[Svart Records, 2021]
Intro: Thomas Sarakintsis
From Tasavallan Presidentti and Tabula Rasa to Sammal and Kairon; Irse, Finnish progressive rock has offered and continues to offer excellent records, making it a prominent player on the progressive rock map. The first two albums of the Finnish Malady certified their unquestionable quality. These were two records that stood out for their rich lyricism and exemplary compositions, which made them worthy successors of their country’s progressive rock tradition. Three years after Toinen Toista, and again through Svart Records, the release of Ainavihantaa is a fact. We eagerly awaited their new album, as we consider Malady an excellent proposal for the few but ardent listeners of retro-prog. They certainly do not rediscover the wheel, nor is that their goal, but they approach 70s prog in an inspired mood, capturing their own artistic personality, mainly through the lyrics which are sang in their native tongue.
Nostalgic and lyrical soundscapes
The foundations of the sonic structure of the band are built on two different schools: British and Finnish prog bridge Malady’s aesthetic sign and summarize the artistic mastery of the Finns. On the one hand King Crimson and Camel and on the other hand Wigwam and Tasavallan Presidentti summarize the essence of Malady. But is Ainavihantaa the natural continuation of Toinen Toista and consequently of their excellent debut or is it something different? First of all, the answer comes from the statement by keyboardist Ville Rohiola, who believes that their new effort reflects what Malady is in the first place, but on the other hand it is a compass in a new direction. The truth is somewhere in between: the hyonotic, lyrical and dreamy character is once again the band’s core, while the addition of the saxophone brings them to more interesting levels. The jazzy deviations partially differentiate their style, since the way they approached their prog rock was based exclusively on the classic rock instruments plus the keys.
There are three masterpiece compositions, which are undoubtedly among the band’s best songs: the instrumental Vapaa ja autio and Haavan väri could be prominently be included in lists of the best songs of the year. The feeling is similar for the opening Alava vaara, a heavy prog composition. These songs have addictive guitar melodies, saxophone explosions and inspired keyboard phrases, on the other hand Jonni Tanskanen’s bass is wronged by the album mixing. Unfortunately, the compositions are uneven as a whole. When the band finds suitable ground through its music alone, it presents inspired compositions. Sisävesien rannat is also very good, especially when the saxophone enters. There is no indifferent moment, but given the very important addition of winds and especially the saxophone, which can greatly upgrade any composition, we would expect a stronger overall result, more unpredictable, adventurous and ultimately different. Instead, compositions like the title track or Dyadi do not bring something new, and are rather predictable.
Overall, Ainavihantaa is a pretty good album, but after two impressive records and with the emphasis on sound that the saxophone brings, the expectations were higher. There is plenty of talent and will, but the stylistic stagnation naturally bring predictability.
7 / 10
Third record for Malady after their promising debut and the very good Toinen Toista. In the band’s line-up we notice that guitarist Tony Björkman has been replaced by Babak Issabeigloo who plays guitars and sings. In style and influence, Ainavihantaa does not deviate much from the group’s past, with the 70s being the compass of their sound. More specifically, the main sources of inspiration for the Finns are Pink Floyd, the Canterbury sound and, as expected, the Finnish jazz / prog / psych scene of the 70s. It is really very difficult to single out any of the six compositions as they are too similar to each other, with any positive or negative sign that can lead to this conclusion. The main axis of course is the melodic factor, with the guitar leads and the pluralism of vintage keyboard sound (Mellotron, Hammond, Minimoog) having a leading role, as well as the saxophone and the clarinet. The main negatives are definitely the lack of adventurous ideas that usually characterize prog sound as well as the rather mediocre grade they get on songwriting. However, Ainavihantaa is a very pleasant album. Let’s hope for an even better fourth record.
7 / 10