key than what you hear on American radio. The Supperhead's "Mad About The Girl" is even more painfully ordinary, an undistictive dance track with that annoying synth-vocal effect that's been popping up ever since that "Celebrate" single a few years ago. Ben Granfelt's "Keep Tomorrow Free" shows just a hint of something different in a very subtle articulation of a single guitar line every now and then, but the cliched lyrics and overly mellow pop-rock approach keep this track from going anywhere. "Loveson" by Bitch Alert disasterously marries a Liz Phair-esque confessional verse with an ineffective build up to a clumsy alt-rock chorus. I think you get the idea, so rather than spend my time cataloging the missteps, I should mention some of the more effective moments on the CD. Species's "Sweetboy" has a nice sleazy, Stones-y swagger, Rinneradio's "Zel" effectively marries a stark folk melody with minimalist electronica and one of the only exuberant moments on the disc that doesn't seemed forces, the Barnshakers contribute an interestingly subdued rockabilly tune, and Ita-Saksa's brilliantly goofy cover of Falco's "Der Kommissar" can't go without mention (though it appeared on the previous Reindeer Rock disc as well, strangely enough). Despite a handful of good songs, this entry in the series seems more likely to interest sociologists than music fans. However, if you just want good Finnish music I'd check out avant-proggers Hoyry-Kone, melodic death metal band Amorphis, or Jean Sibelius first. ~Adam Murphree
Various Artists, "Reindeer Rock 2000" CD-LINJA OY Records E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Reindeer Rock is a compilation of current Finnish groups and, while it's undeniably mainstream-oriented, it's still interesting to the Finlanders' takes on popular music styles. 20 tracks are too plentiful to comment on individually, so here's the highlights: Lemonator, "I Don't Want to Live Forever" - A grungy modern rock tune, except with much more interesting chords and harmonic colors (which one soon notices is present in many of these groups). Catchy and to the point, as it is obviously intended to be. OP:L Bastards "Scorpius" - Nice (instrumental, of course) techno song, with a funky analog bass line. Supperheads, "Devil in Disguise" - Extremely catchy dance-pop. Lightweight, for sure, but I haven't heard a Top 40 song all year that's as difficult to get out my head. 69 Eyes, "Gothic Girl" - Hilarious parody of definitive goth act Sisters of Mercy, and the movement in general. Don't know if I could take a CD's worth of it, though. James Ex, "Branded" - Creepily sadistic break-up song delivered with a unique subdued menace. Interesting. Nerdie, "Burning 4 U" - Sweet, catchy girl-fronted indie-rock. Quite memorable. To/Die/For, "In the Heat of the Night" - Somewhat interesting combination of ultra pop and heavy metal, pulled off quite admirably. Again, intensely catchy. Ita-Saksa, "Der Kommissar" - FINALLY a band that sings in the country's native language, which only enhances this superb tribal-metal (?) song. Different, in a good way. Nightwish, "Deep Silence Complete" - Power metal with angelic, operatic female vocals. Some powerful moments. The Blaster Master, "Skandinista" - Scandinavian ska, and a deliciously goofy variety at that. Somewhat reminiscent of some of The Clash's work, I thought. As a whole, Reindeer Rock might be an interesting listen for fans of pop music who want something decidedly different. ~Jon Dharma
Reindeer Rock ’99 (CD, 55:23) CD-LINJA OY Records E-mail: email@example.com CYBERHOME: Reindeer Rock ’99 TRACKLIST: [BAND NAME - Song title] 1. 69 EYES – Wasting the Dawn (4:00) 2. CASHMIR – Better Than Me (4:01) 3. NIGHTWISH – Sacrament of Wilderness (4:11) 4. ROAD CREW – Something Dead (4:09) 5. THEE ULTRA BIMBOOS – Antonio (4:16) 6. SUGARRUSH – Bloodlust Baby (2:17) 7. THE HOUSEWRECKERS – One More Chance (3:27) 8. NO WAY – Ingrid (3:18) 9. THE MILESTONES – Deep in Despair (4:25) 10. ANDY McCOY – Mind Over Matter (3:43) 11. PLUM – Again and Again (3:33) 12. THE DUPLO! – Summer of ’99 (2:59) 13. BEN GRANFELT – Home (4:20) 14. SUB-URBAN TRIBE – Moon Garden (6:40) Reindeer Rock ‘99 is a compilation release consisting of songs from a number of Finnish bands widely ranging in style and quality. From the alterna-rock of Sugarrush to the death-metal of 69 Eyes to the ska of No Way, all points on the rock and roll map are covered here – and like most compilation releases, the quality of the songs vary greatly. One minute you’re happily listening to the sugar-coated catchy pop/rock of Cashmir’s “Better Than Me,” and the next minute you praying for the end of the awful “opera/metal” of Nightwish’s “Sacrament to the Wilderness”. Some of the higher points on the CD come from the heavier offerings of 69 Eyes and Sub-Urban Tribe. Gothic-rockers 69 Eyes offers up a tune called “Wasting the Dawn,” which is a pretty good display of heavy guitar mixed with some death-metal-y vocals from lead singer Jyrki. Sub-Urban Tribe closes the CD on a good note with the sub 7-minute “Moon Garden,” a track that successfully rides the line between bombastic hair rock and progressive metal – finishing up with a KILLER 2 minute outro that’ll have you banging your head in unison with the drummer’s relentless pounding. Some lighter moments on Reindeer Rock ‘99 include a cute little Go-Gos-inspired number called “Antonio” from girl group Thee Ultra Bimboos’ (Hey… I don’t make ‘em up, I just write ‘em), and a wonderfully catchy hair-metal tune from Cashmir called “Better Than Me” that has a chorus that you’ll be humming throughout the day. Sugarrush’s “Bloodlust Baby” is a bouncy “made for radio” alterna-rocker that is reminiscent of The Rembrandts and their ilk. So all in all, for a compilation disc there are some very good tracks… Of course, along with the good tracks we’ve got a few… how should I say… LESS than good tracks. The Duplo!’s “Summer of ‘99” is an awful straight-ahead rocker that is totally ruined by the use of vocal effects like the ones recently made popular by Cher and Kid Rock. “Again and Again” from the band Plum is nothing but disco-influenced BritPop that would be more at home on a Spice Girl’s B-Side compilation than it does on a rock and roll compilation. But not even sub-par efforts from these bands will prepare you for the unbearable “Sacrament of Wilderness” by Nightwish. This song is a mix of bargain-store speed metal guitar chops, horror-movie soundtrack keyboard sequences, and – get this – a female opera singer! It’s an interesting mix, but the pieces put together result in one of the worst rock songs I’ve heard in some time. So in the end, despite some missteps, the ill-titled Reindeer Rock ‘99 manages to come across with some pretty decent rock and roll tunes from our Finnish friends. Some of the catchier songs (like Sugarrush’s “Bloodlust Baby”) would almost certainly be smash-hits in the States if they were released by Third Eye Blind or Blink 182, but since Scandavian pop usually isn’t high on American radio stations play lists I gather that most of the gems on this CD will never see the light of day. No matter what your tastes, you’ll likely find SOMETHING to like about Reindeer Rock ‘99, assuming that Finnish accents don’t bother you too much. - Michael Askounes (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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