Browsing through the past year’s domestic Metal releases for our upcoming annual staff picks, I came across this gem, and decided to take it off the shelf to put in the spotlight. Before the year is over, you should at least give “Vastaus” by Atmospheric Metalband ALASE a try. That is of course, if you haven’t already, because this debut album dates back to last spring (June 7th 2019), when the days were a lot brighter and we were looking forward to the summer festivals (ah, the memories!).
ALASE compares with bands like KATATONIA, SWALLOW THE SUN, and A PERFECT CIRCLE. This means their main focus is on atmosphere and melody, but this doesn’t mean there are no influences from outside the genre to be found. You can spot various elements from Prog and Post-Rock, to name a couple. However, what truly sets them apart from the rest of the flock, is the appearance of different vocalists on different songs. Some of the most interesting names they have worked with for this album are Mikko Kotamäki (SWALLOW THE SUN), Eemeli Bodde (MORS SUBITA), and Markus Hirvonen (NOUMENA). The difference in vocals is echoed in the difference in styles, which make for compelling combinations.
Main songwriters are guitarists Mikko Häkälä and Janne Lunnas. They have been working on “Vastaus” for the past four years, releasing teasers of the finished product in the form of singles, building up the needed anticipation. The songs are mostly in their native language, Finnish of course, with “Binary Stars” being the only exception in English. Since Finnish is still mostly a mystery to me, I only have the musical composition and structures to go on to get a notion of the atmosphere the band is trying to create here. I do feel this holds me back a little, but luckily there are many emotional layers to discover musically. Let’s explore some of them in further detail.
“Vastaus”, both title track and opener, is the somewhat peculiar introduction to a record of seamlessly merged contradictions. “Näkyvä” continues by oozing melodious melancholy into a darker sound, and the dreamy aura engulfs the listener from then on, weaving a unique story. If I would have to pick, I think “Osa minua” is the most intricate piece of work on “Vastaus”. It’s a beautiful symbiosis of atmospheric and heavy sections, which has you replaying the song and noticing new facets every time. The ingenuity of the song structure guides you further into the depths of emotions, such as desperation and wistfulness. To name another winner, I feel clear Post-Rock vibes in “Riisuttu”, and it’s easy to let your thoughts get carried away by the airy, soft vocals conveying what seems to be a sense of longing. These are just two examples of the depths this record goes to, I am not going to spoil the experience of discovering the countless nuances for yourself.
The way all the songs are collaborations between various people with their own particular input and style, makes for an incredibly versatile and deeply multi-layered record. I also secretly love the idea of the band members living all across Finland, coming together in their fellow love for the genre. The contradictions of powerful chaos and pure atmospheric beauty are what make “Vastaus” a meaningful must-have for any fan of Progressive and/or Atmospheric Metal. The melancholy creeping in through raindrop ridden windows can be a bit too much for this dark time of the year, yet at the same time very fitting and undeniably moving.
3. Binary Stars
4. Osa minua
6. Vapaaksi merkitty
CD2: (Bonus CD):
2. On jatkettava
4. Utopian hellimät
6. Sanaton syytös
Janne Lunnas – Guitars and composition
Mikko Häkälä – Guitars and composition
Ari Miettinen – Bass
Toni Paananen – Drums (studio)
Interview Phantom Elite – “It’s always good to share that feeling that none of us is alone in hard times”