REVIEW: Arion – Vultures Die Alone

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The success behind Finnish power metal act ARION knows no limits, with both their 2014 debut and 2018 sophomore release earning them nominations for the EMMA-gaala (aka the Finnish Grammys), and a European tour soon followed as a support act for BATTLE BEAST. Now, the band have taken their time during the pandemic to record a brand new album, “Vultures Die Alone,” set to be released on April 9th, 2021, via Ranka Kustannus. Let’s take a look what the five-piece cooked up for us with the release of their third studio effort.

Art by Tuomas Valtanen

The record kicks off with “Out of My Life,” which was previously released as a single. Unlike their previous starters, ARION skipped the intro track and went straight to business, with thrashy pounding drums that become very minimal during the verses, as well as some heavy riffs. In the end, the song turns out to have a fairly poppy influence, especially notable in the choruses. The effect on the vocals and backing vocals in particular may not be to everyone’s taste (we were certainly divided on it), seeing as how it is a bit of an unusual choice from a metal band; however, that does not take away from the fact that this song is a hard-hitting track with which to open the album, as it includes plenty of hooks and an incredible ambient section before the guitar solo masterfully introduces the end.

“Break My Chains” is reminiscent of their debut in sound, as it includes grand orchestrations and beautiful choirs immediately in the intro to the track. Its strong chorus is probably one of the most powerful on this album and it’s easy to imagine this becoming a really fun live track. Once again, guitarist Iivo Kaipainen shows off his guitar wizardry in one of the more epic guitar solos on this record. The next track is definitely one of the ultimate highlights of this record and you’ve all heard it before: we’re talking about “Bloodline,” the lead single from this record, which features BATTLE BEAST‘s Noora Louhimo on guest vocals. When they had announced the release of this track, we couldn’t help but think that the LouhimoVääränen combination was perhaps an odd choice and struggled to imagine how they would blend together. Make no mistake, it’s almost as if these two need to be singing together. Their vocals match beautifully and it’s even tricky to distinguish who is singing at times. Kudos! This track definitely has all the ingredients that create a trademark ARION hit song and is perhaps more in the style of hit singles like “Unforgivable” and “At the Break of Dawn.”

Another excellent track is the well-balanced “I’m Here to Save You.” The riff with keyboards at the beginning of this track makes the song really engaging, while at the same time the keyboards add a poppy, lighter element to this track, reminiscent of alternative rock acts like THE RASMUS. Also, check off another pretty sick solo in this one. Then we have yet another single: “In the Name of Love,” featuring Susanna Aleksandra of CYAN KICKS on vocals. This too was a bit of a surprise track for ARION and may not please everyone in the metal crowd, as it takes a note from their label-mate’s strong electro-pop style already from the very beginning, with a simpler melody that is compensated for by the strong harmonization of Susanna Aleksandra and Lassi Vääränen as they back one another up in the verses (Vääränen in the first and Aleksandra in the second), as well as the powerful dynamic push as they reach the fierce and catchy chorus – man would it be nice to see her in a guest slot on stage with them at some point!

The slight mellowness of the previous song is broken by the heavy intro of “A Vulture Dies Alone,” which kicks off with a bit of a thrashy start before some stopping beats and the synth kick in. This not-quite-title track features some rougher yet perhaps more rockin’ (as opposed to metal) vocals. The chorus has some interesting singing but admittedly feels a bit mushy mix-wise, as the roughness of the synths blends in with the distortion and vocals to create a bit of a muddy sound – a shame, really, because the chorus in this track is actually really fun. Here’s hoping we get to hear it live soon so we can get a feel for the sound a bit better.

The most aggressive track on this album is perhaps “I Love to Be Your Enemy.” It starts off with an atmospheric sound that, after a while, makes room for epic choirs and heavy riffing. Lassi Vääränen‘s vocal performance in this track is also something fairly different than what we are used to – more rhythmic and aggressive, but definitely still on point – making this an easy album highlight, as well as a highlight among the wide selection of singles! The longest track on the album is “Where the Ocean Greets the Sky,” which starts off with a strumming guitar and deep, mellow, beautiful bass melodies that add a lot of depth and atmosphere to this track. After that, keyboard melodies start to take over, adding a folky element that progresses along nicely and… turns out to be an enchanting instrumental power metal track that draws you in from the first minute until the very last dynamic push, wherein all the musicians are able to take a bit of time to shine.

The penultimate track, “I Don’t Fear You,” is a tough, energetic pieced embellished with great keyboard melodies and an incredible solo. It’s one last energy bomb before album closer “Until Eternity Ends” starts playing. Starting off slowly with a modern piano intro, the mood is set for an emotional rollercoaster with this ballad. Like in the previous record, Life is Not Beautiful,” Vääränen shows off a side of his voice that is emotional voice, deep, and warm, providing a perfect ending to this record. If there is a slight flaw to it, perhaps it’s that it sounds a bit too familiar to the band’s previous closing ballad, “Last One Falls,” though it does still shine apart from its predecessor as the similar melodies are only present for fleeting moments.

Now, the million dollar question… does this album hold up against the high standards set by their previous two records? “Vultures Die Alone” is a natural progression after Life is Not Beautiful,” seeing the band take a different approach to songwriting and exploring more with their symphonic power metal sound. There is certainly a stronger pop influence here than in previous albums, as can be heard in the autotune tucked into the backing vocals from time to time, yet the core ARION sound is still present in most of the tracks. As well, it suffers from the same pitfalls as Life is Not Beautiful production-wise; for instance, the keyboards and vocals could have been more apparent in the mix, and we already mentioned the chorus of the title track. Nevertheless, having two extremely strong albums already setting the foundation of this band’s discography, they experimented and had fun with their third release. Every song may not hit home as easily this time around, but there is plenty here to enjoy for new and old fans alike!

Written by Laureline Tilkin & Bear Wiseman

Tracklist

  1. Out of My Life
  2. Break My Chains
  3. Bloodline ft. Noora Louhimo
  4. I’m Here to Save You
  5. In the Name of Love (ft. Susanna Aleksandra of Cyan Kicks)
  6. A Vulture Dies Alone
  7. I Love to Be Your Enemy
  8. Where the Ocean Greets the Sky
  9. I Don’t Fear You
  10. Until Eternity Ends

Line-Up

Lassi Vääränen – vocals

Iivo Kaipainen – guitars

Gege Velinov – bass

Arttu Vauhkonen – keyboards

Topias Kupiainen – drums

Label

Ranka Kustannus / AFM Records

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