Sinisthra – The Broad And Beaten Way – Album Review

mail

Artist: Sinisthra

Album Title: The Broad And Beaten Way

Label: Rockshots Records

Date of Release: 15 May 2020

Cards on the table, if this album didn’t feature Tomi Joutsen of Amorphis on vocals, I’d probably never have looked at it twice. The name is not one with which I am familiar and the cover is simply awful, not something that would draw me in on a curious whim that’s for sure. But how could I possibly ignore an album featuring one of my favourite vocalists in metal, from one of those bands that I have followed for many years and have loved since the turn of the millennium? The answer is that I couldn’t and so here we are, with a review of ‘The Broad And Beaten Way’ by Sinisthra.

‘The Broad And Beaten Way’ is actually the sophomore release from Finland’s Sinisthra, and it comes an eye-wateringly long fifteen years after the debut, ‘Last of the Stories of Long Past Glories’. But I guess that’s what happens when your singer’s career takes off elsewhere. The band in 2020 is comprised of Joutsen alongside principal songwriter and guitarist Markku Mäkinen, guitarist Marko Välimäki, drummer Erkki Virta, keyboardist Timo Vainio, and bassist Janne Telen.

The accompanying press release suggests that the music on ‘The Broad And Beaten Way’ would find favour with fans of Katatonia, Anathema, and Green Carnation alongside the inevitable Amorphis comparisons. However, whilst there are some nods towards Amorphis due to the unique vocals of Joutsen, it is fair to say that Sinisthra have a strong whiff of the original about them. In fact, I might have brought this review to you much sooner had it not been for the fact that I spent ages trying to get to grips with the music on this album and fully understand it. Oh, and it’s rather good too, so I have thoroughly enjoyed prolonging the process just a little if I’m being honest.

Before I get on to the music itself, it’s worth mentioning the lyrical content, as ‘The Broad And Beaten Way’ is a concept album, taking ‘inspiration from the fall of man and from leading a chaotic and self-destructive modern day life and trying to find solid ground and perhaps even some peace of mind.’ Not exactly easy listening or upbeat but then, neither is the musical accompaniment to the words as I will now seek to explain…

Miika Storm Photography
Miika Storm Photography

What I find difficult to grasp is the way in which this album is both heavy and yet smooth at the very same time. Or, to put it another way, the music doesn’t feel like it is all that heavy. At various points, we are treated to some proper riffage, a pounding rhythm section and plenty of those ingredients you’d expect to hear from the more extreme ends of the metal spectrum. But thanks to the melodies, the clean and mellifluous voice of Joutsen, touches of 70s prog, and the songwriting prowess of Sinisthra, I feel engaged throughout and never battered or bruised.

The lead ‘single’ is the thirteen-minute behemoth entitled ‘Closely Guarded Distance’. And despite apparently being a bastardised mash-up of a number of previously unfinished songs written over the past few years, it is easily my favourite of the six compositions on ‘The Broad And Beaten Way’. According to the band, it is comprised of three sections, each telling a different part of the story. Djent-like riffs can be heard in the opening passage, making it one of the most aggressive sections on the album, despite extended periods where it is just a minimalist backdrop against which Joutsen croons. The mid-section slows things down a touch and introduces some bold synth sounds, almost 80s hammer-horror in tone, conjuring images of ‘spooky’ ghosts in the process. But importantly, it’s at this point where the melodies start to take effect. The proceedings are led by the voice of Joutsen on top of gentle piano notes, with a few select lead guitar notes and some well-placed synth sounds. You can sense that something is lurking just around the corner, and you’d be right, as the epic track erupts into a stunning crescendo. Keys, guitars, bass and drums combine to create a stirring aural backdrop, whilst Joutsen adds the icing to the cake with some stunning vocals; his long-held notes add emotion and a touch of drama whilst behind him, the melodies are simply sublime.

By contrast, ‘Halfway To Somewhere Else’ is utterly beautiful in its fragility across 90% of its life. The song is testament to the power of simplicity; when you combine a captivating voice with a simple melody and allow it to take flight, the results can be truly magical. The same could be said for the opening gambit, ‘Eterne’ which, whilst heavier and more upbeat in terms of tempo and aggression, it is one of those songs that is lofted high upon the wings of a killer chorus. The voice of Joutsen is allowed to soar and the results are brilliant, instantly reminding me of why I love his delivery and tone, especially when allowed to break loose and fly expansively across the musical landscape below. ‘Morningfrail’ delivers some great chunky, chugging riffs along the way and eventually opens up into something more expansive at the death, with elegant melodies drenched in keys.

A Finnish record wouldn’t be a Finnish record without a solid dollop of melancholia and ‘The Broad And Beaten Way’ is bathed in misery, although you have probably gathered as much already. But unlike other compatriots, there’s a definite warmth to the material that counterbalances the sadness. It means that you can sense genuine hope and positivity within the gloom, something I have grabbed hold of as I listen. Just take a moment to drink in the final track, ‘Ephemeral’, a song that is undeniably solemn, but is equally strangely uplifting and totally beautiful.

I just hope that ‘The Broad And Beaten Way’ doesn’t get missed or overlooked because that would be a tragedy. The music on this record from Sinisthra is truly excellent and deserves as wide an audience as possible. So please, do me a favour and hunt this down, because if you’re a fan of heavy music with intelligence and beauty, you’ll not regret it.

The Score of Much Metal: 90%

Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:

Paradise Lost – Obsidian
Naglfar – Cerecloth
Forgotten Tomb – Nihilistic Estrangement
Winterfylleth – The Reckoning Dawn
Firewind – Firewind
An Autumn For Crippled Children – All Fell Silent, Everything Went Quiet
Havok – V
Helfró – Helfró
Victoria K – Essentia
Cryptex – Once Upon A Time
Thy Despair – The Song Of Desolation
Cirith Ungol – Forever Black
Igorrr – Spirituality and Distortion
Nightwish – Human. II: Nature.
Katatonia – City Burials
Wolfheart – Wolves Of Karelia
Asenblut – Die Wilde Jagd
Nicumo – Inertia
The Black Dahlia Murder – Verminous
Omega Infinity – Solar Spectre
Symbolik – Emergence
Pure Reason Revolution – Eupnea
Irist – Order Of The Mind
Testament – Titans Of Creation
Ilium – Carcinogeist
Dawn Of Ouroboros – The Art Of Morphology
Torchia – The Coven
Novena – Eleventh Hour
Ashes Of Life – Seasons Within
Dynazty – The Dark Delight
Sutrah – Aletheia EP
Welicoruss – Siberian Heathen Horde
Myth Of I – Myth Of I
My Dying Bride – The Ghost Of Orion
Infirmum – Walls Of Sorrow
Inno – The Rain Under
Kvaen – The Funeral Pyre
Mindtech – Omnipresence
Dark Fortress – Spectres From The Old World
The Oneira – Injection
Night Crowned – Impius Viam
Dead Serenity – Beginnings EP
The Night Flight Orchestra – Aeromantic
Deadrisen – Deadrisen
Blaze Of Perdition – The Harrowing Of Hearts
Godsticks – Inescapable
Isle Of The Cross – Excelsis
Demons & Wizards – III
Vredehammer – Viperous
H.E.A.T – H.E.A.T II
Psychotic Waltz – The God-Shaped Void
Into The Open – Destination Eternity
Lunarsea – Earthling/Terrestre
Pure Wrath – The Forlorn Soldier EP
Sylosis – Cycle of Suffering
Sepultura – Quadra
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements

You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here:

2019 reviews
2018 reviews
2017 reviews
2016 reviews
2015 reviews

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s