Album Review – Rifftera / Across the Acheron (2019)

Let’s brave the waters of the Acheron to the sound of the brand new opus by this talented Melodic Death and Thrash Metal squad from Finland.

If in 2015 a Finnish Melodic Death Metal band that goes by the stylish name of Rifftera stunned us all with their  aggressive and futuristic debut opus Pitch Black, now in 2019 it’s time for this talented Vaasa-base squad comprised of Janne Hietala and Mikko Kuoppamaa on vocals and guitars, Jupe Karhu on bass, Antti Pöntinen on keyboards and newcomer Ville Härkönen on drums to take another amazing step in their more-than-promising career with Across the Acheron, which is not only their sophomore release but an album that exhales harmony, electricity and rage, bringing a well-balanced and thrilling fusion of Death and Thrash Metal for both fans of what the band presented in their previous album as well as newcomers to their whimsical realm of modern-day metal music.

Featuring once again a beautiful cover art by Petri Lampela, who besides Rifftera has already worked with other excellent bands like  Vinide and Ratbreed, Across the Acheron might have taken longer than expected to be released, but the wait was definitely worth it as each and every song of the album is an absolute feast of first-class Melodic Death Metal. “The aim was basically to take steps forward from our debut in every aspect and we are really happy with the result. In my honest and not at all biased opinion I think that clear improvement was achieved musically, lyrically and production-wise,” commented lead singer and guitarist Janne, complementing his thought by saying that “when it comes to comparing the music between Across the Acheron and Pitch Black, I would say that our expression has reached new levels on both ends of the spectrum; some parts on the new album are more brutal than anything that what we had on Pitch Black and then again some songs are more straight forward and melodic than before. Overall it could be described that the building blocks are the same but writing and performing skills have evolved.”

The opening track Burning Paradise already showcases an epic start led by the always cinematic keys by Antti, being gradually joined by all other instruments until all hell breaks loose to a deep, enraged roar by Janne, becoming an almost Blackened Death Metal tune infused with Melodic and Industrial Metal elements where both Janne and Mikki slash their guitars in a piercing manner. Then we have the 8-minute extravaganza Two Sides of the Story, sounding very close to what they did in Pitch Black, with Ville simply demolishing his drums while Jupe and Antti generate a captivating background sounding with their instruments, also delivering tons of harmony and ethereal vibes for our total delight; followed by Eye of the Storm, a rhythmic, imposing and thrilling display of contemporary Scandinavian metal, showcasing pounding drums, epic keys and a dark and menacing atmosphere. Furthermore, Janne and Mikko have a very healthy “duel” of vocal styles, and as they sing during the entire song, it’s indeed beautiful to enjoy their ass-kicking metal music when you’re “in the eye of the storm”.

And those Finnish metallers keep invading our senses with their fusion of futuristic sounds and endless harmony in Cutthroat Game, with both guitars sounding as sharp as a knife while the bass punches by Jupe get even more thunderous then before, accompanied by Ville’s nonstop drums. After such crushing tune, it’s time to speed things up a bit in the superb Cry Wolf, led by Janne’s deranged growls and with Antti bringing an extra touch of lunacy to the sonority through his keys, resulting in what’s the most metallic and visceral of all songs; whereas Warmonger is another brutal composition tailored for cracking your neck in half headbanging, with Mikko’s clean vocals and Antti’s spot-on keys bringing some peace and hope to all devastation blasted by their bandmates. Not only that, the song’s main riff will entice you to keep bang your head nonstop, which obviously means this is an amazing option to be added to their setlist during their live concerts. Things slow down a bit in Deep Waters, getting more melodic, delicate and introspective than its predecessors but still exhaling the band’s characteristic rage, with the always inspiring keys by Antti stealing the spotlight and, therefore, keeping the level of electricity high, setting the stage for the 11-minute aria Across the Acheron, a very detailed and cinematic exhibit of their Melodic Death and Thrash Metal where you’ll be enfolded by inspiring passages, melodious riffs and solos, powerful vocals and violent growls. Moreover, this song has an amazing vibe and a touch of delicacy that only a band like Rifftera can bring you directly from the stunning Scandinavia, ending the album on a high, ominous and majestic mode.

It’s always a pleasure watching a hardworking and honest group of skillful musicians like Rifftera evolving like what they did from Pitch Black to their new album Across the Acheron, and in order to show them our true support don’t forget to follow them on Facebook and to listen to their music on Spotify, and of course purchase your copy of Across the Acheron from the Inverse Records webstore, from Record Shop X, from iTunes, or from Amazon. In ancient Greek mythology, the Acheron was known as the “river of woe”, and was one of the five rivers of the Greek underworld. Having said that, I guess it’s time for all of us fans of Melodic Death Metal to brave the waters of the Acheron together with Rifftera, and face all the perils the underworld might bring us to the sound of their brand new and excellent album.

Best moments of the album: Eye of the Storm, Cry Wolf and Warmonger.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Burning Paradise 6:12
2. Two Sides of the Story 8:04
3. Eye of the Storm 6:34
4. Cutthroat Game 6:12
5. Cry Wolf 5:08
6. Warmonger 6:29
7. Deep Waters 4:50
8. Across the Acheron 11:20

Band members
Janne Hietala – guitars, harsh vocals
Mikko Kuoppamaa – guitars, clean vocals
Jupe Karhu – bass
Antti Pöntinen – keyboards
Ville Härkönen – drums

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Album Review – Rifftera / Pitch Black (2015)

Don’t be afraid of the dark and let this high-end futuristic Melodic Death Metal album satisfy your metallic desires.

