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Gladenfold - When Gods Descend

When Gods Descend
by Sean McGuirk at 04 July 2019, 7:17 PM

Finland’s Metal scene is unlike any other on the planet. Bands like AMORPHIS, SONATA ARCTICA, ENSIFERUM and KORPIKLAANI created a sound that is technical, with a sugary-sweet and processed sound, while still remaining grounded in ancient lore. Relative newcomers GLADENFOLD are another entry into this vast history, and they do their part on “When Gods Descend” to take that sound even further.  It’s a grab bag of musical ideas and genres, from Prog to Folk to Symphonic Death and beyond. With a sound that started as Folk Metal on their first EP, 2006’s “In Somno,” they’ve gradually added more orchestral elements and refined their production to the point where they sound ready to move to the next level in their home country and the world.

The cover may have you expecting an ARKONA or TURISAS vibe, but there’s a lot less Folk on this release and way more Prog. Vocalist Esko Itälä mixes in a fair amount of scream-singing, like on the ripping epic opener “The Descent of the Gods,” but it is his clean voice that really stands out.  “Brothers” opens as a Germanic Power Metal-inspired tune with a falsetto scream at the top.  Itälä does the blackened voice thing in the verse, but it’s the inspiring clean chorus that makes the song stand out. Likewise, with the sultry verse to “Immortalis,” that has him sounding a lot like Tomi Joutsen. The song also features some beautiful acoustic passages by Itälä, and a blazing keyboard solo from Paavali Pouttu, whose presence is felt on every second of the album’s 50 minutes.

There’s plenty of choral passages, female vocalizations, electric orchestras and general sound design that make this album serious ear candy. The trouble with releases, like this one, that are super-polished, is the songs sometime get lost in the clutter. Songs like “Sanctuary Denied” and “The Forsaken” suffer on memorability, as their grandeur and insistent left-turns get tiring. “Ghosts Of Our Past” is a ballad that showcases some more expert acoustic playing and some exceptional low-range in Itälä’s vocals.  “Unreligion,” is a favorite for me, as it coalesces all areas of their sound into a track that has palpable urgency. It also contains the best chorus on the album, one bolstered by some nifty synth textures.

The title track is a ripper, with some excellent palm-muted madness from Matias Knuuttila and Toke Fønskov Gerdts, who trade off some epic solos.  Lauri Itälä’s drumming also cannot be discounted, as he deftly handles many different shades and levels of intensity on the album. The album ends on “Last Goodbyes,” a forlorn epic that wraps the set on a somber note.

While the album is seriously Prog-minded with some excellent Melodic Power Metal passages, it also manages to feel like a complete story.  It could easily feel false, in such a complex and often sterile-sounding production, but the emotion comes through. It’s no small thing to think about, when the one thread between those aforementioned Finnish success stories has been an emotional connection to their audience. This might not make GLADENFOLD a household name just yet, but there’s certainly more than enough here to satisfy.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Memorability: 7
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. The Descent Of Gods
2. Brothers
3. Immortalis
4. Sanctuary Denied
5. The Forsaken
6. Ghosts Of Our Past
7. Unreligion
8. Shadows And Dust
9. Succubus Kiss
10. Last Goodbyes
Esko Itälä - Vocals & Acoustic Guitars
Matias Knuuttila - Guitars
Toke Fønskov Gerdts - Guitars
Lauri Itälä - Drums
Paavali Pouttu – Keyboards
Record Label: Reaper Entertainment


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