Stam1na - Raja
Sakara Records
Thrashy n' Melodic Groove/Speed Metal (or sumthin...)
10 songs (43.43)
Release year: 2008
Stam1na, Sakara Records
Reviewed by Aleksie
Album of the month
Stam1na’s third album (the title being Finnish for Border or Limit) was severely interesting before any notes were even described from it, as it was to be produced by Janne Joutsenniemi, currently bass player of Suburban Tribe, but more importantly, the bassist and singer of Stone, one of Finland’s all time greatest speed/thrash metal outfits – one which the Stam1na boys have always named as one of their biggest influences. Then when the band members started to comment beforehand that the new stuff is headed for a more punkish direction, I got slightly worried, being the prog nerd that I am. These worries fortunately turned out to be for nothing.

Make no mistake, placing Stam1na in a genre as the Metalreviews -standard dictates is still a major beeootch, but the group has streamlined its sound considerably since the manic ADD -mayhem of Uudet Kymmenen Käskyä. Anyone not familiar with Stam1na should first read up on my review for that album (or Kayla's for the brilliant debut) found on this site to get a good base in imagining this band’s sound.

I’d say the speed metal -type riffage has increased and the big time tempo-doodlings have diminished in comparison to their two earlier albums. While the new session-keyboard player has broadened the sounds and possibilities for the group, this record is very much a ground and pound -affair, although there are still plenty of twists with the rhythms and especially vocals. As far as the very powerful and multifaceted vocals of Antti Hyyrynen go (damn, just listen to the guy go from screaming to shouting to a subtle robotic lament with such ease), I have to emphasize the catchiness of the vocal melodies in almost all of the songs. The choruses are killer throughout the whole record and the Devin Townsend-esque vocal layers and harmonies are plentiful in both number and enjoyability. It is a real shame that the Finnish lyrics render themselves un-understandable for so many foreigners because of the language-barrier, as very clever word-playing is the game of the day on most of these tunes.

Hammasratas kicks off the set with furious thrashing and Hyyrynen employing a great rapid fire -vocal style á la Tom Araya on Hell Awaits. Susi-Ihminen continues the fast beatdown with a murderous riff and a groove that denies the neck muscles of any rest. Muistipalapelit begins with a very infectious vocal line that is actually the chorus and I just can’t get this sucker out of my head – a definite future live favourite with a rocking vibe, despite a slightly more twisted arrangement. Vartijaton is the “ballad” of the album - in that it is very slow, but not soft by any means in my books. Although it retains a relatively lively structure, I feel it is almost doomy in atmosphere before it begins a churning mid-tempo after a while.

The first “single” off of the album, which has been equipped with a video, Lääke, is another speed-infused rocker that should get the pits moving at the summer festivals and damp clubs alike. Awesome guitar solo, as well. Kädet Vasten Lasia feels like a natural counterpart to Likainen Parketti from the previous record. The mostly spoken lyrics emphasize the gloomy feeling the song just pours out. The slightly jazzy piano-doodlings in the end of the tune confuse greatly at first, but grow on you a lot after a while. The album is capped off with three big time riff -monsters, out of which the thrash-beats-with-some-peppering-blasts -driven Luova Hulluus is my favourite.

Many of my fellow Finnish metalheads have criticised this album for a loss of a personal sound compared to their earlier works. The most common association has been that Stam1na has decreased its own elements in favour of material that feels like second-rate copying of bands like Strapping Young Lad and Meshuggah, who undoubtedly can be heard especially in the rhythmic patterns. Although I admittedly don’t have an extremely strong experience on these two great extreme metal bands, I do own a sufficient amount of albums to say that in my mind these influences have not overtaken the group's own personality. Stam1na still sounds very unique, devastating and catchy all at the same time. Raja might just be my favourite release by them, time will tell, but I wouldn’t mind if they went in a more epic, proggy direction after this collection of punchy, to-the-point gems.

Check out whole tunes from the band's Myspace

Killing Songs :
Hammasratas, Susi-Ihminen, Muistipalapelit, Vartijaton, Lääke, Luova Hulluus & Murtumispiste.
Aleksie quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Stam1na that we have reviewed:
Stam1na - Viimeinen Atlantis reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 91 / 100
Stam1na - Uudet Kymmenen Käskyä reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 89 / 100
Stam1na - Stam1na reviewed by Kayla and quoted 84 / 100
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