Altaria - Divinity
Very pleasant! Two very good describing words of Altaria's sophomore album Divinity. 2003 marked the debut (Invitation) for these Finnish melodic metallers and now their second studio effort has been out on the market for over a year and a half at the time of this being written. Sorry the delay folks but since their first output did nothing to really lift my spirits, actually quite the opposite despite having both Jani Liimatainen (Sonata Arctica) and Emppu Vuorinen (Nightwish) in the line up, I have to admit that I wasn't exactly over-thrilled to dig into this new material. However, a quite positive feeling instantly begun to emerge since Altaria with Divinity clearly have made some very necessary changes that certainly catapult the band in a better direction. First of all the new vocalist Taage Laiho is a much stronger alternative than his predecessor, Jouni Nikula, and gives the sound of the band a much more unique touch. Second, the compositions are severely better as well and Divinity presents a material more even and thoroughly worked through than what the debut had to offer.
Musically, Altaria still venture along the melodic metal directions though and the most striking comparisons sound-wise are with bands like Asia, Axxis, Europe, TNT and Twilightning with some sprinkles of Stratovarius when the pace is quickened. The songs are mainly located around mid tempo and more melodic metal/hard rock orientations with an even poppy vibe in certain aspects. In some cases they thus also drop a few more power metal based tracks to give some diversity to the ongoing overall mid tempo pace and Unchain Rain Falling Again and Stain on the Switchblade are very good songs that lives up to that statement.. The catchy melodies on this album are very easy to digest and you get the hang of things after only a couple of tracks. Laiho's voice is hovering in the mid ranged areas and he's the main reason to why this album beats the previous one with such a big marginal. At times I think that he manages to sound a little like Glenn Hughes and there are some touches of Phenomena's self titled album over Altaria's music too in addition to the others already mentioned. Tracks like Prophet of Pestilence, Enemy and Final Warning are good such examples and they are also among the better numbers. But one thing never stops to amaze me. It's something about these Finnish bands and the way they deliver their music. They always seem to manage to produce more happy touches and at the same time keeping it melancholic and very moving. And that's usually what I like the most about Finnish metal and even though Altaria doesn't take this so very far, it's still enough to fit into the category. The atmosphere of the album is truly high and the very good production has been handled by the band and the mixing took place at Finnvox, supervised by Mika Jussila, who seems to be the sole alternative for such things in these circuits.
Despite being a very good album that has much material I really appreciate it unfortunately also suffers a bit from the same problem as some other Finnish acts, like for instance Virtuocity that I recently had some opinions about. The songs are ranging between good and very good and the music is very well played and produced but it gets a bit too monotonous in the long run and that's something you discover quite quickly. Most of the tracks are constructed from the same basic building blocks and the easy access feeling makes that they don't quite stand the test of repeated listening. The band certainly consists of great musicians that definitely know what they're doing and they're handling their craft very good and seen as a melodic metal album this has very few flaws except for that one but that's still a factor that affects.
The album doesn't contain any real smashers either but on the other hand it doesn't deliver tracks that make the grade pour away like bathwater down a plughole either. The music is very good; the steps between highs and lows are very short. If you like it fast and more aggressive maybe you should wide-step this one though but otherwise this is most certainly an album that should attract a pretty wide metal audience. It's got a variety and a classic melodic metal touch that should appeal to the older metal generation that grew up with bands like TNT, Asia and Phenomena and a slightly more power metal orientation, mixing Twilightning with Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius, that the younger demographics can adapt to. For me is Divinity an album to play when you want nothing out of the ordinary but just feel like having a quiet and relaxed evening at home and need a nice and cosy atmosphere to complete the picture. Far from a masterpiece but like I initially wrote: very pleasant indeed!