As much as there is a creative adventure and aggressively provocative breath to Illumine, the new album from Finnish metallers Edge of Haze, there is also a unique and mesmeric charm to its melodic metal which sets it and its creators distinctly away from the crowd. It makes for a tremendously striking proposition which brews up an atmospheric embrace through the entwining of progressive and alternative metal with a melodic and ambient fuelling. The Espoo quintet’s sound is a thick and vibrantly textured proposal which is as thrillingly adept at seducing or savaging the senses. From this the band’s second album emerges as a masterful treat which like an emotive sea laps upon the ears and imagination with varying intensities and successes whilst offering a perpetual enthralment of invention and irresistible persuasion.
The seeds of Edge of Haze begin with the metal band Damage, a project vocalist/bassist/guitarist Eero Maijala and drummer Janne Mieskonen began in 2007. Subsequently joined by guitarist Lenno Linjama two years later and with a couple of demos under their belt, the band expanded with the joining of keyboardist Akseli Savola and vocalist/guitarist Iivo Kaipainen which led to the renaming to Edge of Haze in 2010 as well as a change in direction sound wise, a new progressive and melodic strain of ideation and flavour merging with the heavier metal sound bred through Damage. The departure of Kaipainen led to the addition of Markus Hentunen as debut album Mirage begun its birth in 2011. Released the following year to strong acclaim, its success and presence is destined to pale against that of Illuminate such the latter’s riveting journey and potency. Loosely based on the book Escape From Camp 14 about a man living under a totalitarian regime that upon realising his submission to this life attempts an escape and sets out to find the landscape of his soul, Illumine musically and lyrically provides a fascinating presence which paints that theme’s journey with imagination sparking colour and thought involving prowess making a thrilling treat for ears.
Opening track Drawn releases a haunted whisper of ambience before guitars cast a provocative web of melodic expression courted by a just as magnetic keys spawned atmosphere. It is a potent start which is soon settling into a sturdy yet warm stride, its sinew sculpted grooves seducing ears as the excellent tones of Hentunen work on the senses. His vocals are immediately compelling and masterful within the slightly tempestuous breath of the track, adding greater strength to the narrative and the impressive canvas below him. A soft and elegant drift of voice and sound brings another unexpected and intrigue ripe twist to the already absorbing and impressive emprise, the eventful track sparking thoughts and passions with sublime ease.
The Pyre brings an openly more aggressive and muscular proposition wrapped in a sinister and imposing climate of dark shadows and intent. As its title suggests, the song is a blaze of scorched sonic endeavour and rippling invention, its ravenous air entwined by a melodic beauty and that almost mesmeric vocal quality of Hentunen, which here is supported potently by the coarse growls of Maijala. The track continues to climb over the senses and imagination with an inescapable web of enslaving sounds, a solemnly flavoursome gothic darkness and drama aligning its lures to the voracious and seductive essences soaking the persistently evolving picture. Its heady almost oppressive design is powerfully contrasted by the melodic beauty of Urban Reverie, its opening gentle parade of rhythmic vivacity within a vocal and guitar spawned majesty providing an emotive urbanity which spreads throughout the imaginative coaxing terrain of the song.
The following Crushed is like a reality check to the dreams of its predecessor, riffs and rhythms an antagonistic stabbing from its opening second whilst snarl spewing grooves and vocal scowls add further predacious bait. The melodic and harmonic side of the track is equally as pungent in its voice and resourcefulness, Edge Of Haze able to merge both extremes whilst giving each a creative clarity which radiates its side of the drama. The scintillating maelstrom of ingenuity is first followed by the decent instrumental 3:30 A.M., its dystopian ambience another reminder to the tale’s political and social landscape, before Into The Red Sun makes its piano composed engrossing entrance. Over scenery of possible escape, Savola transfixes ears and thoughts before the track erupts into a powerful ball of sonic heat and creative tenacity. Riffs and grooves seduce with a slightly carnivorous texture before a relaxation of intensity makes a refined platform for Hentunen to lay his ever fascinating tones. Possibly not the most overall gripping track on the album, its every turn still brings an appetite filling adventure which tightly grips attention and stirs up greater hunger for track and album, its epic finale alone a creative alchemy.
Both Unlearn and A Storm At The River keep listener and release entwined, the first an exciting charge of energy and virulence coloured with celestial fire before unveiling the richest vein of hostility found on the album. Of course like all, the track is a series of moments seamlessly linked and united for a compelling and exhilarating incitement of ingenuity whilst its successor is a smouldering glide of emotive grace and evocative ambience woven into a melody fuelled flight of passion and reflection. The pair epitomise the complex structures and contagiously intricate flavours which paint every song, as mentioned every shift of a track’s body or thought a new expanse of pleasure and intrigue.
Illumine is concluded by firstly the fiery atmosphere and sultry sounds of Rainfall, its exploration bringing an emotional continent of insecurity and suffocating angst within the fluid movement of the song which easily combined being mellow and immersive with stormy and intimidating within a swoop of a chord or a caress of vocals. Final track A Newfound Horizon provides a ten minute journey of its own to bring the album’s musical and lyrical narrative to a powerful close. Again in all aspects the song merges serenades and croons with roars and inhospitable ambiences, its ridiculously addictive investigation of new lands and emotional extremes glorious.
Illumine is a sensational release, one where some tracks steal the heart more than others but each piece of the creative puzzle leaves ears basking, imagination devouring drama, and passions bursting with a want for more. Edge of Haze has made a striking statement for progressive and melodic metal, and you can only feel it will be the first of many ahead.
The self-released Illumine is available digitally and on CD now @ http://edgeofhaze.bandcamp.com/
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