With an attractive front cover that reflects what one would consider to be the next promo poster for Cirque du Soleil because of the artistic flare and feathered textures given to the overall appeal and with the courtesy of Fastball Music we are brought this sophomore album from Finland’s own, Montage.
Hailing from Helsinki, Finland’s southern capital Montage comes at us with an album encrusted in nine tracks that serve up Finland’s history from the Stone Age to the Modern Age through a variety of different tones that carry the record from start to Finnish! Formed in 2011 the band released their debut record in 2014 with gigs in their homeland, The Netherlands, Estonia and Russia to bright and promising reviews. In 2015 the band replaced their vocalist and began work on this record at Taajuusvarjostin Studios in Helsinki with a fresh outlook and diving head first in to the pool of sound that they unearthed and bathed in for this album to bring us their BIG wall of sound.
Age of Innocence leads us off with an ethereal piece of acoustic guitar work that has your ears softened by it’s humble tones and gentle synths to segue us in to a hard edged rock formation that brings you back to the heavier compositions of The Alan Parsons Project with the dual layered vocals and bright tones with that low end rumble of the bass and the tight drum patterns that keep the song in a snapped belt feeling as it just gleams through the airwaves in your room. Striking and confident the band has this one truly in the pocket and throws the envelope to the wind as they encompass a variety of timbre changes and tones to bring in several decades of sounds with their old school synths to their 80’s bass and drum drive along with the stout vocal track and the sharp cutting edge compressed guitar tones that are just chomping at the bit to be released from their leash and take off running. Great opening track to what the rest of the album beholds for us. Calling in their classic title track, Metamorphosis as the follow up piece the band throws us a bone early on here with another powerful take on the Prog feel as the fluidity of the music has you tapping your feet and digging deep into your chair as you find yourself bobbing your head to this one as they bring in the guts and glory here complete with quick start/stops and timbre changes with another prominent composition where no one takes off leaving the others behind, it’s tight but still has groove to move. Theatrical and stalwart the band makes no bones about who their influences are and how they are paying homage to them here. Proto-Prog-Hard-Rock combined into one here the band crams so much in to just under five minutes you play it again just incase you missed something. The guitar solo along with the short synth bursts give the song flare and spice in all the right doses and never over doing it to keep your mouth watering as the album continues to meet your cravings. Nature’s Child keeps the album flowing here and again brings out the decades of great music the band has been influenced by as they shift gears and pull it back ever so slightly on the harder edge sound to a more fuller and operatic feel to the track like a full orchestra climbed in to their heads and said let’s do this. The track has that storybook feel to it as the vocals regale us the story and the innocence of the verses before the chorus erupts in to a frenzy of sound that builds higher and higher without losing control. The feel of the 90’s big wall of sound that Prog had then is very present here and a complete joy to hear again. The guitar solo here soars as it cuts through the atmosphere and dissipates in to the heavens as the vocals come back to close out the song with the full band in a major upswing of sound here.
Black Magic opens up with a very familiar piano tone that has me thinking of Rick Wright’s hands on the ivory keys in Dark Side of the Moon as the song crawls its way through the opening bars and builds up to a power track of driving bass that just grips the floor and rips it up as the drums nail it back down with intense precision. This track truly defines the vocalist’s accent but makes it all the more madrigal here and accentuates the song to an even higher level. The snarling guitar tone is ominous as the song reveals its own black magic throughout the song. In the mid section the band pull back and let their magic flow as the timbre calms down and then they come back in to the fold bringing us to the end of the song with no regrets. Striking tune and a sure to be crowd pleaser at every gig for them. Haunted smacks us with a wave of tones and an all out blast of sound as the band tidal waves through this one and the feel of the Neo-Prog-Metal sound comes out in full swing with both fists bare-knuckled and raw. The guitar tones at times has me reminiscing of the band (also from Finland), Amorphis from when I was back in high school…. many years ago and we were cutting our teeth on every metal band we could get our hands on that was outside of North America. Very strict musicianship is found in this track as is with the entire album as Montage holds nothing back on this record, it’s a full out tour-de-force record that; bites, snarls, grabs, loves, hates and does it all over again to you throughout. Invisible World has the band reaching in to their stack of albums and breaking out their 70’s wardrobe for this one as the feel and tones conjure up the long lost tones and feel of the gatefold album and the songs held within its domains. The power ballad and multi-toned interludes has this track striking out with all its whips and sins to the table, never asking for forgiveness either. Death Valley makes you feel like you are actually walking in it along the highway alone and under the basking sun and later its bleached moon beating down on you. The dirty guitar tone is the sweat pouring down your back as your clothes stain and soak as you make your way through one of the nastiest places on earth. The bass is low lying like a sneaky reptile looking for its next meal as the synths are the soaring buzzards overhead waiting for you to just give up and die and the drums is your heartbeat pounding as you try to conserve your body’s moisture knowing that it quickly drains from you with no reprieve. A very dark and foreboding track that has no soul and a devil somewhere waiting to be free to make that deal with you for your soul for a glass of water. Stygian best describes this dark track that disturbs the album just past the half way point. Brilliant.
Reptiles, could you be any funkier? Totally a throwback to the 70’s again with this one but done a la 21st Century with its sleezy bass lines and snapping drum formations accompanied with a slinky guitar track to lie just under the singer’s chant. The song glides and surf’s the waves of the tones they’re putting out and they drop in that awesome polluted bass line with the drums just before the guitar solo to keep it nostalgic but still modern. Such a Motorhead lyric too, singing about what else… Reptiles! Lemmy would approve and nods his head to you for this one. It also captivates the band’s ability to be eclectic and diverse in their music and not just staying solid within one style or stout genre makeup. The entire album is full of influences and styles that keeps it fresh and vibrant even if a song or two are ominous and down right dirty! The album closes out with Carved in Stone a classic stake in the acoustic world with a waltz through the signature sounds of the Zeppelinesque mid concert tone down and acoustic set with some clap along tribal type drumming in the background and that troubadour vocal of days of Yore where you can really feel the history of Finland’s long lost warriors and heroes being sung about and spirits envisioned through the music as the band sit around the smoke of incense and folklore of their forefathers. A brilliant track to close the album out with the song’s title being the last things you hear before the record closes out to black.
Montage has delivered and given us an album that is truly as grand as their sound is and if this is a forerunner to what is next it’s absolutely enticing and mouth watering to say the least! They have brought their “A” Game to this album and I can only commend them to keep it up as they continue to pursue their musical journey. They hold their influences proudly in check and never let them be taken away by where they are from by embracing their roots and culture to the hilt. Well done Montage, well done indeed. Enjoy.