When seasoned musicians get together to create new music, good things are bound to happen, no? That’s generally the reasoning behind such collectives as Sweden’s THE HALO EFFECT or Finland’s FLAT EARTH that get people excited about their songs. Since the latter Helsinki-based unit features bass player Niclas Etelävuori (ex-AMORPHIS), guitarist Linde Lindström (ex-HIM), and POLANSKI singer Anthony Pikkarainen, the expectations were reasonably high. But here’s the thing about FLAT EARTH: don’t expect any HIM or AMORPHIS -sounding songs, as they play good old-fashioned rock music. Even if their debut album, “None for One,” was released in 2018, this aspect of their sound is worth mentioning because people sometimes tend to judge based on associations. After releasing the single, “Draining by your Flame,” in March 2020, their sophomore album, “High on Lies,” was finally released on September 2nd, 2022, via Cargo Records/AWAL.
As was the case with their previous offering, “High on Lies” has a pretty simplistic soundscape – if compared to such rock acts like ALTER BRIDGE or SHINEDOWN – based mostly on guitars, drums, and vocals, but that doesn’t mean the album isn’t offering any surprises or is without any highlights. Music-wise, besides the basic instruments, there also are some synths, keyboards, and orchestrations that add depth and nuance to the music. Even if there are songs that pull in slightly different directions, the album has a more unified and bigger soundscape with a lot of dynamism and variety, so as to keep the listeners engaged through its 37 minutes of playtime.
Opener “Enough Abused” wastes no time in getting things rolling with heavy guitar and drums before quieting down to allow the vocals to shine through in the verses. The chorus is catchy but with an angsty undertone as Anthony Pikkarainen’s angry-sounding vocals are overlaid on a blanket of distorted guitars. In the same vein, “Brother” hits hard with direct vocals, powerful instrumentals, and a driving tempo, all the while boasting one of the best guitar solos on the album. On the other hand, “Adore” presents a fuller sound and a groovy rhythm, coupled with an interesting guitar melody in the verses – wonderfully delivered by Linde Lindström – and subdued percussion that lets the vocals take center stage.
The first highlight of the album is “Every You,” a heart-wrenching ballad made even more painful by the added string orchestration and incredibly delicate guitar work. Anthony Pikkarainen’s anguished vocals wake up a storm of emotions by channeling all his anger and pain in the lyrics and delivery. Another highlight is garage rocker and lead single “Draining by Your Flame,” which has a wonderful guitar melody at its core, soaring vocals, and a great groove, not to mention a very catchy chorus and an equally wonderful guitar solo. Following the same path but in a more up-tempo fashion, “Motherfknway” starts off on a dirty guitar melody but soon develops into an energetic track where the vocals are superbly underpinned by Niclas Etelävuori’s powerful bass line and Gas Lipstick’s thunderous drums.
Grunge piece “Let It Rain” has a memorable guitar riff intro and dirty guitar work throughout that adds a layer of dissonance to the vocal melody, while the upbeat tempo is thoroughly enjoyable and well supported by pounding drums. Completing their varied soundscape and balancing out the heavier parts of the album, “Neverhappy” is an acoustic rock number with a light and breezy feel to it, as you can really hear the strum of the acoustic guitar while the vocals feel bright but with a certain degree of intensity to them. There’s also a bass melody that surfaces here and there, adding a bit of darkness to the fold. Rounding up the album is “Pinman,” a groovy track with a great guitar melody, some acoustic strumming, and deep baselines, topped off by another solid solo moment courtesy of Linde Lindström.
All-in-all, “High on Lies” is the type of record that showcases just how expansive and dynamic a rock album can be if you meander in different territories and are not afraid to experiment. Despite my early nit-picking, I have to admit I ended up really enjoying this heavy hard rock offering and not just because of Linde Lindström‘s always-top-notch guitar-work (it’s not for nothing that he’s one of my favorite guitarists); another strong point is how well the vocals feel in the overall soundscape of the album, bringing different textures and moods to the songs. “None for One” didn’t really sell me on FLAT EARTH and their music, but this one caught my attention as “High on Lies” makes for an interesting and engrossing listening experience. It is definitely worth your while to check this album out.
Written by Andrea Crow
1. Enough Abused
3. Every You
5. Draining By Your Flame
7. Let It Rain
Anthon Pikkarainen – vocals
Linde Lindström – guitar
Niclas Etelävuori – bass
Wille Granö – drums
On the album: Gas Lipstick – drums