Stam1na are probably Finland’s most underrated band. Their sound is hard to describe, but if I had to take a guess, I’d call them “Prog Thrash”, which doesn’t really make sense but I’ll go with it. Their songs are entirely in Finnish, which is probably the main reason for their obscurity. The vocals are Soilwork-like, but much more frantic in their delivery, and the seven-string guitars follow suit with the vocals. In a way, they remind me of old Meshuggah, but with more traditional rhythms (not too traditional though) and more melodic vocals. It’s all the more impressive since the singer Antti ”Hyrde” Hyyrynen also plays guitar. While all their albums are good in their own way, I chose Raja because it’s more focused and refined than their other albums.
The album opens up with the “in your face” ‘Hammasratas’ (cogwheel), which is about war. While the lyrics are in Finnish, I have some elementary knowledge of the language and with the help of Google Translate I can decipher most of the words. But the selling point of the song is not the lyrics but the band’s sound. The guitars play simple yet effective riffs with slightly off-beat timings. This helps to elevate the tension in the song, which releases towards a melodic interlude. This interplay of frantic and mellow is what makes Stam1na special.
The second track ‘Susi-Ihminen‘ (wolf-human) and it starts of insanely groovy. The track keeps transforming, with melodic sections and very dark and fast sections. The point of the song it’s about werewolves, and the slow sections are human parts and the fast sections are wolf parts. I think it’s an interesting idea that’s well executed if you can follow the lyrics. Also, the song is quite good and memorable, which is what matters in the end.
Then there’s the memorable ‘Muistipalapelit’ (memory puzzles). This song is a bit slower and more melodic, which I really appreciate because when an album consists entirely of fast songs it gets boring pretty fast. This song is one of the reasons Stam1na are as good as I give them credit for, because not only can they write very impressive and heavy songs, they can also write sing-along song that fit within their own sound without compromising the band’s music. It’s immediately recognizable, and still quite heavy.
‘Vartijaton’ (Guardless) is more of a ballad than ‘Muistipalapelit’, but it still has the Stam1na sound and foreshadows the rest of the album as it gets heavier near the end. You probably get why I refer to them as “Prog Thrash” by now. I don’t really like the next song, ‘Voima Vastaan Viha’ (Strength Against Hatred) because it has a bit of a Rammstein vibe, and I don’t like Rammstein. But it makes sense within their sound and fits in the album. This is just my personal preference though, and I’m sure many people would like it.
Thankfully, next up is ‘Lääke’ (Medical), which is my second favorite Stam1na song (my favorite is ‘Kadonneet Kolme Sanaa’ (The Three Lost Words) from their self titled debut album, which you should also check out*). The lyrics to this song are very introspective and batshit crazy, just like the video.It’s about drug abuse, which I can’t really relate to but I can still appreciate it. Also the riffs are awesome (yes, the chorus riff is similar to Soilwork’s ‘As We Speak‘ interlude, but I just think it’s a coincidence because it’s a pretty simple riff). Also the proggy interlude section builds up really well, which makes the entire song very rewarding to listen to. This isn’t exactly the typical Stam1na song, but it’s just so damn catchy.
I’ve already talked a lot about this album, but this time I’ll let you go and check them out instead of talking about each song, because Stam1na are definitely worth it. They’re one of the best Finnish bands, and they’re very easy to appreciate for all metal fans. Here’s the final song of the album, ‘Murtumispiste’ (Breaking Point) to whet your appetitte a bit more.
* P.S. here’s Kadonneet Kolme Sanaa: