Review Summary: Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown
Juhani Palomäki is better known to the metal community as the frontman of Finnish funeral doom band Colosseum, but before he joined his fellow Lovecraftian doomsmashers in Colosseum, Juhani played in a lighter and more dynamic band called Yearning. Forming in 1996 as a five piece, Yearning played a interesting form of doomish metal that would serve as a perfect companion piece to countrymen Unholy and Thergothon. Yet, unlike their oppressive brethren who played dynamic yet heavy as all hell doom, Yearning would take a different more Norwegian approach that recalls progressive bands like Green Carnation, Ulver and In the Woods... in addition to the romantic Germanic sounds of Lacrimosa.
In 1999 Yearning put out a album called Plaintive Scenes and right away one will find themselves drawn to the beautiful artwork that adorns this album. It's earthy yet celestial at the same time. The armored soldier in the right corner firmly entrenches himself in his spot, standing before a masked, mysterious figure surrounded by orbs and hovering planets which provide a captivating image for the viewer. The theatrical artwork paints images in my head of interplanetary commerce, unattainable wealth and unknown Lovecraftian-esque mysteries that probably lie submerged in the deepest part of the ocean or in a ancient monolithic society obscured from all mankind in a inhabitable environment. Now, Yearning's music isn't going to make you suddenly catch a glimpse of Cthulhu and make you start eating your own feces but the artwork is perfectly indicative of the compelling music that lies ahead.
Now, I said before that Yearning played doom metal but that is only partially true. On one hand you have your slower tempos and heavily down tuned guitar riffs saturating the record but on the other hand you have lush synthesizers, oboe and flute to compliment the morphing tempo shifts into speedier portions. In addition, brief symphonic flourishes, piano and acoustic guitar often makes it's presence known on Plaintive Scenes which provides a Opeth like dynamic to the music. I bring up the Opeth comparison only because they have popularized the soft to heavy dynamic and Yearning play a similar style of music to them, at least in structure. Yearning are a bit more ambitious when it comes down to the songwriting department however.
On Plaintive Scenes you are presented with 8 songs that cover just over 34 minutes of material. It's not a long album or an exhausting listen by any stretch of the imagination thanks in part to dynamic musicianship, top notch songwriting and phenomenal vocals. The album itself sounds like a grand orchestra playing from atop a celestial mountain that houses a humanoid type race that is more man than alien yet more alien than man. Standing in the forefront of this musical project lies the vocals, a multifaceted melding of male and female voices that weave together symbiotically with the synthesizers and guitars. In his most prominent form Juhani has a clean, lower pitched voice that recalls Garm's performance on The Sham Mirrors. It's baritone, masculine nature sounds quite nice and compliments the epic nature of the music perfectly. Occasionally there are some deep, biting death growls that can be heard which help strengthen the heavier aspect of the music. Lady Tiina Ahonen provides a Geminian sense of femininity to the dual vocal attack, contrasting perfectly with Juhani's dominant baritone voice. She uses her delicate backing lines in a simple, minimalist fashion but her contributions will be felt all the way through.
The guitars are also a strong point of the album. When in heavier form they do not amount to much more than simple chugging but I have no complaints about it because it serve's the record effectively as it's backbone. The standard guitar chugs are assisted and enhanced by by a strong sense of melody that flows continuous throughout. The acoustic interludes flow just as majestically, never sounding forced or out of place. The cohesion of the guitars is just sublime and as a whole Plaintive Scenes is a sublimely cohesive album. Lady Tiina's flute, Hensku's oboe and Juhani's synthesizer contributions bring a fresh sense of excitement and unpredictability to the recording.. Drums and bass are performed in as orthodox a manner as the electric guitars are but again this is not a bad thing. They work together to create a strong, cohesive sound, and as imaginative and talented as the members of Yearning were it's no surprise that every song on this album is quality.
For 34 minutes Yearning play a flawless style of dark metal enhanced by diverse instrumentation, superb musicianship and strong imagination. Production on the record was quite well as well. It captured Yearning's warm, lively sound magnificently, giving each instrument and voice their time to shine through. Cruising through elements of doom, gothic, symphonic, progressive and folk metal, Yearning had forged their own brand of emotive metal music which tragically ended way too soon due to the death of Juhani Palomäki. He is not here anymore but the music he helped create always will be. Fans varying from In The Woods... to Opeth to Thergothon should give this album a spin. With this record you will very soon be hosting your very own masquerade ball amidst the twisted branches, dense trees and suffocating fog for all the other skull kids that tragically got lost in the dense, dark woods.