Review Summary: Poets of the Fall live up to their name on their debut, putting a new spin on a trite sound by making it poetic and sincere
Pure alternative rock has been more or less dead to most music fans for about a decade. Ever since Nickelback
took the radio by storm with "How You Remind Me" in 2001, nearly every alternative rock band decided that they too wanted a bite of the apple, and in the process became much more shallow and cookie-cutter, concerned not with artistic merit, but rather airplay and commercial success. Since this alt rock has become synonymous with the term "radio rock" which illustrates the genre's decreased status better than anything else. However, that doesn't mean that all alternative rock is six feet under just yet. Even in such a trite genre as so-called "mainstream rock", there will always be those who try
, and put more thought into the music than how catchy or commercially viable it is.
Poets of the Fall, an alt rock sextet from Helsinki, Finland, have been breathing life into the standard mainstream rock formula since 2005, when their prophetically-titled debut Signs of Life
was released to unexpected commercial success in their home country. Upon first listen, it is hard to discern exactly what makes the Poets rise above their peers. Their music is extremely accessible, the song structures standard, and their lyrics are solely devoted to the commonplace themes of love and failing relationships. But there is one key difference between the Poets and the legions of similar bands: sincerity.
Even though the band covers the well-trodden personal issues mentioned before, they convey them in lush poetry rather than the usual blunt metaphors. While overuse of purple prose can get quite annoying, it's the main thing that makes the Poets so appealing. The music, while stripped down, is every bit as lush as the lyrics, with the guitar meshing very well with the clean, soulful voice of Marko Saaresto, and creating a very calm and relaxed atmosphere.
I can safely say I have heard no other vocalist who can be appropriately compared to Marko Saaresto. His voice works perfectly in tandem with his lyrics, and he is what ultimately gives Poets of the Fall their own identity. This is best exemplified on "Someone Special", which would otherwise likely be another annoyingly cliché falling-in-love ballad. In addition, his very poetic lyrical style makes the songs feel like a personal chronicle (like a singer-songwriter), rather than simple conformation.
"I wake up to the sound of rain upon my sill
Pick up the pieces of my yesterday old thrill
Can I deliver this used up shiver
To how I pronounce my life
And I leave it up to faith to go by its own will
Back row to the left, a little to the side
Slightly out of the place
Look beyond the light, where you'd least expect
There's someone special"
The band never really leave their comfort zone throughout the album, but their material is strong enough that they don't need to. Even "Don't Mess With Me", at first listen a simple headbanging anthem that could easily fit in any other mainstream rock band's catalogue, is treated with Saaresto's unique introspection and acoustics. Someone looking for variety will very likely be disappointed, due to the already familiar nature of their style.
Poets of the Fall are far more than just another mainstream rock band. They have successfully breathed new life into an otherwise trite style by being luxuriant rather than simple. While the band states in "Illusion & Dream":" It doesn't solve a thing to dress it in a pretty gown", that's exactly how they make their music so appealing. Far from "mock sincere" (their words, not mine), the Poets should certainly be considered by anyone who believes that all "radio rock" is vapid and trite, and will almost certainly silence the skeptics.