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Heavy Prog • Finland

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RANTAMA is a Heavy Prog band from Kuopio, Finland founded in 2014 by Timo RANTAMA (guitar), Iiro LAITINEN (drums) and Tatu BACK (bass). In the beginning, the band was intended to be an instrumental jazz fusion trio, and in 2016, they released their first album "Catching the Mystery Train" under the name RANTAMA TRIO (also in the Archives listed under Jazz/Rock Fusion). In 2017, vocalist Taavi KIISKENEN was brought into the group and they dropped the word "trio" from their name. Their debut, self-titled album released under this new moniker was released in March of 2020.

Their music has now evolved into a heavy, sometimes complex progressive sound with their jazz/rock fusion roots still apparent. Their sound reflects a combination of their musical influences, namely WEATHER REPORT, KING CRIMSON, OPETH, RADIOHEAD and JOURNEY.

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3.00 | 3 ratings

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 Rantama by RANTAMA album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.00 | 3 ratings

Rantama Heavy Prog

Review by ssmarcus

3 stars Despite being labelled as heavy-prog by the Prog-Archives, the guitar work on this record is quite math rock leaning while the vocals lend some pop/crossover appeal to the music. The album starts off mighty strong (Dying Star is a real banger) with smooth guitar licks and lush chords. The vocalist is confident and delivers on the hooks and choruses. As an avid fan of modern progressive metal and the djent movement, this is an album that can definitely scratch that itch for a softer sound without compromising on that jazzy ambience characteristic of some modern prog metal.

The one knock, and it's a big one, is the album's monotony. The guitar is mixed to sit comfortably soft behind center, never quite jumping out and delivering on the big emotional climaxes suggested by the music. The result is 8 tracks that all kind of blur into one another. As already mentioned, this makes for a good start but also turns the latter half of the album into a chore.

Aside from a poorly written Spotify biography (I get it, they're Finnish musicians, not American marketing associates at a record label), there ain't all that much info on this band out on the web making it difficult to get any context on the musicians and their band. But hey, this just leaves more room for the music to do the talking.

 Rantama by RANTAMA album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.00 | 3 ratings

Rantama Heavy Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars After receiving this Finnish CD a couple of weeks ago and reading the texts in the cover booklet, it took me by surprise to learn from the PA band page that the very same line-up minus the vocalist have released an instrumental jazz album Catching the Mystery Train (2016) as RANTAMA TRIO, which also is on the Archives, though sadly without a single review. The introductory text of this CD describes how "four people grow up in the desolate east, surrounded by diverse nature untouched by the human hand. (...) Not much else to do than to consume the wide record collections of their fathers. (...) Their stories merge as teenagers. On a hill, at the edge of town, they find their sanctuary, where they begin honing their craft like madmen..." First off, the emphasizing of untouched nature sounds like they come from some much more distant corner of Finland than the town of Kuopio. Doesn't that cited text make one think of an eager young rock band coming out to the public for the first time? Do they wish to forget their previous appearance as Rantama Trio, ie. that making an instrumental jazz album is not even worth remembering?

Although their music genre is somewhat different now, this album categorized as Heavy Prog -- no, I'm not arguing against it -- does contain hints of a jazzy approach (modern jazz centred on electric guitar, to be more precise). Basically I'm referring to the two instrumental tracks, 'Ground Frost Forger' and 'Splendid Sun'. And if you imagine the rest of the tracks without the hard rock tinged vocals, you'll realize the guitar-bass-drum trio's jazz/fusion-like undertone in them too, although I wish it was more audible. I listened to a couple of Rantama Trio album tracks on YouTube to make comparisons. Admittedly the 2016 stuff has a bit lighter touch, but it's easy to recognize as the same group, especially from the slightly distorted electric guitar sound of the frontman Timo Rantama. He plays also keyboards, but they have a very minor role in the sound. The vocalist here is Taavi Kiiskinen. He does his job fairly well, up to the English pronunciation, but I'm no fan of this type of rock vocals.

I would compare this band to RUSH afteir their 80's synth period, but this comparison puts a lot of pressure to the drummer especially; Iiro Laitinen lacks the sharp virtuosity of Neil Peart -- well, who wouldn't? As you may have guessed from my previous paragraph, I tend to prefer the instrumentals. But despite the slight sense of sameness (the vocals are a bit too central on most songs instead of being an extra element on prog music with its heart primarily on instrumentalism), the songs have their good moments. Perhaps the finest is the 10-minute closing song 'The Pond of No Return'.

It must be said that in the end the heaviness is rather mild in Rantama's music, and that the songs have a nice dose of pop sensibility to compensate the small amount of a proggier -- or jazzier -- complexity/eclectism in the compositions. The possible complexity lies more on the texture, not on larger song structures. All in all, certainly not a bad album although quite non-essential, and not very much sticking out from the vast field of English-language prog flavoured rock with similar atmosphere.

Thanks to tcat for the artist addition.

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