Gladenfold – From Dusk To Eternity
Gladenfold – From Dusk To Eternity (2014)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
Gladenfold is a name that’s been kicking around in the underground for years now. I think I first heard of this band in 2008 or so, and after 11 years, it has finally pushed out a full-length release – one that, it turns out, was well worth waiting all this time for. Checking in as “melodic death/power” from Finland, you might think that you’ve got a pretty good grip on where this band’s sound is going to fall before hearing a note. However, just like other relative newcomers Brymir and Whispered, Gladenfold has escaped from both the well-defined Children Of Bodom/Norther and Wintersun/Ensiferum pens , and is running amok amongst the snowy hills of Finland, just doing whatever it bloody well pleases.
And what pleases Gladenfold, evidently, is a striking mixture of Finn-power metal with droves of various other elements. Heroic group chants, sweeping orchestrations, bombastic choruses, and death metal roars rage in a sea of admirably unbridled creativity. It’s a little chaotic, sure, but some of the songs here are top-grade. Adding to a veritable ocean of influences and interesting characteristics, singer Esko Itälä has a voice that reminds me frequently of the laudable Georg Neuhauser of Serenity. This smooth crooning crops up throughout a few tracks, and lends a graceful air of command to the band’s clean sections and choruses. The vocal melody writing is also a bit reminiscent of the Austrian power-proggers.
“Fate Escape” tears things open with a broadside of melo-death bombast in a song that mixes up sections enough to avoid archetypical rondo form. It embodies the band’s character well enough that a listen or two through this track alone is probably enough to tell if From Dusk To Eternity will suit you. That said, while the keyboards maintain a similar (and VERY Finnish) sound throughout, the very next song, “Game Of Shadows”, boasts a substantially less instantaneously hooky and more creeping approach that favors a subtle crescendo and more subdued melody.
One of my favorite picks is “Six Soldiers Stand”, a striking varied tempo number that brings everything to a dramatic boiling point while simultaneously coming across as a bit more restrained than some of the band’s more frenetic numbers. “Bloodfeather” makes further use of surprisingly tactful group vocals. Generally when I think of Nordic bands doing something like this, it’s a rowdy, “slap your Viking brother on the back and raise your mug” kind of tone, but that’s not what Gladenfold is doing at all – which makes the combination of light and smoothly harmonized vocals that much more striking when combined with harsh verses. Finally, the straightforward power metal approach of closer “Dementia” adds a bit of flavor and variety that I find very refreshing coming at the end of the album.
What’s Gladenfold doing wrong, or what could it improve so that I’d like it better? After thinking about this long and hard, I think the best answer is “focus”. Much of the middle of the album is drowning a bit in its own ambition. Much of the album sounds grandiose, sometimes over-the-top, and quite dense, and it’s this tumultuous approach that makes it run together somewhat. Gladenfold is jubilant and energetic, but its strongest pieces are those where it channels its creativity in decisive strokes. Also, while guitar leads are abundant, there is little riffing. A heavier, meatier tone in key places could go a long way for the band.
Those less opposed to this chaotic jubilee will probably be frothing at the mouth for this release. Speedy melo-death fans that place a premium on striking melody and involved orchestration should be getting just what they want in From Dusk To Eternity, and I know that I’ll be buying this without hesitation. Gladenfold’s long-awaited full length is an excellent amalgamation of key-laden symphonic power metal and melodic death metal that is crying for the recognition that it richly deserves.
3.75 // 5