Artist: Blind Channel
Album: Blood Brothers
Label: Ranka Kustannus
Blind Channel is a young band from Oulu who swiftly and surely knocked us off our feet with their unique blend of musical styles, as well as their energetic performances. Their debut album, Revolutions, was given a full score by myself upon its release in October 2016, and its follow-up has been impatiently anticipated by many of us.
I’m a big fan of Blind Channel myself. Personally, I think they have a way of blending genres that few new bands have managed to top yet. If you had asked me 3 years ago if you could get away with combining hip-hop, electronica/pop, and metal, I’d have said that it’d be nigh on impossible to do. Yet Blind Channel does this with apparent ease, resulting in one of the most unique sounds that the modern pop/metal genres offer. Naturally, I had high hopes for their sophomore album, yet… I was a bit apprehensive, as I wasn’t completely on board with all of the singles that were released over the past year or so.
In case you were worried, as I was, that the band might be heading in a poppier direction after hearing the new singles between albums, ”Trigger” will make you feel better immediately. The intro has a bit of a dark western vibe and then it kicks off immediately. I still adore their sound, like a heavier and better Linkin Park, but with all the hooks that make pop music stick in your mind. As well, there’s even a decent little solo in there and the main riff is pretty catchy. It’s a great first track and things are already off to a good start.
I wasn’t really into “Sharks Love Blood” when it was first released, and I mean that in the sense that it’s still more listenable than most modern pop music, but it pandered a bit too much to basic pop music tropes for my taste. Also, frankly, the whole “I love you hard like sharks love blood” metaphor doesn’t quite work for me (sharks love meat if they love anything; they’re drawn or attracted to blood). Also, “I love you hard” isn’t very good English and comes across as a child-like phrase to a native ear, which I’m sure they didn’t intend. However, in the context of the album, it’s not in too bad a place musically. It’s been growing on me a bit since I’ve been listening to the album as a whole, and it’s one hell of an earworm. I also can’t deny that it’s catchy as hell, but I think it’s a better song for people maybe half my age.
Of all the newly released singles, “Wolfpack” was the first to really catch me properly and immediately, the way the songs on Revolutions did. It has a lot more spirit than some of the other singles, and I do like the lyrics and message: “The lone wolf dies but the pack survives…” It’s a nice song about loyalty and friendship (though it does get a little hardcore with that “if you lay a finger on my friend / I’ll make your death look like an accident” stuff – dang, guys). It’s got really nice electronic elements and that beautiful energy that I love in Blind Channel.
You get your first big taste of Niko “Nc Enroe” Moilanen rapping is in “Elephant in the Room” – or is it his younger brother, Joona “Spaz Caroon” Moilanen, who is guesting on this track? This song reminds me solidly of the style and energy of songs like “Bombtrack” by Rage Against the Machine, with added rapping and modern elements. One of the biggest surprises musically is the most recent single, “Out of Town”, which I’m looking for words to describe. It’s got bits of disco and really creative pop sounds. It’s sound reminds me of night in a city, in a sort of mystical way. It’s very hard to describe, but it’s a playful track and one of the most unique songs on the album.
“My Heart is a Hurricane” opens with some faint music that feels rather country music -influenced. Never fear though, this song is more reminiscent of a heavier 30 Seconds to Mars than it is to anything else, and Nc Enroe gets to show off his stuff in here as well. The use of what I’ll refer to as ‘youth choirs’ in the background of some of these songs (“Sharks Love Blood” is another) has been pretty tasteful as well. They never go into the full-on ‘we understand you, young people,’ like “Youth of the Nation” by PoD, which I’ll say is a good thing.
A slow rise to a great, chill rhythm builds up in “Giants”, and I also appreciate that the beat in the chorus is like a slow march, which feels a bit like a giant’s footfall – thematically appropriate. The changes in both speed and dynamic are excellently executed and I’ve already got this on my list of songs I’m hoping make it to their live set.
“Like a Brother” is heavy on the modern rap and hip-hop influence at the beginning, as it has a certain familiar rhythm, and also Nc Enroe is making heavy use of autotune in the verses. Sadly, I can’t say I’m a fan of that particular style, and it makes his singing sound slurred and drunken; however, if intentional autotune use doesn’t bother you, this song is otherwise pretty cool. And the heavy parts definitely make up for it on the whole. As well, lyrically it seems to tell another story about friendship and betrayal, tying in nicely with what appears to be a bit of a recurring theme (at least relating to the album name).
I did like “Alone Against All” when it was released, though it didn’t immediately ensnare me, and it has grown on me with time. It’s one of the few new songs that I’ve seen them perform already, which definitely helped my opinion of it. The addition of the logo flag on stage was a nice touch. This song was clearly written to be a live song, as the “ohh-ohh” parts are perfect for live singalongs. I can imagine what that could be like in a stadium someday, if all goes well for these guys.
“Scream” is a pretty laid-back, emotional-sounding piece, which also has a bit of a 30StM vibe, and is a clear nod to the late Chester Bennington. It’s another nice change-up in sound, perhaps closest to “Out of Town.” It almost feels like a chill R&B or hip-hop album closer; however, it is followed by one more song, “IDFU.” Frankly, I’d have preferred if this song had been left off the album entirely, but at a mere 35 minute run time, the album is already very short. I appreciate that they tried to end the album with a faster, more upbeat track (always leave your audience wanting more, I always say), but this song feels like filler, and lyrically – while I appreciate the anti-bullying message, the song is perhaps the most generic-sounding on the album and really doesn’t add anything to the mix that wasn’t done better on another track. It does have a good groove and Nc Enroe and Joel Hokka work nicely together; however, “IDFU” is meant to stand for “I do not fear you” and as such, I feel like it should be “IDNFU” because otherwise it feels like it’s standing for “I do fear you,” which is clearly not what it’s trying to say.
So did this album live up to its predecessor? At this critical moment in a band’s evolution and progress, I am pleased to report that, yes, these guys did very well for themselves. Even the songs that I wasn’t sold on when they were released on their own have found their place on this album, and the whole things works really well, with a few minor hitches here and there. While the album as a whole isn’t quite as remarkable as their debut, it does feel like a pretty mature step forward and I would think that those who liked their first album won’t be let down by its follow-up.
Rating: 9/10, 4.5
2. Sharks Love Blood
4. Elephant in the Room
5. Out of Town
6. My Heart is a Hurricane
8. Like a Brother
9. Alone Against All