ATF Review: Stam1na – Nocebo

Location: Lemi, Finland
Genre: Progressive/Thrash Metal
Released: February 8, 2012
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: All-Time Favorites

By: Kris Kotlarik

My first exposure to Stam1na, one of the most popular metal bands in Finland (most Americans and other countries don’t know who they are, although that could change on their upcoming tour through Europe), came in 2012 during the Finnish Metal Meeting, in which they played a headlining set. They were quite entertaining, but their greatness didn’t sink in further for a couple years. Their most recent effort, SLK, is another likely ATF nominee, and most of their previous works would also rate very highly. But this particular album has kept me captivated in many ways.

It starts rather unassumingly with “Pirunpaska,” roughly translated as “damn shit.” The first few seconds sounds like the beeping sound of a microwave, but it quickly turns into a track with many different riffs and a chromatically lyricized chorus. This is one of the more upbeat tracks on Nocebo, and the best example of this is the bridge that occupies a large section from about 2:10 to 3:00.

“Valtiaan Uudet Vaateet” has a main riff that would have perfectly blended into an early Mastodon album. The chorus is also extremely catchy, capturing the essence of “scream singing,” with the emphasis on the clean aspect of the vocals. There’s also a nice guitar lead that isn’t overly showoff-ish but is extremely effective in crafting a melody. The shortest and thrashiest track on this album is “Tavastia Palamaan,” except for its catchy chorus, which is a common theme for this band. The same goes for crafting innovative bridge sections.

“Puolikas Ihminen” is slightly less thrashy than the previous track, although it has its aggressive moments. Even in its thrash sections, it still carries an upbeat sound. There’s even elements of classic country in this track’s bridge section, because…why not? It all flows so well that it really doesn’t make a difference. “Aivohalvus” is another thrashing track with another utterly fantastic bridge section. They have the elements of songwriting down to a T, and it only gets better from here.

The second half starts with “Rabies,” which contains another quasi-Mastodon riff, and I swear that I’m hearing a metalized version of an oldies song in the pre-chorus, if it can even be called that since it only shows up once. This track has the proggiest structure on here and is a highly recommended listen. The next track, “Lepositeet,” has an intro that resembles the Finnish Santana talking sensually to you while playing a beautiful riff (which comes back later) before turning into a midtempo number. Even as one of the weaker tracks on this album, it’s still solid by all metrics.

The last three tracks are among the album’s best, and would compare favorably to any consecutive three tracks on most albums. First is “Nomad,” which is the only Stam1na track across their six albums to be sung entirely in English. This sounds like it started as a creative reworking of Metallica’s “Wherever I May Roam,” which I am quite fond of in comparison to other post-Master of Puppets tracks, but “Nomad” goes far beyond the latter and morphs into a track similar to “Rabies” in structure, but is more engaging and has a great solo.

“Ei Encorea,” or “No Encore,” is another fun listen that I can’t really put my finger on in terms of describing it. It’s thrashy, while not being thrash metal, and proggy, while still carrying a relatively traditional structure. The ending, which takes the galloping chugga riff with its clean, melodic vocals, is one of the more unique features of this already creative effort. Lastly, “Arveton on Arvoton,” or “Scarless is Worthless,” has the best damn chorus on this album, and the bridge is simply stellar. Guided by a grooving bass, it unexpectedly takes a left turn into Breakdownland. For those who are trying to figure out how to make breakdowns work, this is how it’s fucking done. The chorus changes key signatures for the last go-around before fading out gracefully.

There seems to be an argument in the metal community (what? Metalheads arguing with each other? I’m shocked!) about the existence of modern thrash metal, and why it still exists. There’s one group saying “Screw that; Slayer did it 30 years ago and these new guys are posers.” The other side says “Hey man, these new thrash bands are different.” With respect to bands like Warbringer and Havok, both of whom I like, they’re not as innovative as I’d like them to be and would probably score a 3.5 or so on review (although Warbringer’s debut might be worthy of a 4.0). Stam1na, on the other hand, is way out there in terms of reinventing thrash metal. It doesn’t even feel like you’re listening to a thrash metal album, and frankly, based on what I can make of their lyrics, I don’t think the members of Stam1na really care about any of this nonsense.

The fact that they have reached as much acclaim as they have in their home country is either nothing short of a miracle, or a testament to how awesome Finland is as a country. Because when was the last time a truly innovative American band won a Grammy for hard rock/metal song or album? And for that matter, when was the last time anyone in the United States gave a crap about that particular category?

Anywho, this album rules. Stam1na rules. Listen to them.

Overall: This is right up there with Anathema’s Weather Systems for “Best Album of 2012.” 

Rating: 4.5*

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