Velvet Ocean – Purposes And Promises
Release Date: 07/02/2020
Running Time: 40:16
Review by Beth Jones
And so here we are. October again!! The nights are starting to draw in, the weather’s taken a turn for the worst, and I’ve had to start wearing a jumper again. I actually love winter, so it’s not that bad. And this weekend’s soundtrack takes a fitting route in turn with the changing season, in the shape of Finnish alternative melodic metal band Velvet Ocean. Their debut album, “Purposes And Promises” was actually released a good few months back, but I’ve only just got round to putting pen to paper about it.
Having started originally as a project between Riitu and Jake Ronkainen, it soon evolved into a full band, with no less than 7 members, including Oulu symphony orchestra Cellists Arto Alikoski and Harri Österman, along with Keyboard player Marco Sneck. The title of the album tells their story, as its creation became their main purpose, and they promised that they would see it through to its conclusion. Their variety of melodic metal melds contemporary style with influences from classical, through to pop, grunge and even dance. They say that their style is “basically derived from all the music we have ever heard and draws influences also from other genres than metal music”.
So, what does it sound like? Well the mix of influences are clearly visible from the start. Track 1, ‘It’s So Hard’ starts with classic ethereal vocals, but then they’re joined by overdriven guitar riffs, and an electro/dance style beat. Don’t judge me for this, but it kind of reminds me of Mel C’s solo stuff, when she chucked in The Spice Girls and tried to get a little more gritty, way back in the late 90s! Just with a little more edge, and some lovely Cello deep in the mix. Vocally, Riitu Ronkainen has a beautiful rich tone to her voice, and she soars above the instrumental accompaniment.
The album then loses the pop/dance feel for the next few tracks, coming back to a more recognizable melodic metal feel. However, the other influences are still apparent; ‘Requiem’ starts out with guitar, bass, and drums, that sound like something Sting would have done. ‘Butterfly’ begins with some sombre Piano chords, and a lone Cello echoing the root notes, creating a haunting classical feel. Again, the vocals in this track in particular, are so effortlessly haunting. I love it a lot.
Track 5, ‘Truth Or Illusion’ hits you with a very classic grunge sound. A bit of a wake-up after the slow and delicate track I’d just been lost in! The vocals here are much punchier, and Riitu explores her massive range throughout, which is very impressive.
Track 7, ‘Broken’ again starts off with Piano and Cello. This opening screams Eurovision at me! And that is not a bad thing in my book. This track would be perfect as the Finnish entry, and would do incredibly well, I think. It’s not overly heavy, but it’s got a good edge, and it’s dramatic! I could just imagine it on the stage with a lone Cellist on one side and the Pianist the other, lit with spotlights, then the rest of the band in the middle, fronted by Rittu with an intricate outfit, and lots of dark blue floaty fabric all over the place!
My favourite track on the album is the penultimate track. ‘Lullaby’. An acoustic track, it focuses, to start with, on fingerpicked guitar and vocals. It’s very tender and calming, as it’s title would suggest. Then halfway through, Riitu’s floating vocals are joined by the male vocals of Jake Ronkainen, creating a beautiful harmony line, and complimenting Rittu’s vocals perfectly. This piece is so delicately done. Its beauty is in its simplicity, and is the mark of clever musicians. They knew when to stop, and haven’t tried to frill it out at all. That’s commendable.
The final track on the album ‘Salvation’, has some middle eastern influences in its chord progressions, and is quite progressive in its structure – another influence that they’ve managed to explore really well! It finishes with the sound effect of a heart monitor flatlining, which was pretty creepy, but worked with the feel of the song. The whole album is steeped in the exploration of emotions, and this effect also displays that, too. It leaves you trying to unpick a lot of symbolism.
Production wise, they have done a superb job on this album, especially considering it’s a debut. It was mixed and mastered by Johan Örnborg and Jens Bogren at the well-known Fascination Street Studios. You can really hear the experience and care that has been put into producing this record, and that always pleases me. It’s not a record for the sake of releasing something, it’s a record meant to display the power and versatility of the language of music.
If you just like one style of music, this album won’t be for you. But, if you approach your listening with an open mind, you will definitely find something in “Purposes And Promises” that pleases you. A brilliant debut, well worth investing in.
01. It’s So Hard
05. Truth Or Illusion
06. Elysian Fields
08. Innocent Eyes
Riitu Ronkainen – Vocals, Additional Synths
Jake Ronkainen – Guitars, Vocals
Jani Lehtinen – Guitars
Bastian Schallschmidt – Drums
Arto Alikoski – Cello
Jami Alaverronen – Keyboards
Tuomas Vesa – Bass
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