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2 stars In my yesterday's review on Aura, CMX's next album after Aurinko, I told about my personal listening history. Seen from the 12-year perspective, I must say that my relationship with the CMX albums have been "updated" only on Aura and the progressive double album Dinosaurus Stereophonicus (2000). I'm planning to (re)listen some of their albums, but on this one I'll throw a quick review depending only on distant memories of it.

I remember there were few interesting songs with a sense of poetic depth - though musically nothing as good as on the Aura album - and mostly some "uglier" songs I didn't enjoy. The difference from Aura is notable, even if the change of musical direction away from noisy and aggressive punk rock started in this album already. The difference is most visible in the production: here things are still quite rough and unpolished.

A. W. Yrjänä's lyrics are in a centre role. He draws influences from old Finnish folklore (Kalevala!) and adds some wordplay in his mystic visions: for example track title 'Manalainen' mixes Manala, the mythic land of the Dead, and maanalainen, meaning underground. One song I still remember quite well is 'Yö ei ole pimeä päivä' ("Night Is Not a Dark Day"). In the evolution of CMX this myth-flavoured album is very notable, especially if you prefer them with rougher edge than with cleaner production and softer songs amidst rock. But it's not among my favourites as a whole. 2½ stars.

Report this review (#264238)
Posted Thursday, February 4, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first CMX album on a major label was pretty much a final departure from the hardcore punk still strongly present on the previous album, but the spirit and the overall approach remain distinctly "punk" as opposed to "mainstream". Even the few songs that clearly borrow more from schlager and pop music than from the darkly crooked expression of hardcore and post-punk are lyrically and thematically too strange and unnerving to have been played on the radio. Arguably the most pleasant song on the album (and a long time concert favourite) Ainomieli (the title is most likely a reference to the character Aino in the Finnish national epic Kalevala) deals with the refusal to let go of a dead person and unfolds as a series of overlapping images like some surreal nightmare, while Manalainen, which was selected as a single, loads a great deal of horror and rage into a sort of a fractured mini-drama about a spirit from the netherworld (a "manalainen") unwillingly drawn back from the dead to haunt the living. This intercourse between the earth and the underworld, the temporal and the eternal, the finite and the infinite, or the reality and the dream, is one of the themes that present themselves throughout the album. While many of the lyrical ideas appear on a very general level and their exact source is left more or less unspecified, the essential content of the songs comes across directly enough thanks to the rich imagery which is vivid, tangible, and, to a remarkably high extent, crudely erotic.

As for the music, it's mostly aggressive, energetic and raw. The softer songs are fairly stripped and rely on a few simple elements to build an intense mood. The production is quite ascetic and the sound, as the recent vinyl edition well proves, intentionally open and bare. At most times the instruments remain clearly separated and many of the frequencies seem to have been cut out. As a result the individual instrument and vocal tracks get plenty of space to breathe, but, on the other hand, the overall impression is unconventionally hollow and takes multiple listens to get used to. The drums, when present, are very much in the front, while the guitar tracks seem to be ringing out somewhere in a distance.

Without repeating my opinion about the genre classification of this band I think I should nevertheless point out that this album is not particularly progressive and has very little to do with metal. I think I remember someone comparing the song Aivosähköä ("brain electricity") to System of a Down, and while the comparison is not too far off, it mainly has to do with the form of the song which could just as well be likened to Dead Kennedys. Particularly Aivosähköä but a few of the other songs as well have a "chopped" structure consisting of rhythmically unequal parts linked to each other in a rapid succession. This rhythmic variety along with the frequently shifting lyrical perspectives makes the music feel particularly tight and full, as if the contents of a novel or a play was packed into a 3-4 minute song.

Overall the material is very strong throughout the album. Nearly every song is impressive and thought-provoking, and while Timanttirumpu ("diamond drum") feels a bit unnecessary in its aimless chanting, Kaksi jokea ("two rivers") is the only song I find outright weak. Even the song order, which generally tends to confuse me on CMX albums, feels balanced and logical. I find myself very tempted to give this favourite of mine five stars, but, due to the small drop in intensity on side 2, I think I'll leave it to a high four.

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Posted Wednesday, May 18, 2011 | Review Permalink

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