02. Valtiaan uudet vaateet
03. Tavaista palamaan!
04. Puolikas ihminen
09. Ei Encorea
Even though Stam1na are top-of-the-charts huge in Finland, they’re pretty much unknown outside, probably because they sing exclusively in Finnish (well, they break that trend on Nocebo, but spoilers!). This is a shame, because they’re one of the best Finnish bands. I would characterize their music as prog-thrash, but that’s very loose. You should just listen to them, because they have a distinctive style. What makes them so special are the extremely aggressive shouted vocals from singer/guitarist Antti Hyyrynen and the super-tight, slightly off-time riffing. This creates a sense of urgency in their music, which goes well with the vocals. Nocebo is their fifth studio album, and it’s most likely one of their best. Let’s check it out!
The album opens with ‘Pirunpaska’, which sounds a bit like a mix of Dream Theater and Strapping Young Lad, but that is just a taste of how progressive Stam1na can be. Soon after, you’ll be treated to the trademark Stam1na sound, with Antti’s angry vocals and the low 7 string riffs. Stam1na are very adept at using their extended range guitars; while they definitely chug on the lower strings when the songs deem it necessary, they also stray away from the lower register quite frequently, creating a contrast that makes the low notes heavier when they do come by. While they are really good at writing syncopated headbang sections, they are also really good with melody, and every song is very memorable with sing-along sections. Their mastery of songwriting is very easy to recognize, and they have a very accessible yet heavy sound.
‘Valtian uudet vaateet’ is the perfect Stam1na song; it has every element that makes up their sound, complete with masterful guitar solos. The keyboards are also way more prominent on Nocebo, but they don’t overtake the sound. Some props go to the excellent production here, because everything is super crisp and clear, and you can hear every single note very well, including the bass. The merits of the production become specially apparent in songs like ‘Tavastia palamaan!’, where the song starts off as old school punk rock, but transitions into a mildly gothic sing-along chorus and then goes off into other weird sections, in typical Stam1na fashion. All of these sections sound coherent and make sense due to the production, and Antti’s voice carries everything from the singing to yelling to the low growls perfectly.
This is clearly Stam1na’s most progressive album, because they are quite a bit more experimental with song structures on some songs. There are country-style breaks and other bits of craziness too (believe it!). Now, this might be of some concern to some fans. To be fair, their previous album, Viimeinen Atlantis lacked some heaviness and was more melodic. Nocebo, however, is a good blend of their Raja-era style balls-to-the-walls heaviness with their slightly more mellow style of Atlantis. I appreciated elements from both, but Raja got a bit tiring sometimes, with Atlantis not far behind. This album, however, is perfect. I really don’t want to spoil it, but ‘Aivohalvaus’ is one of their heaviest and most epic songs. There are short sections of full on blast beats, excellent use of keyboards, very epic singing, and a prolonged midsection with seven string chugging and keyboards is amazing. This album is not only a true return to form, it is also a forward step into a better direction.
They seem to be experimenting a lot with a newly adopted style of low growls, and it goes well with their sound. Antti is a monster of a singer, and whatever he does sounds amazing. I’m still amazed by his extremely fast singing on older songs like ‘Kadonneet Kolme Sanaa’, and he delivers here too. His skills aren’t limited to yelling and growling though; he sings beautifully in ‘Lepositeet‘, and then breaks down into a really weird, creepy growl. He has definitely improved as a vocalist over the years, and the songwriting has grown along with it. The guitar work is way more diverse on this album, with solos having a wide range of influences, sounding like 80’s rock at times, and at other times like Christian Muenzner.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the album is ‘Nomad’, which—if I am not mistaken—is their first English song. I’m not sure if this is Stam1na trying to break into the west, because it’s just one song and Antti has the heaviest accent I’ve ever heard, but it’s a really strong song. If I heard this song for the first time as a non-Finnish listener, I’d be amazed by the band. They should definitely release this as a single in the west. It’s a great display of their style, with techy thrash moments to epic choruses. My only gripe is that Antti can’t really sing with his usual sense of urgency, but I’m sure he will get better with time. This song is one of the best on the album, so I consider this a successful experiment.
Overall, this is Stam1na’s best album so far with a significant improvement in musicianship and songwriting. Their songs are usually around four minutes, but they simultaneously feel like 2 minute thrash songs and 7 minute prog songs. Not many bands can successfully pull this off, but then again Stam1na are not your average band. I realize that the non-English thing might take some of your enjoyment away, but I barely understand any Finnish and I still loved this album. Granted, it’s quite European in its stylings, but good music is good music regardless of origin, and this music is definitely good.
Stam1na – Nocebo gets…