Album review: SMACKBOUND – 20/20


Frontiers [Release date 12.06.20]

Finland’s Smackbound paid their dues playing clubs as a covers’ band. Their debut album, “20/20” is a distillation of all the styles and stuff they performed on stage…with added songwriting. And the songwriting shines brightly. It never quite dazzles, but we hear what made Frontiers sign the band.

The sound is a shrewd, calculated mix of Prog, Melodic Hard Rock and Symphonic Metal, calibrated by a continuous current of electrifying musicianship. The band members are drawn from Wintersun, Stratovarius and Tracedawn.

These guys are real craftsmen, taking their lead from what’s best in metal, combined with cinematic classicism. Italian composer, Ludovico Einaudi is a band favourite. It’s the perfect backdrop for classically trained singer (and actress) Netta Laurenne. Her voice, tough and determined – like Doro’s been employing Brian Johnson as a voice coach – cuts to the heart of the music every time.

The songs are powerful and catchy, brimful of melodious workouts and rushing rock crescendos. The first 3 tracks, ‘Wall Of Silence’, ‘Drive It Like You Stole It’ and ‘Run’ have been successfully released as trailer singles over the last few months, scoring several hundred thousand hits on Youtube.

The album’s pivotal track, the slower paced ‘Close To Sober’ reveals a much more dramatic side to the band. It’s a hard rock hymn about dreams capturing the content of our lives. Producer/bassman, Tuomas Ily-Jaskari shows a spine tingling command of orchestral pace and colour, skillfuly marshalling keyboards and white light choirs to create a slightly off kilter, psychological soundscape. And when Laurenne damps down the ferocity of her vocals a little, as she does here, she can sound deliciously soulful.

It’s a terrain that’s well mapped. But underwritten, overcooked material like ‘Those Who Burn’ and ‘Troublemaker’ discover that a hectic, frenzied pace makes it easy to lose your footing. ‘Hey Motherfuckers’ and ‘Date With The Devil’ guide the music safely back onto solid ground. Both tracks, exciting urban rock armed with barbed hooks, stray very fortuitously into Lucia Cifarelli/ KMFDM lite territory. And while the influnces are there, they never truly feel like they’re trying to capture the sounds of other bands, just searching for their own.

Smackbound is one to watch. Of that we are sure. ***

Review by Brian McGowan

David Randall plays a selection of new and classic rock in his weekly show first broadcast 14 June 2020 including reference to the Feature series “2020 Vision”.

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