I trust that you've noticed the rising amount of "viking" metal bands and bands that otherwise take heavy influence from the pagan traditions. Well, Whispered brings something new to this table by taking heavy aid and influence from the oriental traditions and instruments. The band has existed under this name since '04 and this is their debut album, released after two demos. The one from '06 already had some of these songs featured on it.
Even though the songs are most of the time built on riff-based (surprisingly light) melodic death metal with some synth-support, they have a huge deal of variation in them. The songs vary from occasionally being based on progressive rock and -metal-styled guitar solos and some synth jammings, a lot more atmospheric and a lot more dramatic output to parts that are almost wholly based on japanese instrumentations - and a lot of the time whilst also having some classical orchestrations to add some weight and dramatic feel to the songs and to keep the songs and the album itself going strongly forward. The songs can change a lot during their playtime, which might be no wonder as their lenghts are between five and nine minutes, but despite this the album has a good flow and is well knit together. This is due to the band's daring experimentations and choices, such as the oriental instrumentations, professional-sounding choir vocals (in japanese!) and the progressive elements, and taking these elements as far as they can be taken. This album and all the orchestrations and such were evidently worked on 'till they were ready, nothing was half-done.
Sounds a bit too much, doesn't it? At first the album is quite difficult to digest, but after numerous listens the basic structures and compositions behind the orchestrated songs start to reveal themselves, making them more easy to understand. After all, the album is based on melodic death metal with rather good riffs - it's just that the whole, flow and (lyrical) plot of the album relies a lot on the added orchestrations and ethnic mid-parts, which is why it might be hard to understand what's really going on musically. All of this adds to a really pleasing and revarding listening experience because of the surprisingly good flow provided by the "additional" elements, because they give the album it's pulse and rhythm and push it forward in a natural vein. There's plenty of changes from dramatic and even depressive moods to somewhat cheerier moods to keep the album becoming stale.
The album has surprisingly light sounds when thinking of the dramatic choral vocals and the dark lyrics and themes. Although the heaviness might've given the album more instant appeal and would've made the soundscape darker and thus more thematically fitting, it would've made the solos a lot more difficult to execute and would've reduced the effect of the more epic choices, effects and twists in the compositions. Now, with the solos and all, the soundscape has some air and lightness in it so that the album doesn't become too overwhelming or numbing during it's long lenght. Even the last song doesn't feel like it would last for the 13 minutes it does.
Some of the songs would need changes to fully work on their own, for example some of them have too many or too long solos (and with more than one instrument) and some songs have some dramatic effect and twists that don't really lift off when they're not connected with the rest of the album. There is a rather evident reason to this, and it's the same reason for me to not be so specific with the songs: the album is really meant to work as a whole. The band also seems to really have put much effort into the release, as one can see when going through the recording info in the booklet. The band had a few well chosen quest musicians performing some flutes, violins and a few guitar parts, and the band's producer Perttu Wänskä did a lot of work with the choirs, ethnic arrangements, programming and such together with the band's vocalist. I hope that Whispered remembers to show gratitude to these people, as they really took the band's ideas to a greater level through their input.
The band's musical skills need no room for complaints aside of the monotonous and weightless harsh vocals that don't really do the music much justice, they just even out the whole and don't have much to add to the musical and/or dramatic twists. I hope that the vocalist really works on his output in the future.
The release's visuals are really well planned and executed and support the record's dramatic feel really well. The simple drawings next to the lyrics help visualizing the events pictured in the lyrics and the layout's old style is appealing and fitting to the themes - only the too modern-looking and pretty ridiculous band picture should've been left out or executed in a wholly different manner, now it doesn't fit in at all. It's also a bit odd that the artwork is printed on glossy paper, but I guess it's just a custom the label's used to. The lyrics are based on some despair-ridden japanese samurai-myths, themes and legends that I don't really know anything about, and the promo-letter by the band didn't help me with this at all.
I just hope that the band didn't reveal all their cards too early; the expectations for their next album will be really high after a this strong debut album, and for a reason, too. I've also wondered how the band works live, but of course there's only one answer to this: to go check 'em out.