“Rock And Roll is dead”. This is a comment you hear every now and then when indulging in a conversation about music – especially when music aficionados are part of that conversation. Rock music, to many of these folks is reminiscent of a time that has been long gone. The rock tradition has been rooted largely in the US and the UK. That would explain why fans do not feel the need to look beyond the boundaries of these two countries – and as a result, are truly missing out.
Scandinavia has been the birthplace of some very superior and sophisticated songwriting for decades. Some “larger than life” international acts have hailed from this part of the world. Noteworthy examples include ABBA, a-ha, and Roxette. Hence, it really should not be a surprise that modern rock’s saviors are from Finland.
Blending atmospheric sounds, hard-hitting guitar riffs, and strong hook-laden melodies with a rocky edge that is neither harsh nor noisy, Finnish band Poets Of The Fall has hit on a sound that ought to be the template for commercial modern rock music. Some critics have categorized their music as being “ambient rock”. That might be a bit of a miscategorization. Ambient and atmospheric sounds have been used as embellishments for the music but certainly do not constitute the core of the music. Each one of the band’s albums is an invigorating cocktail of hard-rock tracks and softer-edged melodic tracks thus catering to hard-rock purists as well as the pop fanatics that enjoy the occasional flirtation with rock. The band’s music is like an adrenalin injection that will make your heart and emotions soar. Lead singer Marko Saaresto embodies a distinct look and voice that puts him in the same league as magnetic rock frontmen such as Michael Hutchence, Bono, and Sting.
So why is this band rock music’s best kept secret? Well, for starters, the band’s singles are not featured on terrestrial radio in some of the world’s top music markets. This is despite the fact that their music is current and relevant while also fitting comfortably within the realms of commercially viable rock radio.
Second, the band is NOT on the roster for some of the world’s biggest music festivals (Glastonbury, Coachella, SXSW, Roskilde Festival etc.) This is a shame – especially since their music is meant to be experienced in arenas and they are an amazing live act. Fortunately, the band is following the lead of Depeche Mode and building a “live” following in countries where most global pop/rock acts have not managed to establish a live presence. This strategy helped “New Wave Gods” Depeche Mode move out of rival Duran Duran’s shadow in the 90s and also cross over to a younger generation of fans.
Third (and this is my only real criticism of the band) is that the band do not pick the most radio-worthy tracks as singles. This oversight is exemplified on their latest album “Temple Of Thought”. The album’s lead single is a slow rock ballad called “Cradled in Love”. While the song is great, it is not the track that was practically created for radio. That lead-single-worthy track is “The Distance”. The song’s electric guitar intro alone has you hooked and that is just the preamble to around four minutes of absolute pop/rock bliss. In the modern era of music, there is a lot less room for experimentation as far as the choice of an album’s singles are concerned. Irish rock gods U2 learned that the hard way when they released “Get On Your Boots” as the lead single of their “No Line On The Horizon” album. Not only did it serve as a very poor showcase of the album but it also adversely affected the sales (and hence the chart position) of the album’s second and insanely brilliant single “Magnificent”.
If the Poets could take steps to change their current “visibility” dynamic, they really could be a potent force in today’s global music scene. For those of you that have not had the privilege of listening to music by this supremely talented band, here are three full-length tracks to get you started on your path to discovery of Poets Of The Fall.