VELVET OCEAN is a fresh band emerging from Northern Finland, hailing from Oulu, which also birthed internationally acclaimed bands such as KALMAH and CATAMENIA. The septet has unleashed their full-length debut album, “Purposes and Promises,” upon the scene on 7 February 2020, and we at Tuonela Magazine have prepared a sneak peek to pique your curiosity.
Introduced to us as the “WITHIN TEMPTATION of Finland”, I thought I had a general idea of what VELVET OCEAN‘s style would sound like going into the album. WITHIN TEMPTATION, to me, is an example of a band who’s style has evolved drastically over the years, but has nevertheless remained mainstream accessible. Consequently, those last two words pretty much sum up my first impression of VELVET OCEAN. That said, I was soon to discover there is a lot more to this record than meets the ear.
Pressing play on “It’s So Hard,” Riitu Ronkainen‘s melancholic vocals can’t help but remind me of EVANESCENCE‘s Amy Lee. The amount of emotion in her voice is incredible, which adds so much more depth to the otherwise straightforward yet charming melodies. She effortlessly transitions from poppy to classical vocals, hitting every note. From then on, the tracks remain easy to listen to and flow into one another smoothly. Personal favorites are the melancholic “Requiem,” with its infectious rhythm switches, and “Innocent Eyes,” with moving lyrics hitting close to home. Some well-thought-out song structures and impeccable production (mixing by Johan Örnborg and mastering by Jens Bogren) bring out the highlights in each song. Especially the epic “Truth or Illusion” has some of the best riffs and synths yet, owning up to the band’s true potential.
With this intriguing record, VELVET OCEAN offers the perfect soundtrack for rainy, chilly winter evenings. The sparks of hope they talked about during our recent interview are a welcome light in the darkness, breaking the melancholy in just the right places. Symphonic orchestra member Arto Alikoski‘s work on the cello is one of the special touches that truly made me fall in love with this album. Every single one of the seven band members has something special to add to this record, from powerful, varied bass lines to drums ranging from explosive to sensitive.
In the end, I believe the WITHIN TEMPTATION comparison doesn’t entirely do VELVET OCEAN justice. In an interview with Musicalypse, Riitu and Jarkko “Jake” Ronkainen talked about how difficult it is to be original these days, but this is not a band limited to a particular style or sound. They have managed to develop and grow into their very own musical identity during the making of this album, due to an intuitive creative flow that can only be celebrated. It’s undeniable VELVET OCEAN has put their heart and soul into “Purposes and Promises,” and it’s easy to imagine how moving their music will be live on stage.
Written by Jana De Boeck
- It’s So Hard
- Truth Or Illusion
- Elysian Fields
- Innocent Eyes
Riitu Ronkainen – Vocals, additional synths
Jake Ronkainen – Guitar, vocals
Jani Lehtinen – Guitar
Tuomas Vesa – Bass
Bastian Schallschmidt – Drums
Jami Alaverronen – Keysboards
Arto Alikoski – Cello