Thursday, 8 May 2014

Extreme Thursday: Noumena

Do you know who knows how to make the most of Thursday? The Finns. Able to make misery out of anything, the musical output of an entire nation could be the soundtrack to any Extreme Thursday.

This week's Finns of choice are melodeath outfit Noumena. Fitting well with the template of their fellow countrymen Insomnium and Omnium Gatherum, Noumena produce a variety of melodeath dripping in anguish and despair while still having catchy lead melodies, great riffs and a beat to keep your toes tapping. Dancing with tears in my eyes, indeed.

Formed way back in the mists of the nineties, 1998 to be precise, the band produced a number of demos before their first album, Pride/Fall, in 2002. Featuring the lower-than-low growls of vocalist Antti Haapanen that border on indecipherable (well, border on and routinely invade) and the clean vocals of guest vocalist Hanna Leinonen, the album was a reasonable start although it failed to light many fires.

Following up with a much stronger effort in 2005 with Absence, Noumena found its feet. Featuring again the vocal talents of Antti and Hanna (a guest vocalist who stuck around for three whole albums) the album took the band to new heights. It was received with great acclaim in the metal world, although still lagging behind the bigger names of Finnish metal. A terrible shame, as many have lamented.

By this time the Noumena sound had been well established. Up-tempo and lively, in spite of the lyrical themes of disaster and misery, with recognisable and infectious riffs gave the band a unique sound and identity. This continued with 2006's anatomy of life.

Possibly the album that brought the band into the limelight, Anatomy Of Life featured ever stronger songwriting and better production. A melodeath album to rival the big bands, and well deserving of the praise heaped upon it. In response to this phenomenal outpouring of praise, the band went mysteriously silent.

The disappearance was not forever, though. Seven years later, in 2013, Noumena released album number four; Death Walks With Me. Featuring a few changes, not least of which involving the departure of long-time guest vocalist Hanna, the band came out with a recognisable, yet subtly different, sound.

Key to this new sound was the addition of Suvi Uura in 2009. Not just a guest vocalist but a full member of the band, the song-writing shifted to make full use of Antti's growls and Suvi's clean vocals. Far from the operatic or "beauty and the beast" styles of many male/female metal partnerships, Antti's death growl is instead played against Suvi's more traditional vocal style.

Indeed, such is the shift in songwriting that, instead of bit parts, Suvi has major parts in all songs, providing the vocal melody and hooks in the choruses against Antti's deep, rumbling growling and grunting. From the short, almost pop chorus in album opener Handful Of Dust to a lead role in gothic number Sleep, the interplay of vocal styles against the established Noumena riffs and melodies has a great effect.

Now that the band is back in action, with a more permanent lineup and its own label, Haunted Zoo Productions, started by guitarist Ville Lamminaho, the future is bright. Let's hope for more Noumena misery in our lives very soon.