1. Blinded
2. The Dying Ember
3. Mask Of Damnation 
4. Divine Illusion
5. Ethereal Journey 
6. Shrine Of The Ocean
7. Dagger
8. The Rival's Spell 

Jouni Nikula - vocals

Arto Räisälä - guitars

Teemu Hänninen - guitars

Jari Huttunen - drums

Pasi Kauppinen - bass

Henrik Klingenberg - keys

REQUIEM:  "Mask of Damnation"           requiem      

Recorded and mixed at Sonic Pump Studios, Helsinki, Finland,
August - September, 2003
Engineered by Nino Laurenne, Teque & Tapio Pennanen
Mixed by Nino Laurenne
Mastered at Finnvox Studios by Mika Jussila,
November, 2003
Produced by Arto "R2" Räisälä & Teemu M. Hänninen

review  by Marco "Norman Knight" Signore____   

Requiem is a band from Finland, founded in 1999, that proposes now its second work, after a good success of their first album.

Starting from a melodic Death Metal, in this new record titled “Mask of Damnation” Requiem propose a very interesting music that is not confined in a single genre, but drift between the melodic death and the melodic power a la Sonata Arctica (after all, the keyboard player Henrik Klingeberg is in common between these two bands), passing through a series of other bands that demonstrate how wide is the musical horizon of this surprising Finnish band!


The first track of this album immediately communicates an idea of energy and aggressiveness as the voice of Jouni Nikula, that sometimes remembers a “metal version” of Robert Smith (Cure) at once commands respect for a very personal style of interpretation.Blinded” (this is the title of the song) with delicious harmonics on guitar, that explode as the typical power metal drum marks a series of chord changes that remembers of the old and good Helloween metal, a paragon that is also evoked by the guitar duets as the bass and the drums march relentlessly towards the chorus. A bridge marked by a symphonic series of guitar notes and by a dark vocal line carries to the refrain, closer to the Stratovarius style (the keyboards recall the Lost Horizon as well). Blinded is exactly the type of song one would like as the first song of an energetic album.

But Requiem don’t want to delude us, as a driving drum fill introduces “The Dying Ember”, the second track of the disc. Well… we find reminiscences of Prog Metal with sudden changes of tempo and misdirected we find ourselves deep in a melodic power metal refrain (that strongly remembers the Sonata Arctica), only to be displaced again by a very unusual and original vocal line! This song is a mix of old and new melodies that once again convinces the listener to ask for more. Aggressive and stout guitar riffs accompany the bass and drums that almost always walk in unison – while the guitar duet in the bridge is a bit undertone as the hi-hat of the drum marks a very fast tempo that explodes in a solo of guitar with dissonant changes of chords. Very well done… even though we are again bewildered by the refrain that suddenly explodes in a high pitched finale of vocals.

No rest as the portamento square lead synths introduce “Mask of Damnation”, the title track. We are entering almost a Prog Metal song here with interesting ideas, as the vocals double with high and low pitch entwining upon an embroidered melody of double bass drum and bass guitar. Sudden changes of pitch in the vocals are almost as sudden changes of direction in a laser light that dances in a maze of mirrors. And as yet another sudden change of pace we are deep into an odd tempo synth solo that ends with almost psychedelic sounds and we have no time to breathe as a piece of pure musical genius expresses itself in a cameo that would not be out of place in a jazz recording. This song is really born in a genius’ mind!

But there is no idle moment in this album as the synths again bring forward the new song, “Divine Illusions”, with a very interesting guitar pattern by Teemu Hänninen – and the sudden everchanging voice of Nikula soars again above the raging river of drums and bass and stout distorted guitars (in this also vaguely recalling to mind faint memories of the long lost Watchtower). In this song, however, the choice of sounds is more conform to the standard of Nordic power metal (too close to Stratovarius & co.), although again with the originality that pervades this band – and then again the guitars change sonority and become a new travel in experimentation towards the “perfect” harmony with the voice. Finally the song opens up with major chords supported by a cadenced drum that leads us to the end of this track in am ethereal major chord from the keyboard.

