*** Go to our YouTube channel in the link below to see the video review of this record in episode #17 of the SBR Album of the Week.
Rioghan started as a solo project for Finnish poetess, Jenni Perämäki, but soon evolved into a trio when Teemu Liekkala (guitarist) and Valtteri Revonkorpi (drums) noticed her talent, vision, and creativity. Last year’s Blackened Sky EP must have done something right to attract the attention of Einar Solberg (Leprous) and Jonas Renske (Katatonia), both of whom contribute to her debut album. Now she presents us with her first full-length offering, and it’s a stunning mix of progressive metal with multi-coloured textures and a dark undercurrent of romantic suffering. Different Kinds of Losses will pique your curiosity like a herd of forest reindeers.
This music can be a sojourn through the virgin snow, a terrifying loss of autonomy, or a sombre reflection on things that should never have vanished from your life – often it can be all three in one song. The drip-drop of piano and sparse electronics of opener, ‘Sight’, will transport you to a winter wonderland where the beasts lay in wait at night when civilisation sleeps. Rioghan’s restraint in the first minute of the song is perhaps the biggest surprise – you expect extravagant soprano projections and glittering falsettos. She gives you maudlin introspection. Then the drop-tuned guitars kick in for the chorus, and she unleashes her fragile emotions like a patient letting her boundaries crumble. It doesn’t even matter if the lyrics are cryptic. The way she holds the anxious but hopeful note on the word “activated” will remind you of Maynard’s legendary lament of “humbled again” in ‘The Grudge’ by Tool. It’s like holding your hand under a hot tap for an extra ten seconds to see if you can channel the pain away from your physical reality. Wow!
The musicians around her have no need to hide their main influences on Different Kinds of Losses. Tesseract’s unique blend of down-tuned guitars and enchanting vocal melodies are a clear inspiration on ‘Promises’, yet the guitar work never sounds derivative. Rioghan’s lyrics are often as disturbing as they are beautiful in their naked honesty. “You pull my hair/ Shove my face against the counter/ Blood spots on white granite/ It all blends together.” Her aggressive voice in the bridge is weak compared to her contemporaries (Tatiana Shmailyuk, Courtney LaPlante, Lauren Hart, et al.), but the way she recovers the chorus with a stunning flutter of bird song melodies is sensational. It makes the deliberate mind-fuck of the guitar rhythms in the middle eight an easy listen with your mind still in a state of captivation. And when we say this woman can deliver a chorus, we mean Tori Amos standard. Listen how she starts ‘Home’ with a melancholic chorus at the beginning to let you know what’s in store. You’ll be singing with a sorrowful smile by the end of it: “See the world below/ As I’m falling down/ Like sand through the hourglass.”
How easy it would be for the Rioghan team to surrender their musical preferences in pursuit of bringing the singer’s voice to the forefront of every song. They never allow her to take a back seat, but they make sure the riffs and the beats capture your imagination. For this, we can thank Teemu Liekkala of SBR favourites, Red Eleven. How many composers would let the restrained synth sequence of ‘Bruises’ carry the song with Rioghan in such commanding control of the mood? Not he. A colossal passage of rocking guitar lights up the chorus as if John Petrucci walked into the studio for a cameo. You’ll hear the unique vocoder harmonies and offbeats of Haken in the second half of ‘Reflection’. The syncopated guitar shapes are as good anything from the last Caligula’s Horse record.
Of course, the lonely beauty of Rioghan’s voice deserves centre stage, and she makes every effort to remind you of the duality in her personality on this record. She might look like a superstar and dazzle with a fervid anxiety, but the music is more than one person. This is what makes it an enchanting prog metal record with so many layers and tangents waiting to be deconstructed on repeat listens. The subtle groove and high-register synth rotations of closing track ‘Summer’ show that the band paid attention to the last four Depeche Mode records. There’s so much going on here, but every instrument has room to breathe.
Different Kinds of Losses is not a perfect album, and you get the feeling Rioghan has even more to offer on the next record. A higher content of metallic guitar posturing would be welcome, and more work on her harsher vocals should be her next priority. But if this woman is not famous in Finland in twelve months, we need to ask why. Here is an artist you cannot ignore.
Release Date: 09/12/2022
Record Label: Inverse Records
Standout tracks: Sight, Promises, Reflection
Suggested Further Listening: Tesseract – Sonder (2018), Caligula’s Horse – Rise Radiant (2020), Red Eleven – Handle with Chaos (2021)