Rating4

rifftera-coverAfter releasing a couple of demos in the past few years, it’s time for Finnish Melodic Death Metal band Rifftera to strike the world of heavy music with their debut studio album Pitch Black, a slashing feast of metallic and melodic tunes tailored for fans of Soilwork, In Flames, Arch Enemy, Megadeth, Trivium, among many other amazing heavy bands. In other words, if you’re one of those people who believe harmony and violence should always walk hand in hand to generate good music, Pitch Black will satisfy you in every sense, keeping you entertained from start to finish.

In my humble opinion, what really makes this promising band formed in 2010 in Vaasa, Finland stand out from other similar bands is the harmonious complexity of their compositions, which ends up helping the band tell the different stories within each song of the album, their evolution and consequences. For instance, although Pitch Black has only eight songs it goes on for over 54 minutes, an average of almost seven minutes per song. Not only that, I believe they wouldn’t have been able to produce an album so unique and complete without the futuristic sounding of the synths by keyboardist Antti Pöntinen, who is capable of leading the musicality even with all the heaviness of guitars, drums and harsh screams surrounding him.

And it’s those electronic effects generated by Antti that start the party in Back To Life, a violent Melodic Death Metal song that blends the Gothenburg sound with a more modern Finnish touch. In addition, singer/guitarist Janne Hietala does an awesome job delivering sheer rage through his vocal lines, enhanced by the song’s strong riffs and catchy chorus. Then we have One Step Closer,  where its synths remind me of some sounds from the classic album Turbo by Judas Priest, adding a lot of energy to the savagery brought forth by the other members of the band. However, in the faster and more brutal tune Lightbringer, synths remain in the background while the songs vicious riffs by Janne and Mikko and the nonstop drums by session drummer Thomas Tunkkari take the spotlight. It seems they love the “harsh screams during most parts of the song/clean vocals on chorus” formula, and they prove they have a very good reason for that, as this song is a pure delight for fans of Melodic Death Metal from Scandinavia.

Rifftera-PromoAshes Fall is another track full of melody and anger where a solid instrumental perfect for headbanging takes over the ambience, with its second half being truly melancholic, in special its guitar riffs and solos. The only negative comment in this song is that this time the chorus is not so powerful, harming the final result a bit. On the other hand, their Thrash Metal vein arises in the superb Rotten To The Core, featuring Swedish singer Björn “Speed” Strid from Soilwork, a flawless exhibit of melodic riffs, solos and drumming with spot-on lyrics about how all politicians are always deceiving us with their greedy lies and false promises (“How would this time be any different? / Haven’t we learned before? / How would this one make any difference? / You know one / You know ’em all”). It’s impossible not to love this whirlwind of ruthless Melodic Death Metal, one of the best contemporary compositions you can find anywhere, and I believe this is the path Rifftera should take in their future releases. Fans will surely have a good time inside the circle pits when this song is played, with kudos to Janne for sounding as choleric on vocals as the musicality demands.

They keep their music at a high level in Open Wounds, with Thomas contributing to its progressiveness and rage behind his drums, and pay attention to how the keyboards remain sharp and enhance the eerie atmosphere amidst the nonstop metal sounding. In the also wonderful The Ruins Of The Empire, the initial riff is so thrilling it’s hard not to play some air guitar and bang your head to it, with the sick growls by Janne during the chorus taking it to a deeper level of fury. Furthermore, there’s even time for a keyboard solo in this excellent tune, and it’s also remarkable how the professionalism and quality of the sound elevate the final result considerably. And finally, it looks like the last part of the album is dedicated to the heavier and darker side of Rifftera, which is confirmed in the title-track Pitch Black.  Its acoustic intro sets the tone for their most epic creation, flirting with Symphonic Black Metal so obscure and heavy it gets, with some moments reminding me a little of the guitar duos from the epic songs by Iron Maiden. It’s a sonic exhibit of wickedness and despair, almost a metal opera with imposing synths and orchestrations leading the music to a climatic ending.

In summary, if Melodic Death Metal is what you love the most in life, don’t be afraid of the dark and go check Rifftera’s Facebook page and YouTube channel, and buy your copy of Pitch Black at Record Shop X or Inverse Store, you won’t regret that at all. These talented Finnish metallers put their hearts and souls into the making of this high-end futuristic album, something you can feel in each and every song, turning it into a must-have item in your collection of melodic and angry tunes.

Best moments of the album: Lightbringer, Rotten To The Core and The Ruins Of The Empire.

Worst moments of the album: Ashes Fall.

Released in 2015 Inverse Records

Track listing
1. Back To Life 5:22
2. One Step Closer 5:53
3. Lightbringer 5:27
4. Ashes Fall 7:03
5. Rotten To The Core (feat. Björn “Speed” Strid) 6:20
6. Open Wounds 5:24
7. The Ruins Of The Empire 6:40
8. Pitch Black 11:48

Band members
Janne Hietala – guitar, harsh vocals
Mikko Kuoppamaa – guitar, clean vocals
Antti Pöntinen – keyboards
Jupe Karhu – bass

Guest musicians
Björn “Speed” Strid – additional vocals on “Rotten To The Core”
Thomas Tunkkari – session drummer