Rapture: Songs for the Withering

Songs for the Withering
Spinefarm/Century Media

Even in the tradition-loving, craft-revering world of metal, Finland's Rapture (not to be mistaken with messy punk-funksters the Rapture) stuck too close to their idols on their 2001 debut Futile. Tenuous and hero-worshipping like a nervous kindergartner clutching his big brother's hand, the band's riffs slavishly copied the oversized, bittersweet tunes of Sweden's Goth-metal maestros Katatonia. Then they married those melodies to singer Petri Eskelinen's curdling gargles, which so mimicked the growling phrasing of Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt that you wouldn't be surprised if the latter woke up during the recording of Futile with a ransom note on his throat.

Rapture's latest, Songs for the Withering, while a remarkable improvement, isn't exactly gulping great cold gasps of the rarified air at the top of Innovation Mountain. On "Gallows," the arch, dramatic guitar work finds the ghost of the Cure hovering above Rapture's noose. And although their command of English is quite good for the Iron-Maiden-as-a-Second-Language crowd, it doesn't preclude tight-assed, awkward couplets like "Stuck somewhere between a blink and a tear and the great distance," or "Tonight the bullets turn into keys and we escape."

Still, the band is forming a more distinctive sound, digesting their influences instead of parroting them. Hiring on a sweet-voiced second lead singer to augment Eskelinen's growls, they channel their taste for grand atmospherics into punchy five-minute songs that bands like Sentenced, their New Wave of British Heavy Metal-worshipping fellow Finns, would be proud to call their own. "Two Dead Names" flirts with both folk song and football chant but finally falls for an arrangement that reframes the metal power ballad as a 4 A.D. construct. Every moment of the production on Withering is marked by a compulsive attention to detail, and it's within that aural nitpicking that Rapture makes its biggest mark. The twin guitars that weave in and out of the verse of "Transfixion" sound like they're tweaking the chords of "The Wedding March," and even the "HRRRRRRRRAWs" before the instrumental breaks sound like they've been lovingly positioned for maximum effect. "Nihilistic! Perfection!" the band croaks in unison. I can't say that I disagree.

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