Kiuas - 'Lustdriven'

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Kiuas - 'Lustdriven'

Focused and well produced set of songs.

Kiuas is a name I have been increasingly aware of over the last few years and whilst the reports of their mixture of power, prog, symphonic, death and folk certainly piqued my interest, the band’s fourth album ‘Lustdriven’ is actually the first time I’ve heard their music. My first impressions were that ‘Lustdriven’ is a confident blend of the breakneck speed/death metal that the likes of Children of Bodom fire out keyboards and all, and the more bombastic symphonic approach of Nightwish. After a few more spins, those initial thoughts have remained, however there is enough diversity here to allow Kiuas (pronounced Key-wass) to break out of their home market in Finland, where the band’s previous album ‘The New Dark Age’ made the top ten. 

The album kicks off with the pretty standard romp of ‘Kuiassault’ where the whirling, squealing guitars are hurried along by an ever present double kick attack and a snarling, biting vocal from Ilja Jalkanen. It is certainly an energetic start, but not one that really grabs you in any way. There’s no doubt the band can play, however it really isn’t anything you haven’t heard countless times before. Things do pick up with track two ‘Cry Little Angel’, which marries this style with some smart heavy riffing in the style of Zakk Wylde and when this is played off against the high octane assault, the two combine to make a surprisingly cohesive onslaught. Vocally Jalkanen throws out the odd growl, however for the most part his sparsely produced and therefore pleasantly natural sounding voice is deep and resonating, bringing to mind Burton C Bell if he was using the phrasing of Ronnie James Dio. More intriguing still, is the sudden left turn made by the semi-acoustic ballad ‘Lights Are Many’, which following on from the reasonably uncompromising barrage of metal is a welcome breather. The guitar work of Mikko Salovaara bounces off some smart piano playing from Atte Tanskanen, however both leave enough room for the vocals to shine and Ilja doesn’t disappoint. The best of the full throttle tracks comes in the shape of ‘Heart and Will’, where the staccato drum and guitar interplay gives way to a chorus where the keys and guitar jostle for supremacy. Behind the kit Markku Nareneva drags the music along with some smart little breaks and fills, which the rock solid bass playing of Teemu Tuominen allows him the space to do.

Once again the feel of the album changes going into the final three tracks. First off the excellent ‘The Quickening’ begins with a beautiful piano intro that makes way for a stinging guitar line; however the track remains at a more sedate pace which leaves room for the piano to ease in and out of proceedings. Combine that to the best chorus on the disc and you have one of the best two tracks on the album. The other contender for that title is the acoustic folk rock of ‘Summer’s End’, which comes on like a mix of Days Of The New, Alter Bridge and Led Zeppelin. The vocal arrangements are tastefully kept in check, while still managing to shine above the excellent acoustic instrumentation. The sound of ‘the minstrel’ laying down his guitar, leaving a crowded room and shutting the door before closing track ‘Winter’s Sting’ kicks in, is also a nice touch. That closer also uses the acoustic guitar, but only as a counterpoint to another blistering blend of electric guitar and keyboards and is a great way to end the album. There are a few occasions on the disc where the music does slide into formulaic power metal, however on the whole ‘Lustdriven’ is a focused and well produced set of songs that deserves to break Kiuas onto the world stage.

Steven Reid

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