Finland - Full Moon 229 - 05/04/15
This is Höyry-Kone's second, last and best album, originally released on CD in Finland in 1997. This new release by Norwegian Pancromatic is the debut on vinyl, 180 grammes, in
a fold-out cover, limited to 100 copies in orange vinyl and 300 in black. The band's music is of the kind that really deserves being experienced the old-fashioned way via vinyl. We might say
that the band belongs to the new wave of Nordic progressive rock bands that grew out of the 1990s, with contemporaries like Swedish Änglagård and
Anekdoten, Norwegian The Smell Of Incense and even, to some extent, Motorpsycho occasionally. Höyry-Kone's
music is surely inspired by King Crimson of the second and third incarnation, the period around 1972-74, combining progressive and hard rock. Add a dash
of jazz, contemporary serious chamber music, techno and modern Scandinavian metal of the dark kind and there you have Höyry-Kone. The hard edges mean they resemble Anekdoten more than
the others mentioned above, that album debuted a couple of years prior to Höyry-Kone (well, Motorpsycho also, in between). Members of Anekdoten are on top of the Special thanks to-list
inside the cover.
Höyry-Kone stands out in at least two respects compared to the contemporaries mentioned above. The instrumentation range from flute and oboe to violin and cello in addition to the
ordinary rock instruments. The first album also included keyboards old and new, but they're absent here. The vocals are quite unique within rock, even the progressive branch. Violin player
and vocalist Topi Lehtipuu's voice resembles a scholared opera singer. The saying goes he went on to become a full time opera singer after the band folded. It might be a bit demanding on
the listeners who're not that familiar with or don't appreciate the genre. And admittedly, it can be somewhat hard to listen to the vocal parts of "Karhunkaato" and the title track. On the
other hand, five of the album's eleven tracks are instrumentals and the vocals are not operatic all the way. The opening track "Beata Viscera" is really something, only reverbed "serious"
vocals in Latin over a cello drone. Very sacral and very beautiful, resembling Catholic vesper singing. The remaining three songs, "Lumisaha", "Kala" and "Laina-Ajalla" have more ordinary
rock vocals most or some of the way. But mainly the album deals with inventive instrumental passages, sometimes hard, sometimes soft, sometimes neck-breaking and hilarious the
Rock In Opposition (RIO) way. Instrumentals "Terva-Antii Ku Häihin Lähti" (phew!) and "Tottele" are proto-metal-prog with two fierce guitars at
the fore, but the violin and cello interfere now and again and create the unique Höyry-Kone sound that also dominate parts of several other tracks.
"Barksteri" and "Ullakon Lelut" also stand out as something of their own kind on the album. The former is a cross between merry fun-fair, cabaret, jazz and modern serious chamber music
performed by a guest wind trio without interference from any of the band members, whereas the latter is a quiet but disturbed neck hair-raising interplay between electric guitar and classical
strings. "Laahustaja" is an instrumental favourite where the whole band creates dark chamber-rock extravaganza with violin, cello and flute on top of quite aggressive guitars, bass and drums
in direction of Belgian ace ensembles like Univers Zero and Aranis. At the end "Laina-Ajalla" calms the disturbed listeners'
minds down again with a quite quiet song in direction of the opening "Beata Viscera", for a little while. A good two minutes into the song, the fierce guitars return. No sleep till the very
Huono Parturi points in many different directions and stretches over several genres. No doubt it wasn't possible to keep the sextet line-up of this album going. A good thing then,
that the album finally is available in the format it deserves. Can be ordered from Panorama Records, headquarters of the Pancromatic, Panorama and Tatra
labels. I have no idea what the song titles in Finnish mean. But at least I've found out that Höyry-Kone means Steam Engine.
Copyright © 2015 JP