I’m a sucker for clean female vocals in metal. Whether it’s the bombastic delivery of Nightwish, the smoky-sweet crooning of Purson, or any of the multiple styles of my golden-voiced goddess, Liv Kristine, I’m almost always on board. Enter the Finnish band Psalms for the Dead Sun and their first LP, Holy Charade, featuring Jenny Malmberg on vocals.
Holy Charade opens with Laws of Silence, featuring a heavy, fuzzed-out guitar riff. Did I stumble onto a doom/death album? Nope, after a minute or so the music slides back into a quieter state, and Malmberg begins singing. At this point, we know we’re more in the Purson camp. Malmberg has a mid-range register, and leans more toward the blues camp in terms of delivery. That meaty guitar riff that opened the song peeks in and out every so often, and Malmberg’s soaring vocals add a lot of weight to the song when the music isn’t.
The second track, Pretty Perfect Dies, has a slow, doomy feel. The instrumentation is definitely taking a back seat on this track, but adds a lot of atmosphere to Malmberg’s slow, yet deliberate vocal performance. The heavy doom instrumentation picks up again in the last two minutes of the song into a building crescendo.
December adds a saxophone into the mix, giving the song almost a jazz feel, which helps break up the darkness of the prior songs. The sax reappears in Black Lodge, but here it’s used to evoke a smoky nightclub atmosphere. Meanwhile, the title track, Holy Charade, also has an upbeat feel to it, and Malmberg gets to explode on the chorus, showing off just how talented she is.
While the vocals appear to be the focal point of the album, the rest of the band shouldn’t be ignored, either. We’ve got some strong guitar work and audible bass lines that do an excellent job of setting the atmosphere in each song. While the drums aren’t particularly amazing, they do their job competently. Really, the mixing on this album is superb, with everything set at the appropriate volume for whatever is happening in the song at the time.
Holy Charade is lighter fare, for sure, so anyone reading this who is into the super-heavy stuff probably won’t get into this, but if you like most gothic metal and want to hear an incredible female vocal performance, you’ll find a lot to like here. Holy Charade is a spectacular debut, and Psalms For The Dead Sun should have a brilliant future ahead of them.