Finnish musician Juha-Pekka “JP” Leppäluoto has been quite active on the metal scene in his home country. He is probably most well-known for having been the lead vocalist and songwriter of Gothic metal band CHARON from 1992 until 2011, with whom he released five albums. He has also been involved with acoustic rock band HARMAJA, symphonic metal cover supergroup NORTHERN KINGS, and the RASKASTA JOULUA (Heavy Christmas) shows. Recently, his distinctive low vocals have been heard in DARK SARAH, where he played the part of The Dragon opposite Heidi Parviainen as the titular character.
On 5 June 2020 JP Leppäluoto released his first solo album, titled “Piilevää pimeää” [“hidden darkness” in English], which contains nine tracks filled with wonderful Finnish-sung melodies.
The album starts with “Piilevää pimeää” and “Pirun musta” [blackest devil/black as shit], two tracks that have a certain amount of darkness to them, coming especially from the vocals and the backing strings. These are almost stripped-down acoustic songs, where the vocal line is the driving force and the rest is just embellishment; they are very beautiful in their simplicity. “Pirun musta” is a bit more up-tempo than the title track, with a fuller chorus section that gives a bit more momentum to the album, which shifts into gear with the rockish “Varjot” [shadows]. This track has some more backing vocalizations to the main melody, which add so much texture and nuance to the song, making it extra gloomy and melancholic, while still being melodic and uplifting thanks to the guitar melodies. The album starts with piano and vocals and just grows in intensity as more instruments are added to the fold, building on what came before. The progression we see on these first three tracks is superb, setting a wistful mood for the rest of the songs.
Some western/country vibes creep into the music with the opening melody of “Kuoppa” [pit] and it is clear that this is not a one-dimensional album with the same sound from beginning to end, but one that plays around with various melodies. The lower vocals that open this track contrast wonderfully with the acoustic guitar, while the chorus brings some more rockish energy to the music. The somber cello melodies, the groovy drumming, and the excellent guitar solo make “Narri” [jester/fool] a very interesting track to listen to as it unfolds. Having some Finnish touches to it, “Teräsjää”[sturdy/strong ice] is a full-blown western-sounding song, as the guitar melody, vocal line, and even cello are very catchy and hooky. Again, nice progression and build-up to both the individual tracks and the album as a whole.
Things become gloomier with “Annan sun mennä” [I’ll let you go], which is a duet with Sani (known to the Finnish public from AIKAKONE). Even without understanding the lyrics, the listeners get a sense of the emotions that run through this track, especially during the chorus, oozing from their combined vocals, while the backing orchestration adds more intensity to the music. “Shalalaa” is more fun and upbeat track that fits pretty well with the Finnish pop-rock/iskelmä genre. It’s one of those songs that would get audiences singing along and dancing in no time, as it has a great energy to it. Closing the album on a darker note is “Hiljaiset häät” [silent wedding], a minimalistic number based on strings, drums, and vocals that highlights once again the beauty of Finnish melancholic music.
A serene journey into calmer waters, “Piilevää pimeää” is an album that really flows together elegantly, adding more complex melodies as it progresses. Well-arranged compositions and a variety of sounds, coupled with JP Leppäluoto’s nuanced vocals and Elias Kahila’s grave cello, bring more texture to the music. It is a perfect soundtrack for either rainy days, late nights, or wistful moments.
Written by Andrea Crow
- Piilevää pimeää
- Pirun musta
- Annan sun mennä (feat. Sani)
- Hiljaiset häät
JP Leppäluoto – vocals, guitar
Samuli Erkkilä – guitars, backing vocals, bass
Jani Auvinen – percussion, drums
Elias Kahila – cello