It's not very often that I'm lost for words after listening to an album; not because the music here is bad, it's actually extremely good, but because I just have no idea how to actually describe or categorise it! What makes it even more perplexing is that this is Finnish band Stam1na's sixth album, they have received numerous awards plus gold and platinum records in their home country, but I've never heard of them before. Had I been familiar with their earlier material I suspect I would have been much more comfortable describing 'SLK' and prepared for what appears on this CD.
First off, Stam1na are indeed metal and, in some cases, that metal is very heavy indeed, but they mix such a vast array of styles (modern, death, thrash, black, melodic, Finnish folk, funk and even pop) that you just cannot pinpoint any one in particular. For some bands that would be a problem; how often do you read a review slating a band for not having a direction? However, in Stam1na's case, this huge sack of influences seems to work like a dream. You're never quite sure what's going to happen next, but whatever it is tends to be fantastic and I don't think I've ever heard another band quite like them. In the year 2014, that is a bold statement! 'SLK' is short for 'Salli Luonnollinen Kuolema' and that roughly translates to 'Allow Natural Death'. All of Stam1na's albums are sung in Finnish and it isn't the easiest language to translate or decipher, but the theme of death does seem, in one way or another, to run through each of the eleven tracks showcased here.
Opener 'Rautasorkka' starts with some very fast drumming and guitar work, but over the top of that is a slow piano melody which reminded me of something else and it took ages to place it. When it did click it wasn't what I was expecting! Part of the melody is very similar to the piano in 'Vienna' by Ultravox. Reading that, you're probably thinking "Rick has finally flipped" but that's the sort of thing Stam1na throw at you constantly. It shouldn't make sense but it does. That and following track 'Kalmankansa' certainly seem more commercial in flavour, as if the band have planned for those to be played on the radio. It doesn't make them less good though, just different. Third track 'Panzerfaust' is where things really kick off. It's melodic death/symphonic black metal, sort of Scar Symmetry meets Dimmu Borgir but, like many Stam1na songs, sounds as if it's delivered by Primus. It's a cracker!
Vocalist/guitarist Antti Hyyrynen is able to sing and scream to a very high standard, lead guitarist Pekka Olkkonen's lead work is phenomenal, Kai-Pekka Kangasmäki is heavy as iron on the bass, Emil Lähteenmäki's keyboards dance all over the music in various fantastic ways and the drumming of Teppo Velin is frightening!. Please excuse translations but 'Kuoliaaksi Ruoskitut Hevoset' (Horses Flogged To Death), ‘Kylmmä Kuuma Kylmmä’ (Cold Hot Cold) and ‘Heikko Ehkä’ (Perhaps Weak) are all amazing and 'Masiina' sounds like a dance black metal Rammstein, utterly mind bending but so catchy! Stam1na are really something quite special and I'm amazed they haven't crossed my path before. As if I haven't got enough to listen to, I've now got to seek out the first five albums because if they are half as good and odd as 'SLK', then I'm going to be smiling for a long time!
Review by Rick Tilley
29th Sept 2014
4) Kuoliaaksi Ruoskitut Hevoset
6) Heikko Ehkä
8) Kylmä Kuuma Kylmä
9) Usko Pois
10) Kolmen Minuutin Hiljaisuus
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"Stam1na are really something quite special..."