It might come as a surprise to those who frequent the hallowed pages of Ave Noctum to see yours truly doing a review for a band on F.D.A, a renowned Death Metal label. Not least myself. But as the description of a Melodic Dark Gothic Metal band from Finland was more than enough to pique my interest no matter what label they’re on. So, not being Death Metal in the slightest, Stråle unleash their first full-length release (as far as I’m aware) and F.D.A. broaden their horizons, it’s win-win!

No matter how this release has seen the light of day, it’s really good that it has. Totally harking back to the halcyon days of Finnish Dark/Gothic Metal, it reeks fabulously of classic Sentenced, Poisonblack, Charon, To/Die/For and The Black League, whilst up-dating the sound with a little Post Metal and concentrating more on the slightly faster, more upbeat side of traditional Dark/Gothic Metal. Vocally there’s less of the familiar deep Gothic and more Sentenced/HIM/Sinamore about them, with a nice tendency to introduce a little gravel a-la To/Die/For at times alongside Audrey Horne-style alternative/groove moments, and all delivered perfectly with vehemence and power.

The whole approach to this album feels like it’s straight from around 20 years ago, when Finland was starting to become a melting pot for this style, and Stråle have inherited that same ability for dark melody and heaviness that was so prevalent on those frosty shores. There’s an abundance of down-tuned dampened, then open chorded riffs, punctuated by splashes of lead-work to lift the sound and enhance the clean-sung memorable vocal lines. All this is backed perfectly by a heavy, driving energetic rhythm section and under-stated, atmosphere-creating/enhancing keyboards, carrying all 9 of these modern-day Dark Metal anthems forward determinedly.

This album would have stood proud amongst the best of the bands back in the day. Yet it’s refreshing to hear this style again in 2020, a style I’m still a fan of, but which has been given that modern touch that means it slots perfectly in amongst any current Metal bands. The fact that the original scene was actually (and scarily!) so long ago, there is a strong possibility that given enough promotion Stråle will be a revelation to many people who were too young or into a different area of Metal at the time. It’s melodic without being cheesy, dark but upbeat and deceptively heavy – just as it should be!

(8/10 Andy Barker)