Reviewing a genre you’ve never really listened to before is always difficult. Naturally, you don’t know what to expect and furthermore, what’s the benchmark for that particular genre? This is how I felt when I received my first taste of Gothic Metal in the form of “Wounds Wide Open”.
“Wounds Wide Open” is the fifth album from the Finnish Goth rockers TO/DIE/FOR. It comes three years after singer Jape Perätolo quit the band and formed his own group, TIAGA. However, upon presenting his demo to Spinefarm Records, the record company suggested that he claim the rights to TO/DIE/FOR and continue touring under that name. He did, thus kicking his former bandmates out of the band that he quit. Lovely.
Despite such maneuvers, Perätolo has quite a solid band in TO/DIE/FOR and their latest release is decent enough. A short intro, “Sorrow”, sets the mood for the next forty-five minutes: decidedly dark and mellow. Fortunately, “dark and mellow” doesn’t mean “deprived of melody” to these Finns: catchy choruses abound on “Wounds Wide Open”, especially on tracks such as “Like Never Before” and “Liquid Lies”, the latter of which features an excellent female vocal hook.
The guitarwork on “Wounds Wide Open” is all over the map. The rhythm guitar is simplistic, usually consisting of steady eighth notes or a similar chugging riff. By contrast, the soloing is wild and frantic, sounding very similar to the big-haired shred kings of the 80s. It sounds almost bizarre to hear a Paul Gilbert or George Lynch follower soloing over what is a pretty dark record. The solos are by far the brightest parts of the album, often adding some much-needed levity to a song.
Something that initially struck me about “Wounds Wide Open” is that it’s a very keyboard-heavy album. Synthesizers are present on nearly every track and are even featured as much as the rhythm guitar in many of them. I didn’t mind them that much, although there’s one particular keyboard sound TO/DIE/FOR are particularly fond of using and boy does it get annoying after several listens! At any rate, if you’re not a fan of keyboards, stay away, because they’re everywhere.
If “Wounds Wide Open” has any major flaws, it’s that nearly all the songs sound similar. What’s more, while all of them are decent and none are particularly “weak”, none of them stand out, either. No one song has that “instant classic” feel that sticks in your head. Perhaps the only song that is remotely different from the rest is “Liquid Lies”, mainly due to the female vocals.
Still, if you like heavy keyboards, dark yet melodic choruses and Hair Metal soloing, then “Wounds Wide Open” is the perfect album for you. However, if you’re looking for a little variety in the songwriting or songs that are instantly catchy…well, let’s just say that TO/DIE/FOR are a bit lacking in these areas. Overall, “Wounds Wide Open” is a competent release from the Finns, but not an overly spectacular one by any means.
(Online November 22, 2006)