The Phantom Tollbooth
 
From Kaamos...To Midnight Sun--Finnish Metal Compilation
Artist: Various
Label: Little Rose Productions
Length: 13 tracks / 64:54 minutes

Looks like Finland's Little Rose Productions is taking up the torch once born by the likes of Pure Metal, Intense, and Rowe Productions, as the forerunners of quality Christian metal. Except now the bearers of the metal flame are pale, grim-faced, and hurried as they explore chill caverns and traverse lands where grey storms scrape the sky.
 
The phrase "From Kaamos to Midnight Sun" is a reference to the extreme North's alternating months of darkness and sunlight, and basically means "from endless night to the everlasting day." The spiritual metaphor is obvious. The metal world has always been hostile to Christian efforts at infiltration, and it's only worse where Little Rose makes its home--Scandinavia. Death and black metal bands are at the extreme forefront of their efforts, making up most of the artists on From Kaamos...To Midnight Sun, along with some weaker thrash and neo-classical aspirers in the well-protected center of the compilation.
 
Whatever your preference in Scandinavian melodic metal, it's here. Immortal Souls open strong with a blitzkrieg of lead and rhythm playing, contributing excellent tracks in the vein of In Flames and Dark Tranquillity. Manifestium follows with melodic goth metal soaring on misty keyboards, almost like Anathema's younger, impatient brother (which is still slow). Little Rose's flagship band Deuteronomium makes an appearance with a black metal highlight from their full-length album, "Spell of Hell," and an unreleased death metal tune that probably should have remained in the vault, adding nothing to their usually varied sound.
 
Perhaps as a teaser for the Immortal Souls/Mordecai split CD (see review in this issue), we're only given a brief taste of Mordecai's melodic black metal--cascading symphonic rhythms fused with contrasting gargles and serious, multi-layered, goth vocals. Then we get a welcome break from all the gloom and gurgle with thrash rockers Scream and the neo-classical Hallowed. Unfortunately, Scream's singer has the curse of the bad Euro-accent and sounds like he stumbled straight from the tavern to the studio. Their first track eventually gets into a respectable groove with some progressive time changes and more palatable shouting, but the second descends into dismal off-key ballad territory. Hallowed picks up the pace with plenty of satisfying gallop-picking, soft keyboards, and nasal upper mid-range vocals. It's a  refreshing trip into yesteryear, but below average in comparison to others of the genre. Cruciferae, the resident veterans, round out the album with their solidly-executed, atmospheric, melodic black/death metal with a variety of vocal styles and switch-offs between acoustic and distortion passages.
 
Cheers are in order for Little Rose Productions's efforts with this one; it's quite a groundbreaking compilation when measured against Christian metal's track record, even if it's all been done before by many non-Christian bands. Equal to or better than Rowe's Northern Lights compilation several years back. I'm already looking forward to the next one.
 
By Josh Spencer (2/15/99)