Welcome to Ember Falls
Thanks to In Flames (early to mid career) and Soilwork, we know the marriage between pop and metal can be successful, and groups like Raunchy, Amaranthe, and their ilk have taken that idea and run with it. The key to making the union work is understanding what makes each tick, so just adding synths and slick choruses to melodeath/metalcore-styled verses can leave the listener with the feeling that everything is too sugary sweet. That is certainly an issue for Finnish group Ember Falls, but their debut does an admirable job of rising above their shortcomings.
It doesn’t take long to get why the band has the chance to truly make a crossover splash, as the album’s lead-off single is, frankly, a near-perfect pop metal jam. It reeks of mid-career In Flames, with some Atreyu-styled glam metal-meets-melodeath flair. It’s addictive in a way that normally isn’t safe for human use. That does get at one issue of the production: it’s so slick, it should come with a “Slippery When Wet” warning, and the record certainly does carry a diabetes-inducing level of sweetness. Of course, just like Amaranthe, this is part of Ember Falls’ charm. It helps make a song like “Rising Tide”, a tune that would be hilariously hokey in lesser hands, a real winner of a power ballad. It should also be noted that, while things are definitely overproduced, these guys can certainly play. The uber-melodic jams on display throughout are just heavy enough to contrast excellently with the Eurodance-styled pop elements. Certainly the mix doesn’t always work, and it definitely feels like Ember Falls tries to marry the two equally, but it’s hard not to feel like Welcome to Ember Falls is a pop band first and a metal band second. It evidences itself in hyper-melodic hooks, sure, but it makes sense when the music behind the vocals and synths feel less important.
There are some other issues. The rapping in “Open Your Eyes” is not a good decision, and it weighs down a solid chorus. Also, the power ballads (besides “Rising Tide”) feel superfluous, when the band is best at full tempo and volume (see: “Shut Down With Me”). Ember Falls will be a tough sell for many, but despite a style that lends itself to scorn from the metal community, the band’s debut is full of enough energy and quality choruses to justify itself. They aren’t at the level of their contemporaries just yet, but the promise of greatness is there, if they can reign in the slickness level a tad and embrace their metallic prowess.