Review: Smackbound – ‘20/20’

Founded back in 2015, Smackbound is a new metal band from Finland, although some of the players might be familiar. Guitarist Teemu Mäntysaari treads the boards with Wintersun, Tuomas Yli-Jaskari was the brains behind Finnish metallers Tracedawn, which also featured keyboard player Vili Itäpelto, drummer Rolf Pilve ply’s his trade with Stratovarius. And then there is founding member Netta Laurenne; a classically trained singer who you might have heard with acts such as Amorphis, Lordi, Black Sun, and Elvenking. Playing covers together as Run For Cover has given them time to gel as a band; something that is very clear when cranking ‘20/20’ up. Once you check out Smackbound above, check out Netta and the band covering Dio’s ‘Don’t Talk To Strangers’ (here), a ballsy move taking on such an icon as Ronnie James Dio, but Netta knocks it out of the park, and the band do it great justice.

Beginning with the turbo-charged ‘Wall Of Silence’, ‘20/20’ delivers quite an instant jolt to the senses. Rolf Pilve propels the band forward with his powerful drum work, and forms quite a partnership with bassist Tuomas Yli-Jaskari (who also serves as producer), Teemu Mäntysaari is as dazzling here as he is with Wintersun, and Vili Itäpelto adds little flourishes to embellish the overall sound on a vibrant opening track. Netta Laurenne is a revelation. She has a fantastic voice that delivers power and aggression in abundance, while still retaining a bluesy side to her vocals. ‘Drive It Like You Stole It’ contains all of these elements, and then some. The track begins with a motivational spoken word intro from Laurenne, similar in tone and vibe to Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’, before exploding to life with real energy, as well as some cowbell!

‘Close To Sober’ is a powerful showcase for the softer, more vulnerable side to Laurenne’s range. Quite a few symphonic metal characteristics throughout; great arrangements, stirring choral vocals and that soaring quality which the genre brings. A real highlight on an album of many. Power ballad (with a spacey, proggy vibe at times) ‘The Game’ is a real slow-burning gem, one of those tracks where you think you know where it’s going, only for it to go in the opposite direction. ‘Those Who Burn’ is another highlight, much grittier and returns to the kind of aggression shown earlier on the album. In places Netta’s vocals border on the harsh side, in other places: ethereal. Again there is a slight proggy vibe to the music; Dream Theater with harsh vocals? to an extent, yes. It forms a great partnership with ‘Hey Motherfuckers’, which at times has a killer Skunk Anansie-esque groove.

‘Troublemaker’ mixes it up again, and at its heaviest, has a Judas Priest ‘Painkiller’ feel to it; mostly down to the pounding bass drum sound from Rolf Pilve, the insane, speedy riffage from Teemu Mäntysaari, and the machine-gun vocals from Netta Laurenne. Also, killer bass lines from Tuomas Yli-Jaskari. If ‘Troublemaker’ has Smackdown at their heaviest, then ‘Date With The Devil’ has them at their Euro-metal poppiest best. Such a great song, complete with some lovely shredding.

Ending on the towering six-minute epic ‘Wind And Water’ (lavish arrangements in abundance), ’20/20′ is an incredibly strong debut album which will no doubt make many album of year polls. Frontiers Music are on a roll at the minute, a great run of form with some incredible new bands, the label has embraced the heavier side of the metal genre, and are beginning to reap the rewards.

Connect with Smackbound here.

Review – Dave

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