Did you know that Marko Hietala had a solo album in the works? No? Well neither did anyone else, so we were thrilled to be invited to Sonic Pump Studios on April 24th, 2019, to hear his upcoming solo debut, “Mustan Sydämen Rovio.” Alongside the new album, we also received some information about the release of an upcoming app called Bapu, which is meant to improve the audio quality of your music.
We arrived at Sonic Pump Studios and took our seats so Hietala could introduce his album, “Mustan Sydämen Rovio” or “Pyre of the Black Heart,” and was kind enough to tell us about it in English. We listened to the album in Finnish, but Hietala told us that the album has also been translated into English and will be released in both languages – a rare treat! He left the decision on whether it was any good to us, and so here are our thoughts:
The immediate first thing of notice was the heavy acoustic guitar and strong vocals. The music had a big heavy dynamic kick. The acoustic guitar mixes beautifully with some piano, and if you’re expecting the album to sound like NIGHTWISH or TAROT, you’re in for a surprise. Interestingly, the vocals are smoother and more clear as Hietala is staying in a lower range where he is arguably stronger. The Finnish sounds great too and I’ll be curious to see how it translates into English.
2. “Isäni ääni”
This track as a slower, drum-driven start, and includes a very unique guitar sound that I’ve never heard before and therefore it makes it awfully hard to describe. You’ll have to experience it for yourselves.
3. “Tähti, hiekka ja varjo”
There’s a sort of AYREON-like spacey soundscape to open this track before it takes a hard and heavy twist along side some twinkling keyboards. There might be a hint of NIGHTWISH in here, or TAROT by the time you get to the chorus, but it’s no more evident than any other influence. The drum beat is interesting and a bit unpredictable, which is nice, and the synth sounds are great. I can see this being awesome live.
4. “Kuolleiden jumalten poika”
There’s a bit more of that AYREON-sounding synth in the beginning, as well as more of that awesome acoustic guitar. I imagined this song as a sort of ’80s reimagining of NIGHTWISH, and I mean that in a good way!
5. “Laulu sinulle”
The ambience of this song is great; it’s sort of looming, slightly ominous, yet it manages to be eerie without being creepy or disturbing. Haunting without being chilling. The dynamic build-up is really nice and the echoed vocals in some parts are a good touch. This is a really proggy song that turns pretty PINK FLOYD by the end.
6. “Minä olen tie”
The vocals come in first thing in this track, mixing with the pianos shortly after to create a forceful start. There’s also some noteworthy drums/percussion that create a cool rhythm, along with some heavier guitar. This could easily be a single.
7. “Juoksen rautatie”
To our surprise, there were growls in the beginning of this track. It keeps a fast rock pace and there’s something in the composition that almost reminds me of BLIND GUARDIAN. The guitars are really fun and there are some perky organs as well, a la DEEP PURPLE. This was perhaps the biggest shock of them all – we weren’t alone in thinking that if we’d heard this on the radio, we’d have never guessed that it was a Marko Hietala song.
8. “Vapauden kuolinmarssi”
There’s an interesting, almost jungle-y sound to this track, with a funky, fun, danceable beat. It’s got clear influences from pop but isn’t too poppy in itself and there are some jam solos at the end that are really great. This was one of my favorites for sure.
9. “Unelmoin Öisin”
A slow-bassed bass-drive intro opens this track, followed by some… I want to say gravelly or gritty vocals, but those aren’t quite the right words I’m looking for. It’s a really chill song and while again, there’s a lot going on, it never gets to be messy or overwhelming.
10. “Totuus vapauttaa”
The final track is a relaxing acoustic song, very mellow but still really powerful. The dynamics are top-notch again, and as the last song, it gives the full album a good flow and feel with a strong opener and a strong closer. The percussion is again fantastic and we were left with a really good feeling as the album ended.
My overall opinion was that the album was wonderfully diverse. No two songs sounded alike, and you could hear so many of Hietala‘s influences tastefully evident in the music. I wasn’t bored for a moment and I suspect it’ll have plenty of replay value. It’s not a metal album per se, because many songs have elements of synth, pop, prog, and more, but the variety is one of its strengths. There’s a little something for everyone in here, and while there are a lot of details in the songs, it never gets overwhelming. I’m left with a simple thought: damn, these guys know how to write music!
After the prelistening, Hietala mentioned that the album had been played on the Bapu app, which explained why I had thought the sound quality was so crystal clear. The app developers then took the stage and explained what exactly Bapu was.
Bapu is, plain and simply, a media player with better audio for your mobile device. It’s not about the recording quality or difference in sound between .flac and .mp3 files, but it’s about removing the jitter and distortion from the digital audio sound. You can learn more specifically what that means on their website: www.bapu.fi.
The real question is, does it work? Well, as I said before, I had actually marveled for a moment at the audio quality of “Mustan Sydämen Rovio” and wondered why. I am absolutely one of those people who can’t tell the difference between a .flac or .mp3 file, so for me to say that everything I’ve listened to without Bapu now sounds murky and muddy… well, I hope you can take me seriously. But if you don’t trust me, remember that Marko Hietala liked the app so much that he partnered up with it for the release of his first-ever solo album. “Mustan Sydämen Rovio” will be released in a package with Bapu next month, so you can experience a new album and a new app at the same time.
We look forward to the release of the app and album on May 24th, 2019, and highly recommend you try both out!
Report by Bear Wiseman, photos by Jana B.
SONATA ARCTICA – “Acoustic Adventures – Volume Two” due out on September 30th; extensive Finnish/European tour to kick off next month