Stam1na - Viimeinen Atlantis
Sakara Records
Thrashy n' Melodic Groove/Speed Metal (or sumthin...)
11 songs (47:05)
Release year: 2010
Stam1na, Sakara Records
Reviewed by Aleksie
Album of the month
*Disclaimer: For the random enjoyment of some, the song titles mentioned in this review will be literally translated into English in parenthesis’ even though the band itself has not done so for this album. The author of this review will accept any blame for subsequent misunderstandings between the titles and lyrical/musical content.*

Stam1na, the arguably most domestically popular hybrid metallians from Finland open the new decade in style. Their fourth studio album, Viimeinen Atlantis (The Last Atlantis), expands upon the solid foundations laid down by their first three records. Compared to its more straight-forward predecessor, Raja, Viimeinen Atlantis brings back the more complex, experimental song structures and the raw-yet-clear-n-punchy production that made their sophomore release, Uudet Kymmenen Käskyä, my favourite album out of the first three.

Viimeinen Atlantis is a concept album of sorts, not quite so much in the straight-up story-style of say, Operation: Mindcrime or Abigail, but in that there is a clear theme running through the songs. To simplify, they revolve around how rampant consumerism, materialism and similar foibles of humanity have wrecked our planet to the point where the forces of nature “see” it fit to wash our madness away with assorted natural disasters. As an additional unifying element in the background, there lies a tale of the last survivors on Earth aboard a plane that flies above the endlessly flooded landscape, eventually running out of fuel and crashlanding on a continent of plastic waste. Or that’s what I got out of it anyway.

Musically, the songs are delightfully all over the place. Piste Jolta Ei Ollut Paluuta (Point Of No Return), Pakkolasku (Crashlanding) and Maalla, Merellä, Ilmassa (On The Ground, At Sea, In The Air) are the most familiar representatives of Stam1na’s past, mixing melodic thrashing with very heavy and groovy riffage along with the occasional über-catchy chorus (the crowd-pleasing catchiness being especially apparent in Maalla, Merellä, Ilmassa). Singer/Guitarist Antti Hyyrynen showers the listener with his usually impressive vocal range, stretching from tortured shrieks to somewhat humorous yet pleasing growls and filling the middle with plenty of biting clean vocals. If Tom Araya sang in Finnish and sounded slightly less hoarse and high-pitched, I think you’d get Hyyrynen’s clean style. Along with some outside help, Bass player Kai-Pekka Kangasmäki (hyvin sie vejät, Kaikka) provides plenty of punkish gang shouts throughout the album, reminding me of the nicely fitting vocal work that Jason Newstead provided Metallica in the live setting.

Speaking of Kangasmäki, as far as I can recall he makes his full-song compositional debut for the band with Jäteputkiaivot (Wastepipebrains), a delightfully rapid slice of metallic hardcore in the vein of Raised Fist or Sick Of It All which is spiced by some subtly jazzy keyboards. With the official addition of keyboard player Emil Lähteenmäki to the band for this album, the keys have a considerable role in the soundscape. They’re mainly there to make the atmospheric moments grander and to add hooky melodies here and there. No Children Of Bodomesque solo battles to be found here, mind you. Guitarist Pekka Olkkonen handles the lead duties commendably, opting for a zanier, Steve Vai-like approach despite the music often making you anticipate Kerry King-style buzzfests.

The somewhat more experimental tracks occupy the second half of this album. Viestintuoja (Messagebringer) starts off moderately fast but slows the mood down considerably for the first time on the album. Rikkipää (Sulfurhead) builds from a slow start and the guitars alternating with the keyboards in a style reminiscent of Devin Townsend until a quick drumroll gives the signal for Megadeth-style riffmongering to blow the gates open. Tsunami (I believe the translation is self-evident) opts for a little proggyness with a stop-go dynamic until slowly fading away with whispered omens of doom taking the focal point. Eloonjäänyt (Survivor, and don't worry, it's not a Destiny's Child-cover) feels like the most ambitious piece the band has produced thus far in their career. While it clocks in at “only” around 5 minutes, the band manages to go from tremolo-riffs-and-blastbeats mayhem á la Moonsorrow to very delicate choruses where Hyyrynen is joined only by subtle drumming and cello provided by Perttu Kivilaakso of Apocalyptica. The album-closing title track shines with this gentle-to-rocking dynamic as well. Gloomy end-of-the-world piano melodies are colored by muted guitars and Hyyrynen lamenting said end while joined by fitting female vocals. Just when you’d think they’ll finish on this minimalist note, some oddly up-beat guitar riffs that remind me of Coheed & Cambria of all bands leap out and take it away to some final, catchy chorus lines.

This is one oddball of an album, I tell ya. I usually try to keep the namedropping and references to other bands at a manageable minimum when reviewing but Viimeinen Atlantis is just so versatile that all I feel all these different comparisons are necessary. As has been with Stam1na in the past but even more and more so here, giving this disc a genre label is one massive pain so take my views as you will. Right now I feel that this is the best album the guys have made and it’s a grower. In addition to the great music, I appreciate the theme they’ve chosen to handle on this record. There are surely those who generally dislike preaching rock bands or even more specifically with this album, may feel annoyed by some contemporary-and-trendy “going-green-and-critical-of-wasteful-habits-of-living”-bandwagon that the message here could be placed in. If so and you know your Finnish, the theme may put you off put I can dig the thought-provoking direction going on here. In any case, it doesn’t take anything away from Stam1na showing some big time musical vitality and growth. If you’re a fan of heavy music, no matter the language, you should check them out, pronto.

Killing Songs :
Piste Jolta Ei Ollut Paluuta, Jäteputkiaivot, Maalla, Merellä, Ilmassa, Viestintuoja, Rikkipää, Tsunami, Eloonjäänyt & Viimeinen Atlantis
Aleksie quoted 91 / 100
Other albums by Stam1na that we have reviewed:
Stam1na - Raja reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 90 / 100
Stam1na - Uudet Kymmenen Käskyä reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 89 / 100
Stam1na - Stam1na reviewed by Kayla and quoted 84 / 100
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