Review Summary: Who says you have to be (completely) original to kick ass?
Melodic death metal bands are part of a much cluttered field. It’s one that you’ll find many people saying the next rising group is a completely derivative clone of several others. Pretentiousness aside, many of these bands are relatively unremarkable and seldom bring even faintly interesting style cues to the table. Yet the next group in line doesn’t have to be completely innovative-they can sound familiar yet bring well-crafted music and warrant varying degrees of praise. This is where Whispered steps up.
Formed in 2004 under the name Zealot, Whispered have had to wait some time before getting material out to the public. And it wasn’t until recently this year that they released their debut LP, Thousand Swords
. Similar to Amon Amarth, Whispered’s subject matter is on the more whimsical side, except they tackle samurai themes as opposed to the established Viking subjects. To compliment this stylistic decision, the band have brought and incorporated Japanese instruments and various sounds to give their music more illusionary merit than most other groups. With Thousand Swords
, they give us a full-blown idea of what their ambitions sound like, and it’s some great, fun music.
The best way to describe Whispered’s sound would be to take Children of Bodom, bump up the heaviness, match or exceed their energy in small doses and add some The Last Samurai
-esque effects for good measure. “Blindfold,” which the band released a music video for, gives a good idea of what the album sounds like without spoiling the stronger points. Altogether, the album comprises of usually lengthy songs, about half of which alternate a few times between fast and slow to moderate pacing. Take, for instance, “Dead Cold Inside,” the album’s second longest track, which starts slow but allows the usual charisma and near-intensity of the band’s core sound to come up during a few points. Other than this and the album closer “Blade in the Snow,” (clocking in at over fifteen minutes) Thousand Swords
is a relatively fast-paced ride without going overboard. Conversely, there’s also the title track, which starts off with what I like to call “eargasmic intensity” and only lets up preceding the guitar/keyboard solos.
Those wondering if the Japanese influences found here are enough to help the band stand out from the crowd need only know that they give the album an edge; nothing more, nothing less. “Intro-Hajimari” instrumentally initiates the album and, when imagined with a sound akin to Kalmah, nicely prepares the listener. The aforementioned epic “Blade in the Snow” also brings much of the corresponding atmosphere one can expect from such a track, which is also occasionally found throughout the rest of the album. These touches definitely help to sell the themes and, while not the least bit revolutionary, are elaborated in a way that it feels fresh enough in a time when music doesn’t seem to have much innovation.
As I’ve already mentioned, the band exhibit reasonably ecstatic playing styles, with vocalist/guitarist Jouni Valjakka leading the front. Instrumentally, each member is in top form and do well to lend their talents by giving the album plenty of ooze. Though like many metal vocalists, Valjakka doesn’t exactly stand out from the crowd, providing the usual growls and screams one can expect. He’s not horrible, but were it not for the rest of the band playing alongside him (listen after the title track’s intro and you’ll see what I mean), it’d be tough to act defensive.
Whispered find themselves covering very familiar ground with Thousand Swords
, yet bring just enough of a little something different to be worth giving a shot. And for a debut, this is excellent material. The music sounds great (and occasionally epic), everything is well-produced with justified mixing for each band member and, in many ways, what’s here makes other, similar bands sound dull and uninteresting. Genre enthusiasts should definitely love what they’ll find here and, being one myself, look forward to what these guys will do in the future.