The festive season is just around the corner and Finnish soprano and composer Tarja has created an album that is perfect for those more darkly inclined. This fantasy-esque festive offering sees delightful classics given a truly haunting cinematic reimagining, alongside a brand-new original track, Dark Christmas. Full-bodied piano scores, synth rises, distorted guitars and ethereal orchestration, create a gothic fairytale befitting the season.
Beginning with a reimagining of the carol The First Noel, this track establishes the fantastical and uncanny atmosphere that pervades through the album. The serene twinkling intro soon leads into a dramatic riser and foreboding tolling bells. Tarja’s stunning vocals combined with heavy and cinematic instrumentation produce a dramatic opener. Frosty The Snowman has never been so dramatic with thundering percussion, heavy rhythms, intense strings and powerful piano chords. The magic of the classic is not lost however, and the children’s choir adds in that spark. Momentum and drama manifests in O Holy Night through intensity in the low instruments. Ethereal elements are introduced through harp melodies, strings and Tarja’s soaring voice, before brass injects a burst of power. Greeted with a compelling string lead, Tarja’s original composition Dark Christmas emerges into an orchestral led verse and alluring vocal melodies. Her vocal harmonies in the chorus are breathtaking and entwine beautifully with the lead violin.
Jingle Bell Rock is perhaps an unexpected track that has been transformed incredibly well into this style. Heavy guitars build throughout the song leading to a final chorus that’s heavier and more rhythmic. White Christmas appears deceptively like the original – although it’s significantly more ambient but still carries much of its familiar form. That is until an interlude section of ghostly vocals and dramatic orchestration brings it aptly in line with the other covers on the album. For Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You Tarja begins with minimalist layers at first and sees little movement in the droning strings keeping the focus on Tarja’s lead vocal line. The track gradually builds with more movement introduced in the bass, the children’s choir returns, and more layers are added including electronic beats and guitars to create a darker sound. In Wonderful Christmastime the children’s choir and prominent drums give power and movement to the track. Tarja gives Wham’s Last Christmas a sombre, dissonant twist with discordant staccato strings adding a horror-esque element to it. Well and truly removed from pop realms, it feels as though it belongs in a Grimm’s tale or an Edgar Allan Poe poem.
Jingle Bells’droning synths and eerie bells make for a dissonant introduction to this children’s favourite. Gothic organ constructs a theatrical mood while the pace and intensity soon increase as the song progresses. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer opens with children singing names of reindeer, with a harp accompaniment and ringing bells add a magical element of fantasy and wonder. Tarja’s celestial vocals in Angels take centre stage alongside an atmospheric accompaniment. Powerful organ parts in the chorus give the carol a traditional feel amid the ominous ambience. Spooky and enchanting, Dark Christmas is for fans of shadowy soundscapes and gothic fantasy worlds. Dramatic new arrangements of these traditional carols and pop classics transport them into symphonic metal in a befitting manner that maintains core aspects of the originals. • HR
For fans of: Epica, Visions Of Atlantis, Delain
‘Dark Christmas’ by Tarja is out now on earMUSIC.
What If I Break?
Oh, we’re still doing this, are we? An ungodly slick, flavourless, metalcore-infused-with-pop-to-seem-innovative-when-it’s-really-anything-but thing—this is still around? It’s bad enough that Bad Omens have got their grubby little paws on the scene at large to sound just as clinical and clunky, but there’s no reason to cast it back to an even less impactful form. And look—maybe Wind Walkers aren’t an absolute lost cause, but they’re pushing something with next to no foothold anymore, without even the strength or distinction on their own merits to build one themselves. Had What If I Break? been released in the heyday of this sound, about a decade-ish ago, it would’ve likely been middle-of-the-pack then, too.
So first of all, what do Wind Walkers get right? Well, at least they understand that size is the main thing you want to aim for with something like this, and practice accordingly. It’s rare that What If I Break? sounds as though it’s holding back in terms of blockbuster scope, which can at least force some dynamism to the front. It’s very cut-and-dry in this approach but hey, it’s something, right? Though, that’s also to say that Wind Walkers’ adherence to it is what causes their anonymity most of the time, where they’re so locked into big, blustery guitars free of definition, and the glooped-on pop instincts that subsume everything else when they appear. There’s also power but in the most nebulous way from singer Trevor Borg, appropriately named when he sounds like a robot expressly designed for maximum pop-metalcore efficiency, without the drag of individuality.
On top of that are the decisions that really keep Wind Walkers chained up, largely circling back to their idea of where ‘pop readiness’ falls. In 2023, do you really want to hear the shrill, unsubstantiated backing vocal trill that was present in, like, every pop song from 2015 onwards? ‘Cause you’re getting that on Dead Talk! How about a reliance on vocal manipulation that sounds genuinely inhuman in how it crushes everything in place, like on Body Bag? Or how about a metalcore song that just as much wants to be the ‘80s pop version of The Weeknd, maybe more so? Well, that’s Dissipate, not only the moment that feels most indicative of Wind Walkers’ desire to steamroll and astroturf everything even remotely organic about themselves, but also What If I Break? loses all steam as far as distinction is concerned. This isn’t even the kind of generic that can keep itself afloat on force of will; it’s just really dull and devoid of life, and bland in such obvious ways.
There’s not a single thing on What If I Break? that’s new, after all. It’s the same musical palette; the same vaguely emotional lyrical set; the same production hell-bent on sucking out even the smallest vestige of humanity. The only difference is it’s about half-a-decade past its sell-by date (to be extremely charitable), and that leaves Wind Walkers in a position that’s barely worth being in to start with. It’s frankly incredible how quickly this will be forgotten, if it’s even picked up in the first place, and that’s everything to do with how little its creators seem to care about greater application. Maybe they should start, if they’ve got higher aspirations than this being a derided blip on the radar. • LN
For fans of: The Word Alive, Awaken I Am, Picturesque
‘What If I Break?’ by Wind Walkers is released on 17th November on The Orchard.
