FEAR OF DOMINATION is releasing their fifth studio album, “Metanoia,” which – according to Dictionary.com – means a transformative change of heart, mostly in the sense of a spiritual awakening. The album title might mean something different to you, depending on how you feel about the addition of Sara Strömmer as a permanent member of the band. Regardless of that, FOD has kept most of their core identity intact, being more of a mixture of higher-tempo disco and heavy German industrial, even if some Finnish melancholy is dripping through the cracks every now and again.
The first track starts off straightforward enough with a guitar intro, gradually adding the instruments into play. When the vocals start, there is some awkwardness lyrically, feeling somehow forced and out of place, but after the song starts properly that phenomenon disappears with a competent switch into a completely different singing style. All-in-all “Dance with the Devil” seems nearly filler, definitely not A-material from the start.
From the very start, “Obsession” is much livelier and more compositionally sound, making much better use of the instruments and vocals at their disposal. The dual-vocal format suits the singers well and probably adds a lot of theatricality to the stage. “Face of Pain” is probably familiar to a lot of us, from listening to Nordic melodeath (or that feeling when you see your self in the mirror after drinking heavily). The song is competently put together and has a lot of different elements that the artists can use, but lacks an X-factor to really elevate it. Saku Solin even sings, “Some things are better left alone,” so who are we to dismiss an artist’s opinion on the track itself, hon hon hon.
“Sick and Beautiful” on the other hand is the first song of the album that managed to crawl into my ear at inopportune moments and elicit involuntary physical reactions. “Behold!” cries Sara, and my arms raise into the air – like a priest at a baptism – and I promptly feel extremely stupid after the fact. It is in my mind – crowd-pleaser that it is – the best song of the album thus far, getting into the groove of the disco industry and chasing that elusive X. The somewhat garbage title aside, it’s an ear-worm capable of causing impromptu priest-LARPing.
“Shame” juxtaposes that with a much more somber mood. It seems weird that the two songs are even on the same album, but putting them next to each other is such a massive mood shift it almost feels like an accident. Nevertheless, it is nice to hear Mr. Solin sing in clean vocals for a change, displaying his range somewhat as well.
“Lie” is somewhat back to formula feeling a bit of a mixture between “Shame” and the three opening songs, being a bit more introspective than the latter three, but livelier than the former. Sadly, besides the lyrical snippet, “Don’t search for me / I don’t want to be found,” nothing quite resonates. “We Dominate” is back to the synth-side of the moon, but not quite as catchy as “S&B.” Energetic enough to stand out from the others, but not all that much else to it. “The Last Call” feels like filler, next.
“Mindshifter” has the ingredients to be the best of both the introspective world and keyboard world, but the components don’t become greater than the sum of their parts. It has a memorable – if not catchy – chorus that stands out from the other parts of the song, but doesn’t seem to have any ambition greater than that.
If I thought that “Shame” was the juxtapose of the album, I was put in my place by “Ruin.” Interestingly enough, this is the song of the album for me, having a documented love of doom, gloom, and – uh – loom-ing presences, which “Ruin” displays in abundance. Both the vocalists have an extremely good presence on this track and display their range quite well. There was a moment while listening to it that I thought there was a truck backing up in the street, but realized it was actually a hospital heart monitor in the background of the song. That was a subtle touch that I managed to catch on probably the tenth play-through of the album and added a great story element. My only nitpick would be to please use something else than “demon” or “demonic” to describe personal problems. Ghosts, specters, haunting echoes, revenants, or wights are all good to use and more descriptive, unless you’re literally being dragged to Hell, but I digress. Fact is, “Ruin” is the best song of the album for me, but it probably won’t be for a FOD fan. Vocal work is peerless and the atmosphere is rock-solid, thus elevating this song head-and-shoulders above the rest.
All-in-all, “Metanoia” is a good album. It has it’s flabby moments with a couple of songs that feel like they’re filling space more than anything else, but it has a couple of memorable songs good enough to either make me really depressed or praise the sun. Anything I didn’t mention during the review is technically sound and skillfully executed, thus calling for no comment. Ironically enough, I feel as though Ms. Strömmer‘s vocal range is too good for them, almost making a mockery of the songs that don’t utilize her abilities to the fullest.
The overall feeling that’s left after listening to the album on repeat for around two weeks is that there are two directions that FOD wants to take simultaneously: the melodic story-filled doom-gloom axis of Finnish melancholy, but at the same time not wanting to shed their core identity as a lighthearted crowd-pleaser band that are the staple of festival summers… and those two don’t mesh very well. I’d actually be very interested in a much more introspective/story-based doom project, since “Ruin” kinda proves that they could do it. Just hit me up whenever you need another synonym for “ghost.”
Bear: In a weird way, my response to this album was very nearly exactly the same as Kalle’s. However, I would still score it higher. To my taste, it’s a very good album and even the songs that don’t quite hit the pinnacle of their potential often have some golden nugget buried within. “The Last Call,” for example, is a decent song surrounding an absolutely astounding vocal part by Strömmer. I enjoyed the halfway-point-break that is “Shame,” even if the change in mood is extremely abrupt. “Mindshifter” is pretty fun on the whole, and I think it has a bit more going for it than Kalle. And as Kalle said, the biggest shocker is definitely “Ruin,” and I like it a lot as both a wild card song and a great closer to the album. I’ve only listened a couple of times, but I feel a constant urge to come back to this band and listen again.
Written by Kalle Uotila
- Dance with the Devil
- Face of Pain
- Sick and Beautiful
- We Dominate
- The Last Call
Sara Strömmer – vocals
Saku Solin – vocals
Lauri Ojanen – bass
Jan-Erik “Jinx” Kari – guitars
Johannes Niemi – guitars
Lasse Raelahti – keyboards
Miikki Kunttu – percussion
Vesa Ahlroth – drums
Interview Phantom Elite – “It’s always good to share that feeling that none of us is alone in hard times”