Hard to believe that I am more than two years late on this review, but that’s what happens, when the label doesn’t manage to send a promo and monetary restrictions prevent me from completing my collection (not to mention a move cross country and a very active baby boy that wreaked havoc on any kind of time management on top of that). Thanks to guitarist and mastermind Riku Hopeakoski, though, for his faith in us (“TMO”) and me as reviewer to go through the lengths of sending a copy of this album to me for reviewing.
So what has changed compared to predecessor “Location:COLD”? Well, they have continued to walk down the path that they had taken on their 2006 release, without keyboards, with some increased clear vocals as well as some deep Death Metal growls and also a few formerly foreign influences having taken root in the CATAMENIA realm of song writing, thus progressing in the expansion of their approach to the Melodic Black Metal genre and also potentially causing some furrowed eyebrows among the fans of old.
Opener “Garden Of Thorns” is a very nice example for CATAMENIA anno 2008, with a varied concoction of blastbeat driven Melodic Black Metal, slower chorus with added clear vocals (this duet style is something that the Finns seem to be expanding on overall), pounding passages with growls and great melodies, before “Alive...Cold...Dead!” seems to have a light Viking/Pagan touch in the guitar work, the song being of a similar ilk as the opener. One of my favourites, though, is “Tuhon Oma”, where tight mid-paced double-bass drive the song forward with plenty of melody and Black Metal vocals, interspersing the powerful drum work with blastbeat eruptions, whereas the clear vocals have more of a yelled quality, excellent track in my book.
Aggressive “The Time Unchained”, powerful and varied “Embody And Behold” (with the best clear vocal performance to date) and dynamic “Road Of Bones” (with triple voice attack Black/Death/clear) are further standout tracks on this album, whereas on the other side we have “Dominion” that fails to strike a chord with me despite the excellent melodies towards the later stages of the song or the tame FAITH NO MORE cover of “From Out Of Nowhere” that could have used some more old CATAMENIA power to really excel.
There also is some second grade material to be beheld that does not tank in terms of quality by any chance, but fails to stand out within the band’s back catalogue either, one song will definitely split the followers, though, which is “Fallen”. Setting out almost ballad-like, the track explores a different route, at first with only clear vocals over clean guitar and a light rhythm, then adding some tempo (still staying fairly light, though) and growls, turning into a more Rocking affair than Metal, with a certain undeniable SENTENCED touch to it – it is not a bad song by any means, but how much CATAMENIA this still is, well, I am sure that some die-hards will drop this CD like a hot potato upon listening to this.
I for my part enjoy big parts of “VIII: The Time Unchained”, because the band is not afraid of expanding its horizon while maintaining their trademarks. The wolf is still there, even if more modern, the production values are still high, the spirit is still there, even though there are signs on the wall that the winds of change are blowing through the Arctic wastelands of Northern Finland, leading up to their ninth album “Cavalcade”. A worthy pick-up for fans of the band, even though their best works of “Eskhata” and “Winternight Tragedies” are out of reach.
(Online January 5, 2011)