Post Profit are…cool. That’s about the extent it’s worth going at the this stage, when there’s already a horde of spin doctors waiting in the wings to proclaim them as ‘a unique, boundary-pushing force’, as is the case with any band for whom even the most marginal genre-splicing is on the table. And like with basically every one of them, it’s wildly over-exaggerated. In Post Profit’s case, they’re blending post-hardcore with Badflower-esque hard rock, hardly the most enlightened fusion ready to bust doors down at every turn, but still decent on its own merits. People seem to forget that can still be enough; a band doesn’t have to promise the world in order to deserve praise.
Similarly, the expectation of having to come out of the gate, all guns blazing, isn’t a sustainable one either, and it’s refreshing that Post Profit seem to be taking a more traditional approach in spite of that. Self Defeater is by no means a perfect listen, but highlighting Post Profit’s core strengths at this early stage can still be enough. Chiefly, Matt Jackson is a great vocalist to send these hooks sky-high, particularly on the title track or Two Toxic where his super-melodic sensibilities are hewn and refined perfectly. He’s evidently the killer app amongst Post Profit’s ranks, and by no small margin either. Not that the rest is bad, but it doesn’t leap out to the same degree when the sonic footprint has this level of familiarity. The alt-hard-rock palette is used to colour inside the post-hardcore outlines, with the most radical shift among them being moments of pronounced groove on Karmakaze and Cancer Culture, or spilling-over heat on Drug Emporium.
Admittedly, the breadth of what’s capable does feel somewhat wider because of that, especially when Post Profit brush upon flecks of letlive. or Beartooth in corner cases of intensity meeting execution. Generally though, Self Defeater is more firmly lodged in ‘promising’ territory, where the ideas clearly have legs but could do with the space to grow. Some of the lyrics especially fall victim to that (as should be obvious from titles such as Karmakaze and the eye-rolling titular nadir Cancer Culture), though avoiding some of the more try-hard edginess away from that only works in Post Profit’s favour. It’s not really needed from them; the quality of hooks and melodies generally speak for themselves, in a fashion that others might do well to take note of.
Post Profit can make this all feel natural, itself a feat that sets them apart and lifts them up by a couple of rungs. Even when there’s room to move up a few more, it shouldn’t be discounted that they’re already in good standing on Self Defeater, and rather resoundingly at that. It’s the sign of a band for whom longevity seems to be baked in, as opposed to brief spurt of industry-mandated hype without the opportunity to properly flourish or evolve past their shortcomings. They’re the bands you remember in the long run, and hopefully Post Profit can fall among them. The early signs are certainly good. • LN
For fans of: Badflower, letlive., Moodring
‘Self Defeater’ by Post Profit is released on 17th November on Sharptone Records.
Call Me Amour
In the grand scheme of things, a band like Call Me Amour had to come around sooner or later. As much as active-rock musicians love to brand themselves as ‘innovative’ because they kind of know what a synth is, eventually you need someone who actually knows what they’re doing. And while Harry Radford’s past endeavours mightn’t immediately scream that’s apparent, Yashin did last long enough to give him the benefit of the doubt. Plus, moving away from post-hardcore that’s shown its age horrendously these days is only a good move; at least Call Me Amour have a place that’s more applicable to current scenes.
Even if that doesn’t correlate with huge success all on its own, it’s a start. A band like Call Me Amour—both lodged in rock and alt-metal’s centre of the road while also doused in the electronics and production that’ll turn many away in an instant—aren’t exactly striking a hot iron, after all. Nevertheless, there’s promise in Revolution that mightn’t be as highfalutin as its title suggests, but definitely goes the way of a band for whom a robust melodic nature comes naturally. Songs like Chasing Bugs and Drop The Knife can simultaneously tower and burble in their darkened synth tones, while feeling distinctly fresher than a lot of their contemporaries will ever muster. Redford also has the vocal chops to sell this kind of expressive, explosive material—more bolting power than precision, but often worthwhile in how it’s done.
Among that, there’s enough newness woven into the musical fabrics that at least begins to set Call Me Amour apart. Not entirely when hard rock’s bedrock is tough to break and reshape by design, but enough to count in bits of trap on IMFKD and drum ‘n’ bass on La La. Granted, elevating expectations too much feels like the wrong mindset to go into Revolution with. As far as grand strides into the unknown go, Call Me Amour are still getting their feet wet, and in how a lot of the tones fill available spaces—and the shades of darkness in which they do so—you do feel that. In some ways, it does feel like a leftover from the old post-hardcore days, brought forward with some new kit that they’ll erroneously believe will thrust superstardom back onto them. In other, more important ways, though, it’s a band trying to occupy a notoriously more limited space with ideas to ease some of its rigidity, and largely succeeding.
So although Revolution isn’t the mark of a great band, the context in which it’s placed matters a whole lot, even if that can feel like a bit of cop-out. It’s not though, not when Call Me Amour have good instincts on their own merits. When they can also use them with a good degree of certainty for success, it’s hard to complain too much when considering where they’re obviously trying to penetrate. The style and the hooks therefore connect rather well, and Call Me Amour set up a decent initial jump-off for themselves. It’ll be more important to see if they can keep it up, but judging by the state of active-rock around them, they’re unlikely to have much of an issue there. • LN
For fans of: later Papa Roach, Pop Evil, Through Fire
‘Revolution’ by Call Me Amour is released on 17th November on Circular Wave Records.
Words by Holly Royle (HR) and Luke Nuttall (LN)