Mikko Härkin has certainly kept himself busy in the years following his departure from SONATA ARCTICA in late 2002. Of his many projects, the best was 2009’s collaboration with Timo Kotipelto (STRATOVARIUS) and Jani Liimatainen (ex-SONATA ARCTICA) in CAIN’S OFFERING, a project that saw the release of a phenomenal Melodic Metal album. Apparently Härkin still has some pull with the giants of the industry, as his latest project, MEHIDA, sees him joining forces with singer Thomas Vikström (THERION).
The MEHIDA sound is much darker and more straightforward than Härkin’s past work in sunnier bands like SONATA ARCTICA and CAIN’S OFFERING. “The Eminent Storm” is a heavy, mostly midtempo affair, filled with jagged guitar riffs and ethereal piano. The band is at its best when operating at one of two extremes: hyper-melodic or hyper-aggressive. For example, on “Where Could I Flee,” Vikström is backed up by a chorus of female singers while an uncomplicated guitar riff chugs away underneath his vocals, and Härkin’s piano adds additional sweetness, resulting in a fairly catchy chorus, if not an overly heavy one. On the flip side of things, the aggressive album opener, “Wrath Of Flesh Fellowship,” whips the listener with a high-speed sonic assault. Of the two styles, the latter is the better one, despite the fact that Vikström’s voice isn’t a perfect fit for the style (though he redeems himself with a few high-pitched shrieks).
The album suffers when the band plays somewhere between the two styles. An example is “Until The Day Breaks,” a track that’s heavy and dark, yet melodic and slow. Usually these tracks end up sounding vaguely Gothic, especially when the female chorus is used, and the result is a compromise of styles that simply doesn’t match up to the album’s better material. Songs like “Urban Scream” eradicate the momentum better tracks like “Where Could I Flee” build up.
It’s not Härkin’s finest hour, but there are certainly a few gems to be uncovered on “The Eminent Storm.” MEHIDA has the benefit of world-class musicianship, but suffers due to occasionally boring songwriting. “The Eminent Storm” is a fairly straightforward album with few surprises, but it’s still worth it for some of the balls-out aggressive tracks and Härkin’s wonderful piano work.
(Online January 31, 2011)