I still remember the enraged and menacing bear-like creature on Myrrys‘ front cover. It exudes this mystical and inhuman furor, as it should. And by doing so, the beast really gives you a hint of the type of metal heading your way.
And truly, Noumena, right off the bat, surged forward with those oddly comfortable growls on a rock-solid and totally cohesive piece of Melodic Death Metal. This whole record oozed that sense of purpose, a march forward to some sort of a final goal.
So, with cozy anticipation, we set our sights on Anima, the band’s latest record. Some steely Melodic Death Metal would surely be on the menu. With a slightly different flavor perhaps but no more.
But we didn’t quite expect the fabric this new album is made of.
Already the acoustics in Kaiku made the RMR deck crew listen up. In hindsight, we should have looked at the cover first. The bear is still there, only it appears dead to the world this time. So, something must be afoot.
Yet, once the excellent Saatto leads off with this meaty introduction straight from Insomnium, the Melodic Death Metal seems to progress in known patterns. Solid groove, weeping guitars, thundering drum beats, all there. Until Suvi Uura hits the airwaves with her melancholy voice, that is. An ambient ditty that – frankly – I didn’t quite expect. The track later gets into safer waters with Antti Haapanen rocking forward. To a point where both styles – growls and clears – converge beautifully.
But think about it for a moment. Where former works sternly took their bearings from the traditional melodeath lore, here we could pull a gothic wrapper around the record. And indeed, Anima contains a large dose of this beauty and the beast motive, something we thought was about to die. Not that this is absolutely new with Noumena either. But fear not, this band knows how to use it without lathering themselves in cheese.
Then there’s a second surprise. Throughout Anima, Uura sports a markedly independent presence at a much higher level of intensity than on its predecessor. And that’s usually a good thing.
Already the term Anima – the inner self, soul, or subconscious1) – calls for something softer. A style that comes across as a tad less brutal. Yet still connected to the bear-like creature on the cover. So, Noumena went for a very melancholy, truly reflective, folksy, and at times almost progressive style. One that aligns itself to the main theme of death and loss.
To the point that the band has this tendency to embark on overly ornate arrangements, not too often, but often enough. And in the process, Anima sometimes loses focus and slips down that rabbit hole into neverland. Specifically after around mid-point, things wobble a tad too much. And that’s a pity.
The aforementioned Saatto already filled us with anticipation for great things to come our way. Suvi Uura leading off with that typical Noumena Melodic Death Metal sound on Murtuneet makes for another great track.
The crew here also fancied the 15-minute epic Totuus. A crisp culling may have given the song better purchase, no doubt. But all things considered, this is the track with the essence of Anima – the soul of the soul if you will. If you look for your straight-in-the-face melodeath on this song, come again. This is the piece where Noumena try themselves at that slightly disturbing alternative-progressive flavor that may lose them some fans. But whatever you do, don’t miss out on that stellar solo somewhere towards the middle.
‘Nomen est omen’, right? All that lack of flattery above notwithstanding, Noumena perfectly caught the spirit of the theme. Already the name of the record – Anima – calls for some change in style and texture. Throwing an avalanche of stone-cold Melodic Death Metal at your fanbase would certainly just not do this time. So, the gothic, reflective, somewhat folksy, and almost doom-laden flavor the band added to their tune just feels right.
And it’s not that Noumena suddenly went soft on us. Instead, they took some of the sharp edges off their metal and injected some serious soul into their tune. Anima may thus have created some controversy, and this may have turned a score of fans away. But what can you do? You can’t please them all.
|1.||Some put a female connotation on it, too. But hey, let’s not go there for now, this is a metal review.|