Tuesday, October 11, 2016

review: Pressure Points

review by Matt Spall
Artist: Pressure Points
Album Title: False Lights
Label: 7hard Records
Date Of Release: 14 August 2015
So far this year, I’ve tried to keep my reviews current and up-to-date wherever possible. However, for one reason or another, this review is way overdue. For this, I can only apologise; both to the band and to the many people out there who I hope will become belated fans of the band after reading this.
The band in question is Pressure Points, a quintet from Heinola, Finland who have produced something rather tasty indeed in the form of their sophomore album, ‘False Lights’. Anyone who knows me will know that I am a sucker for great artwork and, on that score alone, Pressure Points get a gold star. And, if I still had the money to burn like when I was in my early 20s, I’d have bought this record blind after one look at the cover.
There have been occasions in the past where I’ve done this and been wholly disappointed by the music contained within. With ‘False Lights’ however, that is far from the case, as the aural content is every bit as alluring as the visuals. Citing the names of Porcupine Tree, Rush and Dream Theater as influences, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Pressure Points would be a blend of classic, traditional and modern progressive rock at the lighter end of the scale. In parts, this is actually an accurate summation of the music, where strong melodies merge with clean, soothing vocals, layers of keyboards and an almost laid-back vibe. At times, the output calls to mind the purveyors of the genre back in the 70s, whereas at others, the music is bang up-to-date and in keeping with more modern prog trends.
Indeed, the album kicks off in a manner that underlines these initial thoughts as a bold bass line from Janne Parikka ushers ‘Wreckage’ into life, followed closely by a soulful lead guitar atop swathes of lush keys courtesy of Veli-Matti Kyllönen that create a deep and welcoming atmosphere.
But then, just as you’re settling into the song, in comes something far heavier, far more aggressive and unexpected. The keys change to a more 70’s inspired sound but remain prominent in the mix. However, all of a sudden, they are competing with a melodic death metal riff and growled vocals from guitarist Kari Olli as the more extreme metal influences also cited by Pressure Points come forcefully to the fore. Interestingly, the sense of melody never dissipates and even when the more extreme elements are in full swing, the track is accessible and it maintains that progressive feel. Acoustic guitars, clean vocals courtesy of Olli and fellow guitarist Jaakko Lehtinen as well as passages of calm introspection that verge on ambience, all form part of this epic composition.
At ten minutes in length, ‘Wreckage’ is a brilliant opener. It has the time and space to flit from idea to idea as well as the instrumental prowess and songwriting nous to back up the ambition. It fizzes past with incredible panache and by the end, I’m left in a bit of a daze, equal parts impressed and stunned.
The thing is, ‘Wreckage’ is just the beginning. What follows is a further 45 minutes of music straddled over another five lengthy and equally ambitious tracks.
‘Between The Lies’ continues where ‘Wreckage’ leaves off in terms of blending the melodies and hooks with more extreme elements as well as a complex yet engaging song structure. I absolutely adore the mid-section where the foot is taken off the pedal and rich vocals come to the fore atop a more subtle and moving melody which segues into a ‘classic’ prog piano melody and then into more growls and harsh riffing.
‘Electric Shadows’ begins powerfully and more aggressively, pushing their death metal influences further than at any stage previously. Indeed, it takes well over a minute for the elegant melodies to enter the fray alongside more accessible vocals, this time courtesy of keyboardist Veli-Matti Kyllönen, whose delivery adds yet another welcome addition to the album. Some of the lead guitar work on this track happily contains echoes of Omnium Gatherum, a band with whom I have a pre-existing love affair.
The second-half of ‘False Lights’ continues in a similarly impressive vein as the first, with each of ‘Sleepwalk’, ‘Dance Of Coincidence’ and ‘In Desolation’, all offering something to impress me.
‘Sleepwalk’ manages to transform itself from an understated beginning to something far more urgent and charged by the mid-way point, dominated by an incessant riff that eventually opens up, under the constant nagging of more lead guitar wailing. ‘Dance Of Coincidence’ begins with a stunning piano melody that immediately catches my ear before diving into a frenetic black metal-esque work-out underpinned by strong drumming from Vili Auvinen but all the while retaining that striking piano melody at the core. After the ubiquitous quiet mid-section, the song then builds to a memorable finale, full of emotion and more great lead guitar work.
And then it’s down to ‘In Desolation’ to close out this album. Naturally, it does so in style and I particularly like the driving tempo of the song, the controlled aggression and the smattering of unabashed, euphoric melody that intersperses what is arguably the consistently heaviest track on the record.
What a find. I’d heard whispers from those that I trust, but I wasn’t truly prepared for ‘False Lights’. This is an album that will, if there’s any justice in the world, propel this Finnish band into the conscious of a much wider audience and force one of the big labels to take notice. If Pressure Points are not signed for their third album, I will personally lead the mutiny. Check this album out – I guarantee you’ll not be left disappointed.
The Score Of Much Metal: 9.5
Pressure Points - False Lights [Full Album] [Progressive Metal] [2015]
Read more of Matt Spall’s writings: www.manofmuchmetal.wordpress.com
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