WORDS BY NATHAN MESITI
“Dark Roasted Rock”, “Pungent notes of exhaust fumes, burning rubber and unwashed hockey gear” and my personal favorite; the caution that the band “may contain nuts”. This was my introduction to Finnish Hard Rockers Rough Grind, obviously taking their home country’s love for coffee and humor and wearing it as a badge of honor. This magnificently talented quartet from the beautiful city of Jyväskylä, the country’s largest lakeland city, serves up the new release “Trouble or Nothing”. A cheekily titled 4 track EP released through Inverse Records.
It opens with the track “Gilded Cage”, A politically inspired track that expresses a disdain for a place where “a fool sits on the throne” and the possibility of going back to a time of discovery and exploration grows slimmer and slimmer. 4 brilliant bars of orchestral arrangement begin the proceedings before epically building into a stomping rock jaunt complete with orchestral arrangements continuing in the background, coming to a relaxed yet still heavy verse introducing the listener to the vocal stylings of vocalist and guitarist Sami.
His voice is unique yet familiar and quite strong, instantly demanding the attention of the listener. The track continues to build until we hit a rather unfortunate pre chorus which does seem a bit shoehorned in and disrupts the flow of the song, yet this is rescued by a catchy sing along chorus that takes the first line of the American national anthem and juxtaposes it with “this is not the land of the free”. Overall, a great and strong start.
The following two tracks are a bit ego centric, “Leap of Faith” and “Bulletproof”. The former having a fast paced rock feel that describes the subjects struggle to find their path and commit to it. Musically it’s pretty catchy although lyrically a bit static and predictable although it is worth a listen for the incredibly charged solo/outro that just rips a new one!
“Bulletproof” has strong Alice in Chains vibes yet unfortunately offers the same predictability of “Leap of Faith” in the same ways that I found lacking. Again, it’s a great rock song, it could have used a more inspired approach. It does have a nice harmonic solo in it and what could possibly be a Pat Benatar inspired line of lyrics “life is a battlefield”, which I did get a chuckle out of but it’s possible that was just me being silly.
This leads up to the EP’s swansong “Hereafter”. It begins with lush guitars and bass that quite frankly sound gorgeous! Sami’s gentle cooing expresses “i’m all alone” mournfully and goes on to display vulnerability with losing a loved one. It’s never expressed who exactly this track was written for but i’ll be damned if it wasn’t someone very special and revered by the band. Thick Insomnium vibes and flooring vocal harmonies creep around the haunting instrumentation throughout, crashing into a spine tingling chorus of epic magnitude. Listening to this as i’m writing, I pause to enjoy the feeling of goosebumps. With the return of the wonderful orchestration in tow, Rough Grind absolutely smashes the deep introspective sound i’ve come to expect from Finnish bands. Straight up, for this track alone I am grateful to have reviewed this EP!
Let us talk production. I enjoyed the overall production of the EP however I found it a little on the haphazard side. “Gilded Cage” and “Hereafter” prove that the band is capable of one day creating a full length album that would prove an astounding listen. “Leap of Faith” and “Bulletproof” however seemed undercooked and filler-ish. The sentiments expressed in those tracks are great but lack of vocal production exposes the weaknesses in Sami’s vocal styles. In terms of mix, we have competency here with strong bass, great vocals and guitar. The drums are okay although I feel like the cymbals may be a bit distorted (or Killi needs new cymbals) and there was definitely a touch too much distortion on the guitar preamps however the tones themselves are killer! Ari has a strong Bass presence throughout and while he throws in a few tricks from time to time he provides more feel than flair, same as Killi. The guitar partnership between Sami and Ville is great with both proving themselves to be quite skilled in technique and knowing when and how to use them.
As noted, when Sami has lyrics and sticks to his strengths, he is a strong vocalist and can evoke emotion in the listener.
Overall as a total package, i’ll say that this release is slightly better than competent. Tracks 1 and 4 give us something great to listen to. Tracks 2 and 3 give the band something to learn from.
GET YOUR HANDS ON “TROUBLE OR NOTHING” HERE!