There are bands that sound like other bands and then there are bands that sound like other bands. What is the difference? Well, some are just plain copycats while the others actually have a pretty good reason for it. When listening to “Gather The Faithful”, the debut of Finnish newcomers CAIN’S OFFERING, two band names spring to mind immediately: SONATA ARCTICA and STRATOVARIUS. And yet they belong to the second category, do they ever!
The vocals will remind you of STRATOVARIUS like no other band and as Timo Kotipelto is responsible for them in both bands, I would think that it qualifies as a pretty damn good reason. The music bears quite some resemblance to early SONATA ARCTICA and as guitarist and sole songwriter Jani Liimatainen used to be in said band during their early years, that also qualifies as a pretty damn good reason, so welcome to STRATOARCTICA, ehm, CAIN’S OFFERING. So overall you could classify the Finnish five-piece (also containing former SONATA ARCTICA keyboardist Mikko Härkin, NORTHER/WINTERSUN bassist Jukka Koskinen and THYRANE drummer Jani Hurula) as very typical Finnish Power Metal with all the fixings, immensely catchy melodies, extensive keyboards, the trademark vocals of Kotipelto, lots of up-tempo compositions, but while not bringing anything new to the table the quality of the songs is enough to give them a reason to be and to make them a contender for a spot in the higher echelons of Finland’s (and Europe’s) Power Metal Olympus.
“Gathering The Faithful” more or less is the album that SONATA ARCTICA never made after “Winterheart’s Guild” and while some damned Tony Kakko for steering away from this sound, you should be all appeased now that CAIN’S OFFERING are around. “My Queen Of Winter” is a take-no-prisoners double-bass cracker with extensive keyboard support, Kotipelto’s strong vocals, a soaring chorus and catchy melodies, which may sound a little generic here and there, but has enough class to stand on its own, and as mentioned before, a good part of the album operates in the higher tempos (“Oceans Of Regret”, “Dawn Of Solace”) or goes ballad (“Into The Blue”), for example, overall staying close together and close to the old, traditional Power Metal sound (old and traditional as in what SONATAVARIUS used to play), so they stick to their guns and don’t really deviate much, keeping things on trusted terrain, but with style, I must add.
The one song that I found a little too easy-going and poppy is “Stolen Waters”, which sails a little too much into the shallow end and the last track “Elegantly Broken” is a beautiful piano ballad with a very catchy lead melody, which might seem awfully familiar to some of the older fans and those might recognize it to be the main melody of the 80s Pop hit “Tell It To My Heart” by Taylor Dayne, which seems more than just coincidence, because it is pretty much exactly the same melody, so I am a little surprised that this went through just like that.
Anyways, overall “Gather The Faithful” is pretty much a must-listen for any fan of the Finnish school of Power Metal, because not only do we have veteran musicians at work, but they also operate on a high level of quality, which makes me look forward to what they will come up with for their second strike, because then they will have to prove that it was not just a flash in the pan, but will be sustainable, for now enjoy what these Finns have to offer, though!
(Online April 21, 2010)