HIM might have been a divisive prospect within metal due to their reliance on softness and romanticism above real heaviness (the “love metal” tag didn’t come from nowhere), but that’s really what made them stand out. The gothic stateliness had a lot to like in its best moments, and with the louche, vampiric qualities of Ville Valo up front, there was genuine personality that, particularly in hindsight, makes it easy to see why so many gravitated towards them. It’s not unfair to call him the face of the band either, which is why it seems so strange that the primary aspect that Flat Earth has sold itself on thus far is that it’s a new band featuring former HIM guitarist Mikko Lindström and drummer Mika Karppinen. At any other point, that would be an intriguing but cursory detail at best, and given how the early singles from debut None For One haven’t been particularly stellar, it’s easy to imagine that Flat Earth are trying to scramble together whatever they’ve got to just make something even remotely enticing.
That doesn’t entirely seem to be the case with None For One though, because Flat Earth definitely have a good idea of where they’re going in the vein of Ghost meets Alice In Chains. It’s just a shame that’s without all the pomp of the former and doubling down on the dirgelike forgettability of the latter’s Rainier Fog, making for an album that has its moments, but above all struggles to get out of second gear to really do something that would make an impact. It’s mostly an indictment on how Flat Earth are unable to consistently regain the strong foothold they begin with, as Subhuman and Blame kick things off with a pair of snarling, meaty grooves accented by gloriously cheesy keyboard swirls. There are moments that do come close to bringing that back as well, like the powerful riff-rock of Swine or Kill My God as a particularly fiery closer, but mostly, None For One gets bogged down in grungy lumbering that feels far too overweight to do anything substantial with. It’s especially true of the title track, with a slow, sludgy progression that ends up dragging itself out to make up for a real lack of inspiration.
On somewhat of a bright side, it feels more like a misguided first attempt than a band with a lack of direction, mostly because Flat Earth seem to have leveraged their prior experience for an album that’s at least well-produced, and at least giving the size of the sound they want to convey some necessary weight to back it up; there’d at least be the potential for something here if they got rid of the excess fat in their song construction. But then there’s the vocals from Anttoni Pikkarainen, who tries to do his best William DuVall impression (complete with plenty of multi-tracking for the added Jerry Cantrell effect), but it’s clearly a pale, wheezing facsimile that, at the absolute worst, can make Flat Earth come across as a sub-par tribute band. Even in a more standard hard rock vein, it’s hardly anything special, and with that combined with just a general lack of spark or excitement, it’s difficult to think that Flat Earth would even be given the time of day without the clout of its members.
It’s not as if this is a completely lost cause either, as is the case with so many other supergroups; Flat Earth clearly have a sound and a goal they’re working towards, and more power to them for putting in the effort to get there. But it’s a case of an idea sounding a lot better on paper than in practice, or just unable to reach its full potential on the first try. Whatever it is, None For One is a pretty nondescript listen at the end of the day, struggling to do a whole lot and only really finding success in fluked spurts, something that’s not exactly the greatest foundation to build a new career on.
For fans of: Alice In Chains, Ghost, HIM
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘None For One’ by Flat Earth is released on 9th November on Drakkar Entertainment.