Helsinki is not only the capital of Finland and home to our website, but also the haven of a fair amount of heavy metal bands. We simply love bringing new music from the local scene to our readers and we’ve been talking for a little while about the heavy metal act THY ROW. We’ve seen this five-piece live a couple of times, have enjoyed their debut EP, but now it’s finally time for something more… THY ROW‘s debut full-length album is going to be released on September 24th, 2021, via Rockshot Records.
“Unchained” kicks off with the energetic opener, “Road Goes On,” and just a few notes in, I immediately recognize this song, as this is one of the many unreleased tracks the band plays live during their live shows and its chorus has somewhat lingered into the depths of my mind, or at least enough so that I remember it. It paints a pretty decent picture of what THY ROW is all about: balancing between the boundaries of rock and metal, as the songs are quite infectious due to their big choruses, with a focus on melody and the occasional rad guitar solo.
I have made no secret in the past that “The Round” is one of my favorite rock songs to come forth in 2018 – god damn… is this song that old already?! The track does a pretty good job of building up tension according to its boxing theme and is smartly placed as a second track to keep the audience hyped up all throughout this record. I’m totally in love with the furious guitar in the intro that settles into pretty steady riffing throughout, with subtle melodies spicing up the mix. The band takes us back to the ’80s with title track, “Unchained,” whose intro has a very JUDAS PRIEST vibe to it until it climaxes with Mikael Salo‘s soaring screams. There are definitely a few things to enjoy in this track, from the impressive and fast guitar work and groovy bass lines, to the powerful vocals where Salo explores some deeper tones… yet while this track is certainly a pleasant mid-tempo track with some incredible sections and tight riffing, admittedly there are better songs on this album with perhaps more memorable choruses.
The mid-tempo continues with “Horizons,” another track that THY ROW has released earlier, starting of with a crescendo of guitar strumming, along with pounding drums, the song builds up beautifully in atmosphere. The verses are fairly minimal, giving the foreground to Mikael Salo‘s raw and powerful vocals, again the whole song is topped with an incredible chorus that is easy to sing (or shout) along to. There’s something that feels spiritually and vocally like a solo Ronnie James Dio song in the verses, but with a more stripped-down chorus.
It’s intriguing how some of the songs that have already been released now have a different atmosphere to them in context of the album. “Hidebound,” for example, feels less melancholic in between all of these other tracks, however, musically it is still one of the band’s heaviest songs. It’s almost impossible to imagine that the band released this track as their legendary first single a couple of years ago; thus, from day one, they had a certain standard of quality attached to them. Another very familiar track is “Just Fine,” which has a little bit of a groove in the vocals that makes it an extremely fun live track. It’s wildly catchy, with a lot of outstanding melodies that definitely linger on for a while after you finished the album due to its larger-than-life chorus.
From there on, the album was a complete surprise to me, as I don’t remember hearing any of these tracks before (with the exception of “Beyond Reason” and the latest single, “Fragments of Memory”; the latter, I admittedly decided not to listen to in advance, so that my impression of the epic three-part “The Downfall” wouldn’t get spoiled). Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, however. Before this, there is the emotional “Down On My Knees,” which starts out with a SCORPIONS-like guitar melody and has a fabulous build-up to the chorus, which slows down in a surprisingly effective way to add some emotional punch. As the song progresses, the vocals get more powerful, punched up with some light orchestrations, and the solos are some of the best to be found on the album.
Then, it’s time for the final act! The aforementioned “The Downfall” is divided into three, starting with “Killing All Inside.” This somewhat groovy rock/metal track is an energetic way to start the story. Bass player Juho Jokimies takes the spotlight at the beginning of the track, while other highlights include a “Highway Star”-like scream and a lot of hellishly stylish guitar work. “Beyond Reason” is a track we already knew, as it was released on the EP, but now it’s part of the three-piece, keeping the groove alive while showcasing the essence of heavy metal, where twin guitars accompany the powerful verses and the chorus drones in a very AVENGED SEVENFOLD manner (think “Bat Country”). That demanding, catchy chorus is yet another of the album’s arena-like singalong moments. The final track, “Fragments of Memory,” begins with Oriental guitar melodies, spicing this song up with different flavors than we are used to. In that sense, the songs feels a little bit more progressive than the rest of the band’s material. While as a standalone track, the ending of this song is quite abrupt, however, it makes perfect sense as a part of the last song trio, and most definitely fits with the theme exploring Alzheimer’s Disease. Because these songs are part of the same story but are not connected with each other musically, it’s easy to enjoy them as individual tracks, yet still adds something with a bit of a deeper, more thought-provoking meaning to finish the record off.
If there is one downside to this record, it’s that many of the songs have already been released prior to now. All of the songs from their self-titled EP have been included, alongside three more singles, meaning that for those of us who have followed the band for some time, that left only four new songs left to be explored. That said, considering that “Unchained” will probably be the release that introduces the band to a larger audience, it makes sense that they were included.
Beyond that one minor detail, there isn’t much to complain about here. THY ROW has a distinctive heavy sound that is present on every track. A lot of these songs are extremely catchy and high-energy, with only one real turn-down in tempo during the emotional “Down On My Knees,” which, for a ballad-hater like me, was also pleasant to the ear. The production is crisp and well-balanced, giving the songs a big, modern sound. All-in-all, this is a band from Finland to look out for and fans who like classic heavy metal and enjoy bands like IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST, as well as hard rock acts like DEEP PURPLE and SCORPIONS, will surely enjoy this record to the fullest!
1. Road Goes On
2. The Round ft. Teemu Mäntysaari
5. Hidebound ft. Ben Varon & Ilja Jalkanen
6. Just Fine
7. Down On My Knees ft. Ben Varon
8. The Downfall, Part 1: Killing All Inside
9. The Downfall, Part 2: Beyond Reason
10. The Downfall, Part 3: Fragments Of Memory
Mikael Salo – Vocals
Jussi Laulainen – Guitar
Ville Vase – Guitar
Juho Jokimies – Bass
Teemu “Snake” Laitinen Drums