SMACKBOUND – 20/20 (2020)
Frontiers Music Records has been expanded their melodic hard rock / AOR base to more diverse sounds / bands. And while the results not always have been satisfactory, with new outfit from Finland SMACKBOUND and their debut album “20-20” they nailed it.
This female fronted group delivers a very modern slice of metal, modern but incredibly catchy and melodically infectious.
Smackbound is fronted by a Finnish movie star. How often do we see actors as wannabe singers? How often does that pan out? Little did I know… It turns out that vocalist Netta Laurenne, who founded the band, is classically trained and has even studied folk, pop, and jazz singing.
My concerns diminished further when I discovered that Wintersun guitarist Teemu Mäntysaari and drummer Rolf Pilve (Stratovarius, The Dark Element) were both a part of the band. The line-up is rounded out by Tracedawn members Vili Itäpelto on keyboards and Tuomas Yli-Jaskari on bass. By the time I settled in and pressed play, I had become very optimistic.
The album opener is the frenetic “Wall of Silence”. The song explodes with swirling rhythms and Laurenne’s gravelly and grit-fueled vocals. She segues from biting to rich and melodious on the hooky chorus. A keyboard solo from Itäpelto reminiscent of 80s era Rainbow came as a nice surprise in the middle.
This is followed by “Drive it Like You Stole It”, and call me nuts, but aside the modern touch including synths and electronics, I hear a classic Whitesnake vibe. The track has a lot of swagger and groove, and Laurenne delivers her vocals as fiercely as the title suggests. Mäntysaari fires off a tasty and memorable solo. This song will got stuck in your head for several days. Killer track!
The album’s tempo shifts for the poignant intro to “Close to Sober”. There is a gothic yet poppish sense about it. Smackbound wastes no time swinging from emotive back to the energetic for the soulfully intense rocker “Run”. Pilve’s stick skills really shine on this one, but as with every track, Netta owns the song. Four tracks in and every song is a radio-ready hit.
The middle of the record hold’s perhaps the album’s most darkly beautiful moment, “The Game”. The song is a heartrending ballad that showcases Laurenne’s ability to create a sorrowful yet haunted feeling. Her performance resonates with the pain and anguish she is conveying through her lyrics.
“Those Who Burn” and “Hey M@therfucker” move away from the infectious hooks into more visceral shadows, which lends a nice balance to the record. Conversely, “Troublemaker” has more of a frenzied rush to it, similar to the album opener, while “Date with the Devil” combines R&B elements with heavy rock grooves.
The album closes out with another midtempo ballad, the intense “The Wind and Water”.
Smackbound have delivered an accomplished and versatile debut record with ’20/20′. I’m not sure what caliber actor Laurenne is, but her vocal abilities are right up there with the best. She and the band have managed to blend so many musical elements together with great results.
The musicianship across ’20/20′ is top notch, and Mäntysaari did a wonderful job with the production.
Hats off to Smackbound for coming out of the gates with such a strong debut, with solid songwriting and passionate performances, making it one of the more ballsy recordings I’ve heard from Frontiers in years – and not speaking about the music only, but for bringing something new to the table.
01 – Wall of Silence
02 – Drive It Like You Stole It
03 – Close to Sober
04 – Run
05 – The Game
06 – Those Who Burn
07 – Hey Motherfuckers
08 – Troublemaker
09 – Date with the Devil
10 – Wind and Water
Netta Laurenne – Vocals
Teemu Mäntysaari – Guitars
Rolf Pilve – Drums
Vili Itäpelto – Keyboards
Tuomas Yli-Jaskari – Bass