As a newcomer to Cønstantine, I feel privileged to delve into a mature and obviously refined version of the band. A quick listen to their previous discography indicates to me that this isn’t their first rodeo; they came into this album with a solid background in place. There is so much I like about this album, but I will focus on just a few particular points and then address some critiques.
The opening track “Kill the Tape” sets up the studio album version of gradually introducing the band members on stage at a concert, culminating in the singer taking the stage. Its rhythmic complexity (a la snare attacks on the sixth 32nd) and irregular metric patterns showcase the band’s comprehension of linear time; the incorporation of harmonic-minor-based riffs and virtuosic guitar solos indicate the careful attention given to the pitch realm. The energy of this track sets the pace for the remainder of the album.
The next major element that grabbed my attention is the third track, “In Fading Light.” Here, vocalist Lassi Vääränen showcases his power metal style both lyrically and melodically, with vibrato on sustained notes on the post-chorus. The lyrics portray a dualism of taking courage and accepting the weight of failure. This dualism is supported musically with the lack of emphasis on tonic (Gm) during the chorus and the emphasis of Gm in the closing riff.
On to the highlight of the album and my first taste of Cønstantine: the fifth track, “Human Veil.” The vocals on this track conjure a beautiful hybrid of Rody Walker from Protest the Hero and Phil Anselmo from Pantera (more on this later). The guitars are aggressive from the beginning and throughout. An intriguing moment in the development of this song is that the pre-chorus, in its contrasting texture from the intensity of the verse, seems to set up an equally intense chorus. While the given chorus is not as gripping as one might expect, it is an extremely effective hook that ends with a development of the recurring chord progression (i to VI). Call me a sucker for a pop-y hook but this track just does it for me.
The concluding track of Esthesia, “Collective Harmony”, builds gradually from low-fi electronic drums to full rock texture with the familiar i-VI chord progression (as i-IV6-VI). The vocal technique used on the chorus here recalls that of “Human Veil” in that it is delightfully reserved; the lack of deliberate ‘overblowing’ during what is typically the most prominent moment of a song is a refreshing change of pace from what one might expect of progressive metal writing.
On that note, there are moments in the album where the vocals are overblown and it is not as effective as it might have been had there been a bit more control. Take, for example, the chorus of “In Fading Light”: here, the line ‘We can’t let fear define us’ feels forced every time, leaving me wishing Vääränen had trusted his clean, controlled middle register.
My impression of this album (one of them anyway) is that it makes a great gateway album between modern progressive metal and classic rock-infused power metal. Fans of either are sure to find many exquisite moments throughout Esthesia. Enjoy!
Notable Tracks: “In Fading Light”; “Human Veil”; “Collective Harmony”
FFO: Protest the Hero, Intervals
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