Album Review: Standing Ovation

2012 is coming to a close soon and I have to say it’s been a pretty damn remarkable year, especially for Finnish bands.  So far we’ve seen top-notch debuts from three incredible groups, Simulacrum, Oddland and Psychema as well as the new release from Status Minor (Ouroborus).  Honestly, until recently I hadn’t really checked out the Finnish prog metal scene and hadn’t heard of much going on there prog-wise outside of the legendary progressive doom band Amorphis.  Now, into the mix we have the humorously named (but musically serious), Standing Ovation and their remarkable debut The Antikythera Mechanism, an album based primarily on the ancient Greek astronomical clock.  The band is currently on the Finnish label, Inverse Records and while they don’t sound like label-mates Simulacrum, they do share that band’s penchant for great songs over show-offy shredding.

The music is a merger of sophisticated, progressive compositions filled with tons of humorously manic energy and a softer melancholy folk element.  Like a lot of newer bands classified as prog metal, Standing Ovation uses metal as an element within their music rather than as a basis – and it’s often done with a good dose of humor.  I’m reminded heavily of the zany 70’s Swedish band Samla Mammas Manna, who also masked a very complex and sophisticated style with a wacky, off-beat sense of humor.   Band vocalist and lyricist, Jouni Partanen has a wonderful voice and a huge, dramatic emotional range, from the haunting ballad Break The News to the death-metal inspired ending of Travesty and even a wacked-out version of  Sea Shanty, Hey Ho!

The band has the standard instrumentation of guitar-based prog metal with keyboards (mostly heavy sounds and piano) but has so many elements that would appeal to both prog rock as well as prog metal fans (since I love both, bands like this really get to me), including great extended compositions along with tons of piano and even some vibes.  The album begins gently with a soft whistle against an ocean breeze before a melancholy acoustic guitar restates the whistling melody.  The opener quickly dissolves into Escapade a wild prog metal “escapde” – a manic, melodically off-kilter guitar/heavy keyboard led piece that ends abruptly and begins the next song, “Travesty”, a song that starts as a beautiful acoustic ballad and ends somehow as a breathy death metal-esque piece.

After more alternating between melancholy slowness and sophisticated, manic heaviness through the rest of the album, The Anthikythera Mechanism ends with a three-part heavy prog suite based on the album title concept and revolves around the saving of humanity from destruction.  The ending of the suite is truly glorious and has so much in just a five minute piece from a beautiful piano/vocal duo to a gorgeous and triumphant orchestral ending.  I really can’t find a weak link on this album – the ballads are wonderful and there is just a ton of high-energy exuberance that makes the album so much fun to listen to.  I’m definitely still puzzled by the name of the band.  Perhaps they are saying they deserve an ovation, or maybe the name is a salute to their aspirations and they’re the ones giving out the applause.  No matter – this is a wonderful album and is sure to make most genre fans’ top 10 lists for the year.

You can check out a promo video of the band below and if you like it and want to pick up a copy you can do so via the purchase link, also below.

Standing Ovation – Official Site

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Standing Ovation – Promotional Video

Standing Ovation – Album Purchase Link

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