~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
Poisonblack is a newly evolved project that features guitarist Ville Laihiala of Sentenced fame and vocalist J.P. Leppaluoto from the band Charon. The result is a rather vacuous attempt at Goth Metal, which is better described as ‘Goth Metal lite,’ having more in common with poppier bands like HIM, rather than the darker and celebrated moods of My Dying Bride and the like. Having a link with the bland and overrated Sentenced, I sort of knew what to expect but tried to keep my mind open.
The songs follow traditional pop rock structures, with catchy choruses and smooth bittersweet melodies. While the mood of Poisonblack’s music is certainly one rich with a kind of desperate sadness, it lacks the urgency and intensity necessary for true credibility. I can’t help but feel that, like many current bands that are loosely tagged as Goth Metal, this has more in common with polished hard rock ballads than it does with the more grandiose and dramatic elements that originally made the Goth Metal genre so unique. The lyrics are rather unimpressive, weighed down with innumerable clichés and a pitiful lack of depth.
For instance, a track entitled “With Her I Die” could have been quite promising. But instead of being a starkly romantic testament to love beyond the grave, or better yet, a fearful confession of helplessness at the hands of a seductive femme fatale, it is instead a rather sappy account with winning poetical gems and phrases praising his “mistress of pain” and even worse, “the one I love, my whore/the one I hate and adore.” Yep, they rhymed ‘adore’ with ‘whore.’ If the song possessed any remote sense of playful sarcasm, it MIGHT have worked, but instead it is delivered with grim sincerity, capped with a big chorus that resembles some of Skid Row or Extreme’s more earnest moments of passion.
I will admit that this disc is not without a few redeeming qualities. The production is crisp and full, and some nice bass lines interlock with live percussion for a relatively convincing rhythm section. The guitars are mixed loud and share the spotlight with the airy synths, but the problem with the guitars is that they rarely do anything other than produce power chords and rather ho-hum clean arpeggios. The essential Goth Metal ingredients missing are those slow, lugubrious twin guitar harmonies that My Dying Bride, Anathema, and Theatre Of Tragedy made part and parcel to the genre. The lead guitars that do appear are in the shape of melodic solos and as one should expect, they result in a dated sound, therefore further aligning Poisonblack with the ballads of sensitive 80’s hard rockers rather than with dark metal bands that are taken seriously. The guitar work here is frankly substandard and the band makes the mistake of letting the responsibility of atmosphere fall entirely upon the keyboards. The synths are halfway decent, often resorting to ghostly strings and choirs and some twinkling pianos here and there. But it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before, nor is it anything that other bands haven’t produced with greater finesse.
J.P. Leppaluoto’s vocals, despite the trite material he has to work with, are often shaded with a genuine sense of emotion. He has the potential to be a fine singer, who smartly avoids the trappings of death metal growls. My initial guess is that he just doesn’t have it in him but more likely, Poisonblack is shooting for more accessibility. At any rate, his voice is well suited for darker, moody music – and I suspect that he could possibly shine on stronger material. J.P.’s trembling raspy tenor has the ability to be very expressive, but it is just not backed up with music or content to successfully convince me that Poisonblack are a band that I should recommend to readers.
Overall, Poisonblack were just a big let down. Their music is far too upbeat for my tastes, but even so and accepting the fact that they aren’t churning out sluggish Doom dirges, their material is just plain weak and falls short on nearly every possible level. This is a disc of ten power ballads that shamefully hide behind the clichés of gothic convention, which in many respects, are being exploiting to sell records. Again, I will say this as I have said before: there is a hell of a lot more to Gothic music than keyboards and lyrics about sex, death, and sado-masochism. And with Goth in the sad state it is in many respects, it can’t afford to be misrepresented. What it boils down to is that Poisonblack is too ‘wussy’ for Black/Death metal heads, too shallow and up-tempo for Doom fans, too sugarcoated for Goth rockers, and far too basic and predictable for Prog aficionados. I shrug my shoulders and move on, and suggest readers do the same…
Poisonblack – Official Site:
Century Media Records: