|Musical Style: Metal/Hard Rock||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Bullroser||Country Of Origin: Finland|
|Year Released: 2008||Artist Website: Scandinavian Metal Praise|
|Tracks: 9||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 44:35|
The concept behind the various “metal praise” projects released over the years can be traced to a pair of early eighties worship hard rock songs by Petra, “Praise Ye The Lord” and “Let Everything That Hath Breath” (off Never Say Die and More Power To Ya respectively). As the decade progressed, several other noteworthy Christian artists jumped on the worship metal bandwagon, including Sacred Warrior (“Holy, Holy, Holy” - Masters Command), Barren Cross (“King Of Kings” - Atomic Arena) and Leviticus guitarist Bjorn Stigsson (“Come On” - Together With Friends).
The first full length metal praise project, appropriately entitled Metal Praise, was released in 1992 and featured “metal interpretations” of well known hymns such as “Rock Of Ages”, “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”, “Jehovah Jireh”, “We Exalt Thee” and five others. Guest appearances were made by members of Whitecross, Barren Cross, Sacred Warrior and X-Sinner. All Hail The Power hit the shelves two years later. The brainchild of guitarist P.K. Mitchell (Neon Cross), AHTP maintained the metal based hymns heading of Metal Praise while showcasing the talents of drummer Glen Mancaruso (Die Happy), bassist Jim LaVerde (Barren Cross) and vocalist Robin Basauri (Red Sea).
The latter half of 2008 finds the release of Scandinavian Metal Praise. The project upholds the tradition of Metal Praise and All Hail The Power by taking several popular praise and worship songs and making them over with metal edged guitars, soaring vocals, pounding drums and a hard rock beat. The majority of its tracks are mid-paced and highly melodic, with “Great In Power”, “Wonderful God”, “Take Me In”, “We Sing Alleluia” and “Holy King” all standing out. You will also find a couple of upbeat neo-classical metal pieces (“When The Spirit Of The Lord” and “Laulu Suomelle”) along with a blues based number (“Praise Adonai”) and semi-ballad (“Worthy Is The Lamb”).
Scandinavian Metal Praise, as its moniker suggests, originated in Finland and was released on the Finnish label Bullroser. The musicians performing on it, however, wish to remain unknown. Out of respect for their desire for anonymity, I will from this point forward refer to them as “female lead vocalist”, “guitar player”, “bass player”, “keyboardist” and “drummer”.
Yes, all the vocals are female and performed by the same vocalist. They are very well done. While the “female lead vocalist” might not have quite the range of countrywoman Johanna Aaltonen (HB), she is a fine talent and performs at a high level. If I were to invite a comparison, she brings a bit more of a raspy touch as opposed to the smoother style of Johanna.
The “guitar player” proves adept as well, adorning the album with his driving riffs and crunchy rhythm guitar. The only potential drawback to SMP, and this is only a minor issue, is its lack of lead guitar. The reason I mention this is that the majestic atmosphere of a metal praise release perfectly lends itself to some bluesy guitar licks or blazing soloing. Otherwise, the “guitar player” puts in a solid showing.
Keyboards are found in just the right amount. The “keyboardist” plays a highlighting role in adding the needed texture to each track without coming across overbearing or heavy handed. In forming a solid team with the “guitar player”, he brings enhanced depth and character to the project.
A slight element of thinness characterizes the production to SMP. No, not a major distraction – it certainly does not prevent me from enjoying the project – but noticeable nonetheless.
The mid-paced muscle of “Great In Power” stands out with its bristling rhythm guitar sound, a particular leaving little doubt that this is a METAL praise release. Keyboards, however, make their presence felt, occasionally highlighting the backdrop or carrying a short emotionally charged interlude. The pronounced melody, at the same time, helps make this one of the albums finer listening experiences.
“When The Spirit Of The Lord” picks up the pace with its neo-classical flavorings. The song rollicks its verse portions with the rhythm guitar bouncing in and out of the mix, not evening out until obtaining a lively chorus in which a harpsichord makes its presence felt. Great hook and equally abundant tempo will have you singing along in no time.
“Praise Adonai” heads in blues based metal territory. Combining a heavy duty initiative with low-key guitar tones, the song ranks with the albums heavier compositions. “Praise Adonai” actually presents with some interesting contrasts, ranging from its plodding verses to a catchy chorus that breaks out in near authoritative fashion. Occasional traces of female vocal harmonies add to the gritty scene.
“Worthy Is The Lamb” fades in to a keyboard solo before the rhythm guitar crunches in. The song moves ahead to a near perfect melding of the two, giving rise to a ballad-like feel with its poignant touches and towering vocal approach. A stretch of melodic guitar harmony sustains a fleeting instrumental section.
“Wonderful God” begins to an instrumental introduction that gradually builds to a crescendo of hard hitting riffs. The bottom drops out of the raucous scene as the song reaches its first verse, momentum tapering to a near crawl as a snarling rhythm guitar carries things ahead. The chorus – sweeping, catchy and as moving as they get – will draw you in on first listen. A couple of tranquil passages upheld by keyboards or quietly played guitar add to the majestic aura.
A drum solo initiates “Take Me In” before the rhythm guitar cuts in hard and heavy. The song proceeds to flow through its first verse in a keyboard driven manner, gaining further initiative as the rhythm guitar returns and leads the way to a chorus put over the top by its emotional propensity. Just past its halfway point “Take Me In” smoothes out for a reading of the Lord’s Prayer.
“We Sing Alleluia” is another track showcasing a near perfect rhythm guitar sound- crunchy, staunch and right upfront in the mix. The song, appropriately begins to a few seconds of rhythm guitar before plowing ahead, driving its length in steadfast fashion all the while giving rise to quite the pronounced melody. What also stands out about “We Sing Alleluia” is its instrumental leanings, including a couple of instrumental stretches carried by tight guitar harmony (one mid-song and other at the end).
“Holy King”, the albums longest piece at 7:36, is a sublime number characterized by its symphonic feel. Fans of HB will be certain to get into this one. The song borders on the mesmerizing as it moves ahead to a rhythm guitar punching in and out of the mix as the phrase “Holy, holy, holy, holy King” repeats itself continually. As with “Great In Power”, you cannot help but be left with the feeling that this is both WORSHIP and METAL- at its finest.
“Laulu Suomelle” is the only number I find to fall a bit flat. Yes, it is sung in the groups native Finnish (and in no way is that a detraction) and heads in an up-tempo neo-classical direction similar to “When The Spirit Of The Lord”, but the song comes across on the forced side of things. On one hand, I might describe the melody as average-to-good but not great; on the other, “Laulu Suomelle” brings some much needed upbeat impetus to the project. So I can see this one going either way, though I tend to pass.
Scandinavian Metal Praise proves a musically solid release with its melding of worship and metal. Yes, this has been done before but it is always good to hear again. You will find melody in abundance while performance in the areas of vocals and rhythm guitar are strengths. Production could use a touch of polish but, as previously noted, does not hold things back. Highly recommended.
Track Listing: “Great In Power” (5:04), “When The Spirit Of The Lord” (2:57), “Praise Adonai (3:35), “Worthy Is The Lamb” (5:24), “Wonderful God” (6:36), “Take Me In” (5:05), “We Sing Alleluia” (4:56), “Holy King” (7:36), “Laulu Suomelle” (3:22)