SILENTIUM — Infinita Plango Vulnera (review)

SILENTIUM — Infinita Plango Vulnera album cover Album · 1999 · Gothic Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
lukretion
This debut album of Finnish ensemble Silentium is a thing of beauty. The band emerged in the symphonic doom/gothic arena in the second half of the 1990s and, after a couple of self-released demos, signed a record deal with Spikefarm, the then new-born subsidiary of Finnish label Spinefarm. At the time they recorded this album, Silentium were comprised of seven musicians, two guitarists, two singers (female and male, the latter also playing bass), a drummer, a keyboard player, and a violinist. Released in 1999, Infinita Plango Vulnera is the band’s debut full-length album and is also the first record to ever be released on Spikefarm.

Silentium merge together a number of influences on this album. There is a strong doom component, inspired no doubt by the British scene, My Dying Bride in particular. However, the compositions are leaner and less oppressive than the standard doom canon, in large part due to the strong baroque/classical influences that are manifest most obviously in the keyboards and violin arrangements. Moreover, the music also has noticeable blackened gothic undertones, accentuated by the use of operatic female vocals. These different influences are dosed very tastefully throughout the ten songs of the album, resulting in a fresh and original sound that sets the band apart from both the doom and the gothic scenes. If I were to draw a comparison with other bands from those years, I’d probably say German band EverEve, who were also playing a similar combination of doom, gothic and black metal, although the Finns display a stronger classical component in their music.

The album traces a bleak but captivating musical journey. The songwriting is consistently strong, striking a perfect balance between complexity and immediacy. Keyboard player Sami Boman was the main songwriter at the time and he must have had some classical music training because the baroque/classical music influences are all over the place in the band’s sophisticated arrangements. This is apparent from the frequent use of counterpoint melodies (simultaneously played by the violin, keyboards and guitars), the omnipresence of classical violin and piano lines, and the use of operatic vocals by female singer Tiina Lehvonen. Songs like “Whatever the Pain” and “With Blood Adorned” are glorious examples of the marked classical influences in Silentium’s arrangements. The latter almost feels like a blackened gothic metal take on chamber music, which may be disorienting at first, but eventually becomes nothing short of exhilarating.

Elsewhere, the classical influences are more subdued and the doom component comes more to the fore. “Redemption”, “Requiem” and “At the Dawn I Wept” are wonderful doom gems that seem taken straight out of My Dying Bride’s playbook, but further coloured with hints of blackened gothic metal. “Forever Sleep” is a more straightforward goth uptempo, while folk melodies surface on “Maiden of the Forest” and “With Blood Adorned”. Meanwhile, “Solicitude” is a languid semi-instrumental affair that opens and closes the album with an almost lounge jazz feel. Such a variety in the style of its compositions is without doubt one the main strengths of the album. It is impossible to get bored or lose focus while listening to this album as things keep changing from song to song and the music constantly takes a fresh turn with each new track.

Another strength of the album is that the musicianship is very tight. Silentium are a skillful ensemble, all band members are proficient in their instrument and capable to put their skills to the service of the song. Keyboardist Sami Boman and violinist Jani Laaksonen are omnipresent and form the backbone of the album compositions. It is a pleasure to listen to their classy arrangements and to the stylish interplay between violin and keys. The two guitarists Juha Lehtioksa Toni Lahtinen also impress with tight rhythmical patterns and pleasant leads. Meanwhile, drummer Janne Ojala and bassist Matti Aikio provide solid grooves that propel the songs forward with ease. The vocals are also good. The male singer, Matti Aikio, uses a range of different styles, from classic doom vocals (he reminds me of a cross between My Dying Bride’s Aaron Stainthorpe and Vincent Cavanagh in those early, doomy Anathema albums) to blackened rasps. Regardless of the style, he puts in a convincing performance. The female singer, Tiina Lehvonen, is used more sparingly, almost in a backing role. Her soprano-like vocals, albeit not exceptional, fit well the music and are used with taste.

The strong musicianship is exalted by the excellent sound production, courtesy of the experienced duo of Mikko Karmila (mixing) and Mika Jussila (mastering). The quality of the production compares favourably with albums produced today, more than twenty years after this album’s release. The separation between instruments is perfect and everything sounds clean and smooth. Yet, the sound retains enough grit and power to trigger a satisfying dose of headbanging when needed (“Requiem”).

Infinita Plango Vulnera is a great album that any fan of doom/gothic metal should make sure not to miss out on. The doom/gothic scene became quickly crowded in the 1990s/2000s, but with this album Silentium managed to stand out from the rest of the pack, by incorporating elegant classical influences into a musical tapestry made of mid-tempos, cavernous vocals and mournful melodies. The end result is a thing of beauty that provides a thrilling and entertaining musical journey every time I put the disc on. Highly recommended!

[Also published on metal-archives.com]
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