OK, I admit it, I looked into the band, saw the words Finland and Melancholic, coupled with the title of the album and did rather leap to conclusions, expecting something along the lines of Sentenced, Charon, To/Die/For or even Amorphis. I didn’t do my homework, just jumped straight in there – “I’ll review that one!”. Yes, It’s Finnish. It’s also melancholic. It’s certainly Hard Rock/Metal, but it’s also something…different.

On this, the band’s second album, Achiote’s sound is a healthy mix of Heavy, bleak and sometimes groovy Hard Rock/Metal, with some 70’s style keyboards, coupled with a very 90’s vocal delivery (original bassist/vocalist has unfortunately had to leave the band due to illness)…and yet, there is still an utter sense of Finland about the whole thing! It’s dark – obviously – and there’s a real “back to basics” feel about the album, incorporating 70’s prog and hard rock, that Dark Metal attitude, but as I just mentioned, there is also that 90’s grunge-esque vocal delivery that means the whole thing can only be a product of the here and now. Take the title track for instance – it comes across to me initially as a cross between Beseech and Mindfunk…then they go all 70’s prog in the middle – just because they can! And you know what? It kinda works! It’s a new take on blending trusted elements that is a risk, but when it works, it really works – and it does more often than not.

Now I’ll be honest, I am not (and never was) a fan of the 90’s Grunge scene. There were so many exciting and interesting UK and European Metal bands around at that time if you were prepared to dig deeper than the likes of Kerrang’s infatuation with all things American. So therefor I have no real comparison for that side to Achiote, I can only draw from what preceded and what followed, but what seems evident here is that Finland influences Finnish musicians – maybe without them even realizing. As an example, the band really don’t sound like Amorphis as I’ve said earlier, yet there it is on ‘Desert Sun’, mixed into this moog-charged, Pearl Jam-ish voiced darkness – there’s a huge, unmistakable whiff of Amorphis past!

It’s apparent from their biog that the band members have been through some difficult times recently, and that’s obvious in the unbridled misery that sometimes spews forth on “Loneliness of Endless Days”. But it’s not an out and out glum-fest, the keyboards lift things on occasion and the unexpected variations in tempos (like in ‘Whispers to a Deaf”) work fabulously to catch the listener off guard, and for me personally make the whole thing more interesting. But even with these moments of brief optimism, it’s all undeniably melancholic – as it was intended to be!

If someone thought “Yeah, some of the 70’s prog/psyche could be slightly dark, grunge was quite gloomy and inward looking, Gothic Doom follows an even bleaker path…if only someone from a country that is excellent at conveying pure melancholy would blend all three…” Oh wait, someone did think that – ladies and gentlemen, I give you Achiote! It may be a step too far for some, but there’s plenty to interest anyone with a penchant for the gloomy on “Loneliness of Endless Days”. Achiote have crafted their own sound by blending their own influences and it gives them scope to go in so many directions in the future – they are certainly a band well worth keeping an eye on.

(7/10 Andy Barker)