SaraLee – Damnation to Salvation

01/02/2009 § Leave a comment

Artist: SaraLee
Title: Damnation to Salvation
Label: Firebox Records
Genre: Gothic rock

Track Listing:

01 Scars
02 Forsaken
03 Sleeping in the Fire
04 Rescue Me
05 Crimson Sky
06 Catch the Moon
07 Nights (we’re Living For)
08 Turning Point
09 Remains of Carmen
10 Last Day Alive

Choosing a name for your band must be difficult these days. I remember when I had to do the same a few years ago, it got to the point where me and my fellow bandmates ended up going through an entire dictionary [admittedly the Oxford Pocket] to find something that sounded trendy, individual and intriguing. The people who really max out in this area are the ambient and industrial bands: you can call yourself any combination of letters, numbers, glyphs or Pokémon and no-one will question you. If you’re a Gothic rock band from Finland though, the weight of cliché is slightly more difficult to avoid and I wonder why a band who were previously called ‘Restless’ decided to change their name to that of a British cake manufacturer. I’m a fan of chocolate gateaux as much as anyone, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

And there is something ever so sickly about the kind of music that SaraLee make. According to their official website they create songs which manage to fuse metal, rock and Gothic music in an “interesting” way, though exactly what ‘interesting’ means here could be very much up for debate. This clearly isn’t a band that has a huge desire to do anything original since Damnation to Salvation, their second offering, is about as unadventurous as Gothic rock gets. They’re very keen to sell the fact that they were inspired by the likes of Pantera, Paradise Lost and Type O Negative and though these bands may have originally led them to pick their guitars up and start twanging along to the sounds of Christian Woman and Embers Fire, none of these influences have found their way into their music. In fact, they should have mentioned Liza Minelli, Blue Mink and The Wurzles for the hell of it, no-one would have known any differently.

What is clear is that SaraLee have been listening to too much HIM and 69 Eyes recently and this is really the kind of territory their music occupies. It must be hard to avoid that kind of stuff in Finland and though I’m sure many a band would love to make a bomb from it, very few can without sounding totally boring. Unfortunately, as you’ve probably guessed, SaraLee haven’t succeeded either and though quite a bit of money has been put into the sound quality of this release, it’s more or less money wasted. It’s like throwing thousands of pounds on a pony at the Grand National, the amount spent is not directly proportional to the result.

The main problem with Damnation to Salvation is the huge lack of variety in the music. There are bands who manage to do Gothic rock very well such as countrymates Entwine or Italy’s excellent unknowns The LoveCrave, and these bands carry if off by not only creating very catchy choruses but altering tempo, key and colour regularly, something that SaraLee seem incapable of. Every song plods along at the same pace with little soul or emotion and after several listens it’s still very hard to distinguish one from another. It feels as if their click tracks and metronomes have been permanently set to “tedious” and they’ve had no choice but to succumb to their hypnotic duress.

If SaraLee manage to do anything well, at least they can knock a tune out coherently. Lead singer Jonas manages to hold his position respectably, even experimenting with some convincing growls in a couple of places. However, in the cleaner sections his voice doesn’t hold the fervour or silky intensity of Valo or Heikkonen and it’s all too common to find your attention drifting throughout songs which could have been so much more. And that’s really the point with SaraLee – the music and musicianship are so nearly there, but not quite enough to make this disc worth multiple listens. If you like your rock to be inoffensive and unchallenging, this would certainly fit the bill. The rest of us can look elsewhere.

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