Review Summary: Please pay your dentist a visit after listening to this
For almost 20 years of their history the Finnish musicians from Poets of the Fall managed to quite confidently balance on a thin line, combining in their sound very melodic vocals, poetic pathos and solid musical backbone. They never allowed any of these elements to go overboard, except for a few instances (this reviewer shudders every time he calls to mind over-sweetened vocals in Cradled in Love
). And without a doubt such understanding of their strong feats deserve respect. Even on the last two albums, where the band dropped almost completely alternative rock for a pop-rock sound brimming with synth melodies, they refrained from an irrevocable dive into a full-on saccharine sound condemned by many preferring something harder.
That was true until the release of their ninth album Ghostlight
Despite assumed continuation of the sound the band demonstrated on Jealous Gods
makes an unexpected (well, not fully expected) return to rock, along the way partially replacing synth lines with symphonic accompaniment, at first bring to mind comparisons to Twilight Theater
and, to be more specific, its track War
. The level of melodramatics in said song came dangerously close to tastelessness in its pathos, but that time other cuts managed to preserve this fragile balance with their preciseness and immediacy. Unfortunately, Ghostlight
gives us a different outcome.
In the beginning there is nothing pointing to the impending failure. Yes, the opening Firedancer
turns out to be a typical, if not to say stock, first track on the Poets of the Fall albums, and it is difficult to call it memorable or even halfway energetic (it definitely fails compared to Lift
, Running Out of Time
), despite its rather substantial length exceeding 6 minutes. But it does manage to throw us off and generate some expectations. Although, they don’t last long.
Already on the second track Requiem for My Harlequin
we inadvertently start to notice a dramatic increase in glucose content. Amplified sugariness in the melody and vocals, augmented theatrics and too sweet backing vocals in the closing minutes of the song elicit slowdown of the pulse, while, it would seem, the expected effect was to get the opposite. Sounds of Yesterday
goes by practically unnoticed, failing to stay in the memory just like the day that just passed. And it seemed that Revelations
would turn this around, quickening the tempo, but instead it bears so many obligatory elements of the band’s sound, it has no room for something to help make it just a bit distinctive. It is right at this point when the album falls permanently into such uninspiring and covered-in-so-much-sugar sound, it never manages to recover from it until the last seconds of Ghostlight
(probably, Weaver of Dreams
demonstrates some feeble efforts but they turn out to be futile).
After having listened to the album all you are left with is a feeling of bemusement – how did they get to this point? Until now Poets of the Fall never failed so laughably. Even on their weakest and meandering Temple of Thought
they managed to pull off a number of solid songs. On Ghostlight
we see a product of clear ambition bearing such little success. Multiple spins still bear no fruit, and it is nearly impossible to recall or hum any of the tracks. All the band managed to produce is a bunch of cuts so amazingly derivative of their own discography, providing just a pile of formulaic melodies. And they cannot be saved by off-the-chart melodramatics, overreaching arena epicness or guitar solos, which only remind us of the formidable talents Olli Tukuainen apparently still preserves.
The Finns mentioned that Ghostlight
is the third part in the trilogy that started with Clearview
. And, as it is often the case, the third part turned out to be the weakest. We can only hope on their next album Poets of the Fall decide to step away from the flirting with the 1980s sound that overshadowed everything and give us something a bit livelier. And we know they still have it, and several songs they recorded under the Old Gods of Asgard moniker reminded us so well.