This is an ambitious and very promising debut album. Its roots are in the Finnish progressive metal scene, but as a poet and singer/songwriter Rioghan Darcy has a distinctive style that combines effectively with the power and dynamism of musicians Teemu Liekkala and Valtteri Revonkorpi, who now make up the trio known as Rioghan.
In Finland, metal, as a music genre, has been flourishing for a few decades now, especially after the Eurovision success by Lordi in 2006. It really isn’t my place to criticise these local musicians who are established members of a community that I am not familiar with, but I’m keen to share this review and spark more interest in the music that is being created in that part of the world.
The musical direction under-pinning these songs is high quality and some notable collaborators have been drafted in, including Jonas Renkse (Katatonia) and Einar Solberg (Leprous). The overall musicality of the project holds the attention even for a more traditional prog fan like me. There are many high points and well-crafted songs on the album with plenty of melodic passages and interesting verse/chorus combinations (Promises and Breath stand out in particular).
So far, four singles have been released from the album, and these are front-loaded as the first four tracks. They are certainly the most accessible of the set and work really well together. The second half of the album is more experimental, and, not surprisingly, it does feel to me like the band is having to work out the balance between the song-writing and the musical delivery as it goes along. Clearly not all the songs that Rioghan presents to the band are suited to a bombastic metal accompaniment so tracks like Time and Lights strike a totally different mood and turn out to be not especially memorable. My choice for the best tracks of the second half are Innocence and Summer. They feel more progressive, and the instrumentation is well balanced, but each of them ends rather abruptly, denying them the time and space to ‘progress’.
Rioghan describes the track Reflection much better than I ever could. She says, “Reflection gives a full-bodied modern progressive metal experience, not to forget some Gothic spices here and there. The lyric explores fear of rejection and the emotions and actions revolving around it. Loss of reflection, so to speak. Musically this is one of the heaviest and most layered songs from the album”. It certainly is a metal-driven rollercoaster with some really interesting parts. It could be the epic centrepiece of the album, but it passes by in a blur of thrashing guitars, rapid drumbeats, and screams. Though not to my taste, this is possibly the track that the prog metal fans will be the happiest with.
Having gone through the process of compiling this debut the band should be justly proud with the way that things turned out. The band’s music is a complex crossover between prog metal, prog and alt-rock, presented visually in the Gothic style of Rioghan herself. For most listeners that will mean that they enjoy some parts more than others, and whilst the production is well executed there is scope for it to be more imaginative and ambitious, in places. The challenge for the band in the future will be to find a winning formula that captures their distinctive talents more consistently.
01. Sight (5:09)
02. Promises (4:54)
03. Breath (3:47)
04. Home (4:57)
05. Bruises (4:54)
06. Time (3:34)
07. Innocence (3:55)
08. Reflection (6:04)
09. Lights (6:41)
10. Summer (5:14)
Total Time – 49:09
Rioghan Darcy – Singer, Poetess
Teemu Liekkala – Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Saxophone, Production
Valtteri Revonkorpi – Drums
Jonas Renkse – Keyboards (track 1)
Einar Solberg – Keyboards (tracks 5 & 9)
Marko Hautamäki – Cello
Tony Kaikkonen – Harmonica & Vocals (track 10)
Record Label: Inverse Records
Country of Origin: Finland
Date of Release: 9th December 2022