REVIEW: Roju – Nil

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ROJU is an up-and-coming metal outfit hailing from Finland with a fresh release out just now. Their debut EP was released on January 29th, 2021, and it kind of caught me off guard. For me, this new progeny of modern metal was a completely new acquaintance and the press release didn’t quite prepare me for what was to come. You see, the name of the band translates to “junk” and the title of their 6-track EP, “Nil,” on top of being a hip expression in Snapchat Esperanto, is a contradiction of the Latin word for “nothing” – a quantity of no importance. All of this did come off as a manifestation of the signature modesty that permeates the Finnish culture from the everyman you meet in a corner pub all the way up to the higher echelons of society. In this particular case, there really are no grounds for such a self-deprecating view. “Nil” radiates with the aura of the progressive metalcore of the U.S. outfit, ERRA, the hi-tech metal riffing of the German sonic wizards, UNPROCESSED, and the polyrhythmic, ethereal madness of the French connoisseurs of progressive metal, UNEVEN STRUCTURE, with an arctic twist, of course. Occasionally, I could detect subtle SUBURBAN TRIBE vibes too. The band seems to share a love for all sorts of metal, as well as sublime songwriting regardless of the genre. The music soothes and crushes in equal amounts – first assaulting with the hordes of heavy, dissonant riffs and then offering the quicker-pick-me-upper in the form of beautiful, melodic choruses with the lyrics revolving around highly personal, introspective themes we can all relate to.

The EP kicks off with the distress-themed opening track, “Calamity.” The verses build up tension rather nicely, alternating between djenty guitar riffs, chugged in drop-tuning, and atmospheric passages during which the vocalist, Joni Karjalainen, sounds almost like Trent Reznor summoning his personal demons. In the bridge section, the NIN vibes get even stronger as Karjalainen lets rip the full vehemence of a pissed-off Balrog and the guitar riffs get a tad more dissonant. The chorus, however, knocks you out with a surprise jab of beautiful and catchy melody, slightly reminiscent of the solo project, LONELY ROBOT, of the prog superhero John Mitchell. The clean vocals of Karjalainen even resonate with the subtle air of Mitchell‘s signature prog crooning. The first impression is something that a band has only one chance to make properly, and ROJU certainly didn’t let that chance go to waste. The band evolved from a grunge project formed in late 2019, which means that these unsung metal progenies have developed their exquisite code of conduct in less than 2 years. That is nothing short of impressive!

The little online media coverage that ROJU has gained already has labeled the band as a nu-metal outfit. I reckon the moniker has derived from the first single off the EP, released in September 2020. The teaser song, “Event Horizon,” features additional vocals by Frans Aalto of MEDEIA, as well as a little bit of turntablism. In a way, the song could represent the fusion of early SLIPKNOT and LINKIN PARK. Coming to think of it, the following track on the EP, “Mind Exit,” incorporates subtle nu-metal flavors too. However, I am not yet one of those elitist music snobs who take pride in articulating the word with a delicate disdain. I’m all in for robbing trinkets from that sonic treasure trove as long as you do it with style – like these “Finnjävels” here.

The band’s strength is derived from the way these seemingly young metalheads balance brutal riffing with beautiful melodies. In terms of vocals, the harsh gives way to beautiful in just the right proportion to keep things interesting. The most insistent earworms are hidden in the choruses of tracks such as “Everglow” and “Dark Clouds.” The closing track, “The Solace,” could easily fit onto the typical playlist of a mainstream rock radio. It has a beautiful piano outro and all. Yes, it needs to be stated: I have heard substantially more subpar songs on a major label release than this splendid selection of six crossover-bangers. ROJU‘s debut EP is an entrée that refuses to be reduced to nil.

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. Calamity
  2. Everglow
  3. Dark Clouds
  4. Event Horizon (feat. Frans Aalto)
  5. Mind Exit
  6. The Solace

Lineup

Joni Karjalainen – Vocals

Joni Nuortimo – Guitars, programming

Juha Janttonen – Bass, visuals

Topias Muhonen – Drums

Label

Independent

Links

Bandcamp

Facebook

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