Originally founded in 2015 by Netta Laurenne, SMACKBOUND first existed as RUN FOR COVER, in which some familiar faces of the Finnish metal scene combined forces and played the best heavy metal classics for audiences around Finland. Next to the cover songs, the band has been extremely busy writing and composing original music and as a result, debut album “20/20” is now going to be released on 12 June 2020 through Frontiers Music s.r.l.
“Wall of Silence,” one of the band’s previous singles, has the honor of opening the album in an energetic manner. The song is catchy as hell and it’s got an amazing mix of technical competency and poppy sensibility, while the verses are heavy and often aggressive. The chorus really opens everything up and feels very accessible and radio-friendly.
“Drive It Like You Stole It,” the band’s debut single, is up next. The hard rock/heavy metal-inspired track contains wicked riffs, outstanding keyboard sections, and a killer guitar solo by virtuoso Teemu Mäntysaari. If you are not blown away by the perfectly executed instrumentals, then you will certainly be by Netta Laurenne‘s fantastic vocal delivery. The song’s catchy choruses make you want to sing along and dance instantly, an excellent way to keep up the right energy.
The next track is “Close to Sober,” which is the first “new” song for the listeners. By the title, I figured the track might be a bit more of a sensitive, emotive song, perhaps even a ballad. Even though it can easily be described as a power ballad, the song definitely doesn’t hold the same cheese factor that ballads often do. Laurenne‘s voice is a central player in the song and shows a bit more of a fragile sound, as she belts her way through lyrics that open up about the struggle with alcohol. Like a slow burn, the song progresses with heavy and proggy elements intertwined, which make the song a strong statement and give the ability to entice goosebumps. Even though the song, at first, is perhaps a bit more minimal, the keyboards make it grand.
Next up, “Run” picks up the pace and thus breaks the heavy, emotional vibe, with a slightly more positive atmosphere. The song definitely is a nice follow-up to its heavy-on-the-heart predecessor, boldly incorporating poppy elements into a heavier core, with impressive rhythm sections by drummer Rolf Pilve.
When “The Game” was released a single, I remember someone writing about it that this should be the new James Bond single. With yet another ballad, SMACKBOUND proves that they are capable of delivering emotional “statement” songs that often touch the soul. They are not corny but instead explore different territories of humanity. “The Game” starts off slowly again but gains strength and plays around a little bit with different soundscapes and other atmospheric sounds that ultimately lead to an excellent buildup. When the climax comes, the listener is essentially blown away by the intensity of Laurenne‘s vocal delivery, exactly what James Bond songs in the past have done if you think about “Skyfall” by Adele, for instance. During the prelistening session for this album, the band informed us that the ticking sound in the end is keyboard player Vili Itäpelto‘s kitchen clock.
“Those Who Burn” shows a totally different side of the band. With a power metal intro, the track follows a similar pattern as the previous songs, but it is more oriented towards heavy metal with heavier guitars, a more minimal chorus, and inspiring riffs. The C-part is surprisingly folky in the vocal and guitar melodies, which add a nice touch and some extra depth. Of course, any power metal track with its salt comes with an obligatory epic guitar solo.
“Hey Motherfuckers” is a sensual, fun song to sing along to, particularly in the chorus. The track is perhaps a bit more simple than the previous song, but with its straightforward riffs and melodies, it’s definitely one of the most fun songs of “20/20.” “Hey Motherfuckers” is a more minimal track, focusing mostly on heavy riffs, keys, and vocals.
“Troublemaker” is a really fast and heavy track. The pounding drums play a surprisingly huge part in the song and really showcase the diversity of the drums on this album. The song is a bit more playful and Laurenne showcases her raw and edgy rock vocals, impressive to say the least. Again, the song contains a great singalong chorus that you won’t easily forget.
“Date with the Devil” has a very eerie beginning with piercing vocals that show just how versatile Laurenne is as a singer. It fools the listener into thinking this might just be another ballad but soon progresses into a mid-tempo song, gaining speed with every second. The faster-paced chorus is based on the intro of the song with a fantastic power metal guitar solo. This song really encompasses all the different facets of this band in one song: the C-part is very playful and cheeky and serves as a perfect buildup to one last chorus and the subtle keyboards melodies are laced expertly into the chorus, adding more depth into the song and lead the song to its final climax.
The album ends with “Wind and Water,” which has a beautiful piano intro reminiscent of Ludovico Einaudi‘s emotive piano melodies. The piano accompanies Laurenne‘s vocals beautifully and the keyboards truly stand out on this track and take a more central role, showing off the potential of keyboard player Vili Itäpelto. “Wind and Water” is not only a ballsy way to end the album, but it ends the album perfectly because it sounds huge and leaves you with a rather positive feeling even though it’s very emotional.
Overall, the album surprised me due to its diversity. Heavy songs are combined with heartfelt tracks and poppy melodies. SMACKBOUND often plays around with a plethora of emotions and manages to move the listener time and time again. The combination of these extremely talented musicians provides that little bit of diversity that a band needs in order to stand out from the crowd these days. Every song has a different vibe but what connects them and makes them SMACKBOUND really is the energy. Influences seem to vary quite a lot from 80s hard rock, heavy metal to melodic metal, and some of them even have a taste of (symphonic) power metal and each and every member of the band puts in their own identity. Mark my words, there’s a bright future ahead for this band and this album can easily become a classic in the world of melodic rock/metal!
- 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
Rolf Pilve – Drums
Vili Itäpelto – Keyboards
Tuomas Yli-Jaskari – Bass
Frontiers Music s.r.l.