And that ethereal chord is not casual, because the following song is called Ethereal Journey. Here the stop tempo is largely used as the very good voice of  Jouni again takes our hand in this journey – the geniality of this album is maybe in the ability of merging the classical (and frankly overused) standards of melodic power a la Stratovarius with more innovative ideas. And yet this song may appear the weakest in the album – but only to a casual listener. Again varied tempos, sudden piano excerpts, and the good guitar work (this time with a very strong bass and ethereal sweep synths) show us that we are facing an old skeleton evolved into something completely new, as the first birds evolved from ancient dinosaurian progenitors. The drums of Jari Huttunen seem to come directely from Vandergraaf Generator memories, as the guitar really experiments with new harmonies within a fixed drum and bass frame. No rest for the listener’s ears and mind, whenever you think you have found a “classical standard” in the music of this Finnish combo, the Requiem immediately shift and jinx like a consumed practitioner of the Shaolin martial arts… you believe that he’s moving this way, but he’s already striking you from the opposite side.

We find Symphony X-style sonorities in “Shrine of the Ocean”, maybe the most progressive-oriented song in this CD. Sudden change of tempo leads us to a moving piano and guitar duet that resembles at once some Genesis song of the first Seventies and the first Symphony X songs – and then you find yourself listening to a metal version of the Gentle Giant albums… but there again a new unexpected change of direction in music drags us away, never giving rest to the listener, never allowing the mind to stand on a single idea, but constantly variating, as the waves of the ocean themselves… a masterpiece in every single note. Jouni plays with his voice as it was just another instrument in the band. WOW! That’s music in every sense! Aggressive melodies leave place to intricacies that in turn change into sweet melodies and then again change shape to move into liquid passages of sound that become harsh again and so on… as the fluid motion of the sea, always different and identical at the same time… I would like to hear this song played live! And then again the prog sonorities a la Symphony X conclude the song fading into an harmonized scale of piano.

The intro of “Dagger” resembles a more classical Melodic Metal song as the synth strings leave place to a piano that rhythmically plays with drums and bass… but never lower your guard! Again Requiem suddenly change their pace, and submerge the listener with a torrent of rainy sounds that leave the intro behind and become a very good melodic song with a mid tempo drum, never invasive but perfectly merging with all the other instruments as the voice warns us that “Dagger is falling again”.

And if you had yet any doubts on the technical quality of this combo the last song of the CD, “The Rival’s Spell” simply blow them away. I can hear the band winkling the eye to the 80s metal, with full attention to prog metal of the 90s and the new metal styles of the 21st century. Guys, this song rocks indeed! Careful use of vocal effects upon a pad carpet as the voice of Jouni again resembles a metal version of Robert Smith only to become harsh, high and aggressive as you would dare to imagine. Magniloquent choirs walk beside the main vocal line as we find reminiscent even of Angra’s most symphonic production. And then again technical arpeggios of piano introduce us the guitar solos that end in a ghostly synth-piano cry…very well done, guys, very well performed!


If you are in dire need of finding flaws in this record you will be in great problem. Maybe the drums are too “power metal”, maybe the sounds are too similar to bands like Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica… and maybe on the very high (and I mark the words very high) pitches the vocals are only a bit faulty… but are very minor marks in a very well conceived, performed, and produced work. A real surprise indeed. You cannot listen to a single song or to pieces of songs. No. You have to listen to the whole album before fully understand each of the songs – and even then you are only scratching the surface. Each song in this Mask of Damnation show that these guys have a very deep knowledge of music, with citation from practically every genre played since the Beatles started their “Revolution”. 

This work is a must for every True Metaller, even though some “purists” will surely scorn this or that sound or sonority. If Requiem keep this pace, they will surely carve a name in the Metal Olympus.

: 9/10  


Marco Signore    

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