While not quite as well-known as some of the other Finnish melodic death metal bands that have been around for a similar amount of time, Bloodred Hourglass has been building up their repertoire over the past fourteen years. Their debut full-length Lifebound in 2012 was much heavier on the thrash and groove side of the spectrum, with later efforts merging that heaviness with the type of soaring instrumentation Scandinavian melodic death metal does best. This year’s Godsend is the band’s fourth album overall and finds them further refining these elements with an even fuller production and strong hooks from beginning to end. It may not stray too far from the established genre sound, but Bloodred Hourglass does it a truly convincing fashion and is sure to remind listeners of why they got into melodic death metal so many years ago.
Godsend feels like a mixture of just about every element of Swedish and Finnish melodic death metal from the 90s until the mid-2000s, and I mean that in the best way possible. Rather than going for one specific template, Bloodred Hourglass strikes a fine balance between aggressive instrumentation where the tempos fall between faster thrash influences and mid-tempo chugs alongside sweeping, atmospheric melodies similar to fellow countrymen like Wolfheart. There is some synth work to be found throughout the course of the album, but it’s used to support the atmosphere and energy of the songs rather than heading into overly poppy or danceable directions like some of the genre has headed in recent memory. Compared to what I’ve heard of their previous albums the production values have taken a significant leap forward, with the guitar work coming through with even more power and a larger than life feel than ever before. It’s the right move for this group as their choruses have a tendency to hook you with either aggression or sweeping melodies, so making them room filling as they blare out of your speakers makes a big difference. It’s certainly reminiscent of a whole slew of different bands from melodic death metal’s past and present, but Bloodred Hourglass sells it with hooks that stick with you and make them more than a mere imitator.
Jarkko Koukonen’s been with the band since the very beginning, and he brings a fairly wide range of harsh pitches to the material. His main pitch is a growl that is somewhere around the middle of the spectrum, but he’s able to move into higher screams and even lower growls when the instrumentals reach their peak level of aggression. Where so many groups fell short over the past decade and a half with a vocalist that came across as one-dimensional, here the performance shifts often enough to hold your attention without losing any energy in the process. There are a few cleaner ranges here and there to add some additional nuances to specific choruses, but as a whole the emphasis is on intensity and grit which is appreciated.
The tempos may be a bit closer to melodic death metal’s early to mid-2000s reign rather than its overly thrashy origins, but Godsend still has that same level of fire and fury mixed in with soaring choruses that will grab any fan of the genre. Bloodred Hourglass has returned with a highly polished and catchy release that has plenty of strong hooks without any filler to hold it back, and that’s hard to find these days. Godsend is out now from Out of Line Music.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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