Sunday, 11 August 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: Lähdön Aika, "Alku"

By: Eeli Helin

Album Type: Full-length
Date Released: 17/05/19
Label: Bunkkeri Records,

”Alku” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Huomisen Toivo
2. Matkalla
3. Kuka Sinä Olet
4. Rauha
5. Pelko
6. Ainoa Tie

The Review:

Lähdön Aika are a Finnish sludge/crust/doom band that released their latest album titled "Alku" on May 17th. Formed in 2003, the band has been steadily wading in the underground scene, making a name for themselves and becoming one of this styles most prominent flag-bearers in the country. Having released multiple albums, numerous splits and other smaller releases throughout the years, Lähdön Aika are now presenting their most oppressive, grim, and high-minded self on "Alku", ripping your will and cheer to bits and pieces with six monumental offerings.

To back up my next statement, I need to elaborate a bit. Lähdön Aika are to me what most of you would call a local band. For years, I've been following this country's underground scene, and more often that not, I've been underwhelmed with what I've heard. Mainly because there's few thriving metal acts that everyone seems to mimic in a one way or another, and bands seem to lack innovation and vision, to put it extremely bluntly. Now, it goes without saying that I've also missed a lot of things along the way. Lähdön Aika are a band that despite their growing recognition in the scene, they've always flown past me somehow. They're also a band that make these complaints of mine totally invalid, and I do enjoy being proved wrong when it comes to this matter. While their influences are present, they're not a cheap, second-hand replica of anything. That is why they stood out for me when I was approached about a review possibility, and that is why I was instantly keen to pick them up for one.

"Huomisen Toivo", the first track on the album begins with an elongated riff and ritualistic tom beats, before heading into a well-structured, rhythmic section. This particular passage acts as a spine for the entire song, introducing droning guitarwork along the way. While the majority of the track is build upon this, there's few shorter parts where the bass takes the lead, a bit abruptly at first perhaps. To back up that feel, the bass is most likely brought up with automation to underline it's dominant position. While this production decision is justified, it takes a few listens to get used to the sudden volume increase. Overall, the production is punishing but still clear, managing to keep the harder and softer parts in unison throughout the album.

The second track "Matkalla" is a more shifty opus that plays around with interesting dynamics through its entire duration. The track takes its time to unfurl properly, reaching its culmination point six minutes in. When compared to the first one, "Matkalla" is more textured and requires definitely more attention. It's also noteworthy to mention that the band really pulled off the track sequencing with "Alku", which might feel like a little thing to someone, but in reality makes a huge difference to the flow and momentum, and to managing both. "Kuka Sinä Olet" tones down on the heavier aspect for a moment. It proceeds in a sludgy and ominous manner for a good while, seemingly equipping changes in dynamics and velocity, giving the otherwise shapeless form some edges and borders. This keeps the track together until the finale, which cuffs your face in with a stomping faux-triplet feel. The atmosphere takes an even more serious turn on this and the following track, "Rauha".

This fourth track is also when you'll be able to pinpoint the bands influences out. There's Cult of Luna -like rhythmical lingering and Amenra -esque dragging, funeral kind of feel. These notions are more apparent in the earlier tracks as well when you take a second listen. This is also where that earlier point of mine resurfaces. You can draw stimulus from wherever, but building your own sound around it is where so many others fail tremendously. If you like the example bands I mentioned, you will most likely dig this one too, you just need to jump in without any prejudice.

The latter half of the album is where Lähdön Aika are on their strongest, own field. "Pelko" and "Ainoa Tie" again include some fresh angles. I wouldn't say that they'd be unprecedented by any measure, but they're exactly that when only considering this album. It's also a good move to keep the length reasonable, which now is somewhere around the forty minute mark. Keeping the entity digestable works wonders, and also allows the band to explore their different sides on different songs. That also means each song works on it's own as a separate piece, and when brought together they form a greater gestalt that won't tire you out. The sheer heaviness and agony it inflicts might be a bit heavy on the heart if you're not used to diving in such bleak and deep mires.

To stop the positive honking for a moment, there's few major and minor things that doesn't work as well as the rest. My biggest problem with them currently is the vocals. They aren't bad, I don't mean that, but I personally prefer more diversity in that department. What their vocalist is doing now, is something that he's good at, but some unpredictable and diverse flavours here and there would add plenty to their output. I get that in their current form, the vocals also act as a sort of an anchor for the instrumentation. The lack of colour is partly redeemed due to the clever vocal placement. I also usually have a hard time grasping the idea of writing in my native language, but I guess that's entirely on me. These blokes have done it this way for over fifteen years, and it's not my place to advice anyone to compromise or alter their honest, internal self because of my biases.

I also complimented the mix, and I do think it works for their benefit on most part. However, it's sort of too in-between of different extremes. Too polished sound wouldn't work for Lähdön Aika at all, so perhaps I'd like them to be more gritty and even raw, if you will. It's also noteworthy that when I mentioned about the dynamics, excluding few occasions, that mostly means the compositional approach and not so much the production one. There are few schools of thought on this too, although I think none of them are superior to another. Perhaps Lähdön Aika could take few more risks on that area. Since they're already notable as a band in this country, why not up the ante even more.

All in all, "Alku" is a damn strong effort from a durable band. I'm sure some will cling to these complaints, but I'd wish everyone to have an open mind when giving it a listen. What's for sure is, that the light isn't very bright on this album, nor should it be. The lyrical topics revolve around matters of finality and passing, take my word for it or pick up a translator, either way. Lähdön Aika have refined their craft for a long time now, and it's a shame that a band with such potential hasn't been picked up by any bigger, international label yet. Without knowing about their ambitions any more than you do, I really wish it wouldn't take another fifteen years for that to happen, if it's on their checklist to begin with.

Alku” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook