a1. Written in my scars 05:47 b1. The bliss of sudden loss 05:34 ───── 11:21
Shape of Despair are back with their first release since the "Illusion's Play" album that came out in 2004, that is if you don't include the best of compilation that came out the following year. The band is of course one of Finland's best known Funeral Doom Metal bands and albums such as "Illusion's Play, Angels of Distress" and "Shades of..." have played a major influence on many bands especially ones from Europe. If you include Nathalie Koskinen (Vocals) and Toni Raehalme (Violin), they are a seven piece band with main members Pasi "Ruoja" Koskinen - Vocals, Jarno Salomaa - Lead Guitars, Keyboards, Tomi Ullgren - Rhythm Guitars, Sami "Tundra" Uusitalo - Bass and Samu "Beast Dominator" Ruotsalainen all being in the band since 2001 at least. In my neck of the woods they are one of those bands that create debates like - are they really Funeral Doom or just another Goth-Doom outfit ? I have never thought of them as true Funeral Doom but their atmospheric, melodramatic style has always been mesmerizing. Sometimes it is depressing, mournful or dramatic, other times their music is simply hauntingly beautiful. They also have the ability to draw emotion out of very minimalistic, ambient passages which is one element similar bands struggle with. Anyone who knows me or who is a regular reader of my reviews will know I don't like many bands within this genre of Doom Metal but Shape Of Despair" are one band that I have a lot of time for. I will go one step further and say I rate "Angels of Distress" as one of the very best albums of 2001. So with all that out-of-the-way, this EP comes as a bit of a let-down. After such an extended break between albums, 12 minutes of music only is a bit disappointing. I can only hope another full length album appears in 2011.
This EP has been released on the new Norwegian label Solarfall Records, a subsidiary of Aftermath Music and I am glad to say, this beats all my expectations. I really didn't think they could come back with songs as good as these two so this has increased my hunger for a new album even more. On side one you get the title track, "Written In My Scars" that slowly unfolds to reveal a sorrowful composition that could have easily come off one of their early albums. Their strong melodic edge is still intact with vocalist Pasi Koskinen growls blending wonderfully with enchanting melodies. If there is a fault with this EP it is in the mixing of Pasi's voice, he is buried somewhat in the mix sounding muffled against the backdrop of mournful guitar work. The chunky piano notes turn into waves of shimmering keyboards while their guitar duo unleash dual harmonies. "The Bliss of Sudden Loss" on side two is the stronger of the two tracks but only just and again it sounds like it could have appeared on any of their earlier albums but they are not recycling here, they are maintaining a quality and a high standard they set themselves many years ago. "The Bliss Of Sudden Loss" is a more mid-tempo track compared with what is on side one and the guitars dominate more than the keyboards on this track. The strong melody lines they are famous for are here again but this is closer to death doom than the usual Goth-Doom sound they are renown for. This song is dramatic but more restrained than side one's tune but it conveys that atmosphere of despair that this band does so well.
Natalie Koskinen delivers her gorgeous vocals as well so this has all the elements you would expect from a Shape Of Despair release. If this is a taste for what is to come in 2011, it should be a big year for the band. The downside to this release is it is only available on vinyl so many fans will have to search for a download to order to hear it or sit tight and wait for the next compact disc installment of their career. The feeling I get with this EP is Shape Of Despair are such a super confident band that even 6 years between albums can't harm their songwriting skills. If you have ever cared for this band, this EP will satisfy despite its brief playing time...