The inescapable truth is that a classically trained voice is a genuine stairway-to-heaven of an instrument when the vocal cords are harnessed to convey the whole spectrum of human emotions in a metal setting. If you want concrete evidence, you’d better check out the new and emerging metal outfit, SMACKBOUND, hailing from Helsinki, Finland. It’s a genuine dream-team formed by the multi-talented vocalist/actress, Netta Laurenne, in 2015. With the line-up comprised of A-list musicians from the upper echelons of the Finnish metal fraternity, namely from bands such as STRATOVARIUS, WINTERSUN, and TRACEDAWN, making all the schedules meet must have been quite daunting of a challenge. It must’ve been further pronounced by the busy life of the cover band side-project, RUN FOR COVER, sharing the same line-up and Laurenne‘s other pursuits in TV and radio. It took five years for the band’s debut album to see the light of day and finally, it’s here now. SMACKBOUND‘s debut, “20/20,” was released on June 12th, 2020, by the famed Italian metal label, Frontier Records.
Listening through the album for the first time around, it quickly became evident that “20/20” was well worth the wait. It doesn’t happen very often that some new acquaintance comes forth with an impressive sonic buffet of power-metal, gospel-tinged hard rock, and reggaeton rhythms. SMACKBOUND claims to have been influenced not only by diverse artists such as TOTO, Leonard Cohen, and Italian film composer Ludovico Einaudi, but also by blues and trap music. On “20/20,” the band maintains a nonchalant balance when spicing up their new selection of songs with sonic ingredients as diverse as these.
Alongside the year of its release, the album title refers to visual acuity, measured with the Snellen chart, in which ”normal” vision is expressed as 20/20. In a way, it sounds like an understatement. SMACKBOUND‘s debut carries itself like a little rajah, right from the defiant, high-energy romper-stomper opening of ”Wall of Silence” to the delicate projections of powerful emotions in the closing piano-driven ballad, ”Wind and Water.” The clarity of vision is well above average or so-called ”normal.” These guys are not beating around the bush when it comes to delivering metal finesse. SMACKBOUND feels at home with the metal gospel of bands such as IN THIS MOMENT, PRETTY RECKLESS, and EYES SET TO KILL – most prominently sermoned on the track ”Drive It Like You Stole It.”
Nevertheless, the band is no stranger even to urban Caribbean rhythms as the self-empowerment anthem, ”Run,” incorporates Puerto Rican flavor in its bouncy riffs quite nicely. Occasionally, these new SMACKBOUND songs radiate with a fleeting impression of either LACUNA COIL or EVANESCENCE – and the next thing you know, Laurenne‘s vocal delivery takes a sharp turn like a sailor’s tongue on the album track, ”Hey Motherfuckers.”
“20/20” is abound with haunting melodies, just the right amount of pop-hooks, and crunchy metal riffs. It’s a solid record manifesting the triumph of perseverance and determination. While ”The Game,” for instance, is a ballad about the hide-and-seek of love, the usual story of opening up to someone only to be brutally broken, it’s followed by the track ”Those Who Burn,” which in turn promotes self-empowerment with a hammer-in-the-head attitude. I guess it cannot be a mere coincidence that some of the guitar licks revisit the riffing realms of AC/DC. My personal favorite is the track “Date with the Devil,” what with the melancholic ABBA-melodies and delicious guitar sweeps that sound like the boss-battle Nintendo-bleeps of yesteryear.
SMACKBOUND‘s debut is like an assortment of sonic remedies, guaranteed to bring sweet relief in the solitary confinement of our doomsday bunkers amid this global pandemic. It is nothing short of a tour de force from this all-star metal line-up. With a debut album of such prominence, the next chapter in the band’s saga might as well read like something out of a legend as they race away into unknown weather. I can’t be sure whether “20/20” marks the occasion when the bolts of the universe fly open, but it might just as well be the eff of the ineffable – or simply, a piece of metal magnificence.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Wall of Silence
- Drive It Like You Stole It
- Close to Sober
- The Game
- Those Who Burn
- Hey Motherfuckers
- Date with the Devil
- Wind and Water
Netta Laurenne – vocals
Teemu Mäntysaari – guitars
Tuomas Yli-Jaskari – bass
Vili Itäpelto – keyboards
Rolf Pilve – drums
Frontiers Music srl
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