Finns Kuolemanlaakso leave nothing to the imagination in the titling of this album. From opening track Children of the Night (which brings to mind happy remembrances of One Second-era Paradise Lost), right through to the mournful, affecting closer My Last Words (which resonates heavily of the late, lamented Woods of Ypres), this is indeed a gothic celebration of epic – and very entertaining – proportions.
It’s not all eyeliner and bags of flour, however. Roll the Dice With the Devil, though still incorrigibly gothic in mien, is actually a rousing, bona fide heavy metal anthem that’ll take some beating in its field in 2016, whilst the serpentine, slithering No Absolution sees vocalist Laakso employing his best Dani Filth snarl at the start of the track over a stentorian, doom-laden backing that also employs sinister voiceovers and pummelling drumming from skinsman Tiera.
The Eastern-sounding She Guides Me in My Dreams is pure Turkish delight in aural form, with beguiling whiffs of the orient drifting in and out of a tune that might easily have been mislaid from one of Amorphis’ more recent efforts. Elsewhere, the excellent somnolence of The World’s Intolerable Pain is heavily redolent of compatriots (and label mates) Sleep of Monsters – high praise indeed in my book.
However, this is a gothic record, right? And if it’s sunglasses-at-night thrills you’re after then, despite the grandeur evident all over this album you’ll be making a – rather undignified, if I might be so bold as to comment – bee line straight for the album’s standout track, the effortlessly Sisters of Mercyesque Where the River Runs Red. Laakso is in full Eldritch mode here, backed by some chucklesome yet effective backing vocals to produce a track that wouldn’t have been out of place on the Sisters’ magnum opus, Vision Thing. It’s ludicrous, for sure, but irresistible into the bargain, and who says even Goths can’t have a bit of fun every now and then?
All up then a hugely enjoyable effort, packed with great tunes throughout and three or fire bona fide classics in waiting. Goth or not, you can’t ask for more than that.
M. Laakso – Vol. 1: The Gothic Tapes will be released by Svart Records on August 26th.