Callisto - Secret Youth
Svart Records
Atmospheric Post-metal
10 songs (53' 24")
Release year: 2015
Svart Records
Reviewed by Andy

Callisto made some waves in the post-metal world about ten years ago with their first two albums, delicious confections of heavy riffing and tortured hardcore vocals in an atmospheric sludge style, but changed their style -- and ditched most of the metal -- in their last album. This time, Secret Youth gives us a mix of their older and newer styles, with mixed results as well. It doesn't have the same punch that Noir had, but it still is more likeable than the last album.

The listener could be forgiven for thinking the first track, Pale Pretender, is more of the same stuff we heard on Providence. Jani Ala-Hukkala's vocals are deep but still have a slightly whiny edge to them, as if he's singing through his neck half the time, and the riffs are mostly clean; there's a little bit of distortion, but not as much as any metal fan would fancy. In the last two minutes, though, the bassline gets more profound and the guitar gets meaner-sounding, and the next track, Backbone lets what sounds like their previous singer/guitarist, Markus Myllykangas, put in least a few much-missed harsh barks before retreating back to his instrument and giving the mike back to Ala-Hukkala. True to its name, this song's got a backbone, and the gusts of guitar noise give a strong counterpoint to more ambient instrumental tracks like The Dead Layer. I also liked Acts, which sped things up and had an echoing, motion-filled ambience that made Ala-Hukkala's voice a lot more enjoyable somehow, the production and rhythm somehow giving it the incongruous feel of a New Wave song from the 80s.

It can't be denied that a lot of the complexity of the original sound is still missing, though. Breasts of Mothers, while getting better toward the end, still misses out on much of the progressive intricacy that characterized the first albums, and Grey Light's clunking little bassline and subtle guitar melody, while interesting, isn't enough to keep it from crossing the line into boring territory occasionally. Ghostwritten is probably the biggest mess of the lot; it's the longest song on the album, and almost nothing happens in it but clean strumming and an aimless, pointless, and ceaseless vocal monologue until a few heavy riffs at the very end. Dam's Lair Road brings back a little more of the slow, foreshadowing buildup to heaviness that the band used to do all the time, and it does make a metal-loving listener happier after the dullness of the last few tracks, especially with the effect-ridden distortion of the last part.

But is it worth getting? If you loved Callisto back in the day, can live without some of their past heaviness, and don't mind hitting the Next Track button occasionally, there are still some good songs on this album to enjoy. In fact, Secret Youth's biggest drawback is that sooner or later, anyone who listens to it will weigh this band's latest effort in the balance of past greatness -- and find it wanting.

Killing Songs :
Backbone, Acts
Andy quoted 71 / 100
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