The Rasmus - Black Roses Review
Posted by Daniel Wilcox on 10.08.2008
Finnish outfit The Rasmus return with their seventh studio album and their own brand of "death pop."
I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news. The good news is, The Rasmus are back. The bad news is, there’s no US release date yet, which means most readers will have to go online to get a copy of this album. Meanwhile, we here in Europe are lapping this bad boy up.
I’m sure that there are many people out there who have never heard of The Rasmus, despite their meteoric rise to fame way back in 2003. Their track “In The Shadows” was huge all over Europe and Oceania but didn’t really make too much impact Stateside. But in every country other than their homeland Finland, The Rasmus have fallen off the face of the earth. They’re destined to remain a one-hit wonder commercially. Thankfully, commercial success isn’t everything.
The Rasmus – Black Roses
Review by Dan Wilcox
Lauri Ylonen – Vocals
Pauli Rantasalmi – Guitar
Eero Heinonen – Bass guitar
Aki Hakala – Drums
1. Livin’ in a World Without You (3:50)
2. Ten Black Roses (3:54)
3. Ghost of Love (3:17)
4. Justify (4:26)
5. Your Forgiveness (3:55)
6. Run To You (4:11)
7. You Got It Wrong (3:15)
8. Lost and Lonely (4:46)
9. The Fight (3:45)
10. Dangerous Kind (3:46)
11. Live Forever (3:20)
12. Yesterday You Threw Away Tomorrow (3:05) [Bonus Track]
Not too many people know this about The Rasmus, but they actually started out as a rapcore band way back in the mid-nineties. Their debut album wasn’t 2003’s Dead Letters as many assume, it was 1996’s Peep, a fantastic blend of alternative rock and funk rock. The band matured over the years and as they did the genre of music they produced did too. They went from rapcore and funk rock to punk rock to pop rock and with Dead Letters, they completed the transformation to an alternative rock band, which is what they’ve remained ever since.
Only now they’re branding their sound as “death pop.”
Now just what the fuck is death pop? This album is either death-y or pop-y in its sound, so I can only infer that the death aspect of this new genre is related to the album’s dark, seedy lyrics. Not depressing, just drak; people often get the two confused. And I guess the pop aspect comes from the radio-friendly sound of many of Black Roses’ tracks like first single and opener Livin’ in a World Without You.
But when I think of Death Pop, the first thing that springs to mind is a shittier version of Love Metal, the genre coined by HIM back in the 90s. And I have always thought of The Rasmus as HIM with half the talent – not that’s a bad thing – I’d kill for a quarter of their talent. So with all that in mind, can The Rasmus break out of that shadow cast by Finnish-legends HIM, or do they merely remain an afterthought?
Livin’ in a World Without you is a great way to kick off the album. It’s opening few seconds are ominous and eerie, and then we get a dose of Lauri’s unique, hushed voice, sounding almost spiritual but at the same time desperate. The chorus is massive and the vocals impressive, but it’s lacking something that would put it over the top. It is difficult to put my finger on it, but this could have been much bigger than it was. It does have a great bridge and the almost-rapped lyrics not dissimilar to their earlier work is a nice touch and gives off a frantic vibe; I like it. Elsewhere, the lyrics are average in places but damn good in others. Haunted screams of “I will survive” aren’t exactly the most original lyrics, but they strike a chord.
Ten Black Roses is an immense track. A nod to 2005’s Hide From The Sun, it features great use of cello and keyboards and has a soaring chorus like no other track on the album does. But this album just goes from strength to strength. Both Ghost of Love and Justify are epic efforts and big would-be hits. The vocal work seems to have improved a lot in the last couple of years and it makes for an all-together better sound. Some of the bridges in the first few tracks of this album are insanely good.
One of my favorite tracks of the album is Your Forgiveness – it sounds like nothing this band has ever done before; their new groove, if you will. And there’s a damn good solo in there from Pauli, which is always nice to hear. The Rasmus aren’t a band that utilize their guitarist to his full potential, but when he busts out a solo like he does in this track, it means something.
Like Ghost of Love, Run To You sounds like it could easily have appeared on the Dead Letters album. There’s another almost-epic solo in there and the ending is a very cool; deep choir outros always get a big thumbs up from me. The next track, You Got It Wrong, just sounds like it is trying too hard to be epic. It is great in places, but I felt let down by the cut-off solo, and there’s a bridge that sounds like it’s sampling a nursery rhyme I can’t put my finger. It’s different, but I’m indifferent to it.
What I really like about this album is its diversity, as the final four tracks are really something of a reminder of their earlier style. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing really funk or rapcore about it, but the riffs come thick and fast, the instrumentation spells are majestic and the choruses all together catchier than some of their more recent releases. A great example of this is the phenomenal The Fight, a blistering effort with some big ass riffs and another top-notch chorus. The album (officially) finishes with Live Forever, a terrifically melancholy melody reminiscent of The Funeral Song (from Dead Letters).
A complaint I have about their previous efforts is their monotonous lyrical themes, but Black Roses explores a great variety of concepts and makes great use of imagery and symbolism at times, while remaining simplistic yet effective in others. I’d have to say that this is the some of the best lyricism I’ve seen from the band. Vocally, Lauri is pretty damn strong here. He’s never been considered one of the best talents out there but he can hit some damn high notes and his voice portrays every emotion his lyrics are trying to get across. The one thing I would love to see this band do though is develop their guitar work. This album has a ton of brilliant riffs and a few good solos, but I do feel that they could easily expand on that groundwork and become a much more impactful outfit.
"Its hard to believe that it came to this
You paralysed my body with a poison kiss
For 40 days and nights I was chained to your bed
You thought that was the end of the story
Something inside me called freedom came alive
Living in a world without you."
- Livin’ In A World Without You
The 411: Many fans were disappointed with the follow up to Dead Letters, 2005's Hide From The Sun. This album is sounds like it should have immediately followed Dead Letters, and I think fans of the band will be much more pleased with this one. It's everything fans have come to expect from The Rasmus - strong vocals, deep lyrics and big choruses. And they've really improved in some areas too. The guitar work is really starting to develop, even if it isn't as strong as it could be, and lyrically this album sees The Rasmus get more adventurous. There's not a bad track here, either, which always helps. Black Roses really solidifies The Rasmus as a band to be taken seriously.