Hailing from Helsinki, Finland, Pennies By The Pound is a band which has just released Heat Death of the Universe; a debut album which confirms that the first half of 2021 has seen one fertile release of imagination, sounds, and records.
In a host of impressive encounters covering all aspects and styles, Heat Death of the Universe stands tall. It is a collection of songs which are virulently contagious and esuriently striking. They are bred in a fusion of progressive, psych and alternative rock embracing the influence of ’80s prog rock and ’90s to early ’00s alternative rock and bands such as Marillion and Rush from the eighties. Though you can hear such influences quite openly at times, for our ears there is a richer Julian Cope meets The Man Who Built America era Horslips with a touch of a Servant Leader hue to a release which just captivated.
Pennies By The Pound itself was initially a solo project for Johannes Susitaival (vocals, drums, keyboards, rhythm guitar) but swiftly grew with the addition of musicians from his past bands. Now a trio, Vesa Ranta (lead guitar, rhythm guitar) and Tomi Laaksonen (bass guitar) completes its line-up, the band having already released the striking Bloodshed and the Blinding Sunlight EP in 2018. From its unveiling, the threesome were soon working on their first full length but the world’s pandemic truly slowed progress until the band could record the tracks making up their new offering last Autumn with its release a handful of weeks back.
The Waters opens up the album, the immediate lure of a piano rich and accentuated by the melodic strokes of the guitar soon by its side. Quickly the song is in full stroll, rhythms a lively invitation as too the potent tones of Susitaival and the creative hooks spun by guitars and keys. It proved a ridiculously addictive and infectious proposal, its twists and turns no less compelling and catchy in its progressively woven contagion.
The exceptional start is followed by the mercurial instrumental of Strange Matter, a shimmering instrumental piece of light and shadows bound intimation which spatially pulsated upon the imagination before Strange Stars (Lies Closer To Truth Than Beauty) unveiled its lively croon and creative contagion. A guitar sprung jangle is a riveting niggle upon the senses, rhythms again a spirited lure alongside with once more vocals escalating the draw upon ears and participation. Subsequent progressive turns and imagination bred twists simply tightened the song’s grip on attention and pleasure.
The following 139 instantly glistened on the surface of the senses, keys radiant dew within an electronic shimmer as Susitaival’s tones again drew thoughts into a lyrical heart as emotive as it is reflective. Though calmer in energy compared to its predecessors, there is inherent catchiness in its sinews and moves which becomes more voracious within next up Indigo Screams. From a start which reminds of The Jam, the track strolls with a creative swagger and a pop rock roar to its breath. It is a superb slice of colourful eighties nurtured rock ‘n’ roll, the kind of song which demands that you want to know more when heard alone which is further lit up by the guest guitar of Alexander Meaney.
In many ways, San Francisco Skyline bears the influences to the band most strongly, the track a composed yet exuberant piece of melodic/progressive rock with the keys of Rauli Eskolin a flowery tempting in the song’s more mercurial landscape. Though the track did not quite get under the skin as deeply as others, it proved a captivating incitement before Heat Death brought the album to a compelling close.
The final song lays a psych rock caress on ears, the additional vocals of Kaisa Ranta, not for the first time within the release, a rich lure side by side with Susitaival’s. This too is a track that has an almost reserved air to its emotive roar, one woven in harmonic and melodic radiance though persistently pushed and provoked by the firmer imposing hand of rhythms to provide a fine and riveting close to a similarly stirring release.
Quite simply Heat Death of the Universe is superb, a sunspot of sound and invigorating temptation from a band we hope and already yearn to hear so much more from.
Heat Death of the Universe is out now via Lilith Records; available @ https://penniesbythepound.bandcamp.com/
Pete RingMaster 25/06/2021
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