Review Summary: This is the result of Children of Bodom with Nightwish influence.
Blood Stain Child's early work, and this album in particular, is oft criticized as being a Children of Bodom derivative. I'm not exactly an expert in this subject, because... well, I hate Children of Bodom. However, even I can say this is not an unjustified criticism; this album reeks of Children of Bodom worship.
However, I might ask you to go play Hatebreeder
then return. Done? Okay. Children of Bodom's music is saturated in keyboard glory, this we know. Now, turn on Silence of Northern Hell
and... what's this? It sounds like a bloody orchestra!
That's the key difference between Children of Bodom and Blood Stain Child (in this album, namely); Bodom's music is deep with keyboard foreplay, but it's clearly keyboard. There's some various synth symphonies, but they don't do much other than add some atmosphere, barely even noticeable more often than not. This album mimics an entire orchestra, and to good effect I might add. The symphonies are well composed and tightly played - I could easily mistake this for a real orchestra, and they're not just for atmosphere. The orchestral elements dominate the album to the point that this could easily be classified as symphonic death metal. Blood Stain Child also differentiates itself from Bodom by flirting, though sparingly, with music reminiscent of their heritage... "Under the Sin of Grief" and "King of the Sacred Sword" play with oriental folk melodies to good effect.
That said, the songwriting and playing is all done in a very Bodom-esque manner. The way the guitar and keyboard flaunt themselves is so similar to Bodom that I could easily mistake this for a Bodom album, were it not for the emphasized symphonies.
My main problem is with the rhythm. The drum and bass can be forgotten, because... let's face it: they usually are, especially with melodic death metal. The riffs, however, are unforgivably bland, trite, and boring. The album can offer in sweet lead melodies and it's often drenched in sophisticated symphonies, but the rhythm is simply forgettable.
As such, it's songs that offer in juicy guitar leads that stand out the most. "Under the Sin of Grief" is the biggest highlight. The song has several awesome leads - the opening lead, recurrent through the song, is my favorite of the album. In contrast, songs such as "Silence of Northern Hell" and "Crimson Symphony" are drenched in orchestrations, but these guys forget that well done orchestrations requires a solid rhythm to back it up. With songs that actually contain some decent leads ("Requiem"), it becomes clear once the leads let up that the orchestration is carrying the song and the rhythm still sucks.
My other complaint is with these Godforsaken vocals. Yes, I hate Children of Bodom, and one reason is because of Alexi Laiho's terrible voice (though their terrible songcraft is still the largest reason)... and good grief, Ryo sounds exactly like him. He has no range to his scream, and sounds mostly the same through the entire damned album. Gah. This album would be so much better if they had more varied vocals in it, and it wouldn't be such blatant Bodom worship either. A good clean voice and a deep, gutteral growl to contrast Ryo's screaming... oh yes, that would've been quite majestic. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and the vocals are useless.
Overall, this is still a good album for what it is. If they'd managed a stronger rhythm, this would be really excellent and possibly even innovative for its time. The symphonies, fake as they may be, are really well done. Through the album, I never find them to be overbloated or boring. Unfortunately, the sophistication of the album is drug down to Hell by the rhythm just being "there." Damn, though, this is still about as good as anything Bodom ever did. The synthesizer is used far better at the very least.