Looking out into the rainy streets of Helsinki is just as bleak as it used to be for Finland’s Rapture. Yet three years after the release of debut album “Futile,” Rapture are more confident than ever, and “Songs for the Withering’s” resplendent forward stride demonstrates that. ”Songs for the Withering” is about growth, and crafting an album with the pains that come with it. See, the album is full of striking melodic guitar lines that effortlessly work their way around a rock-solid rhythmic foundation, and an ambitious dual-vocal approach. Melodic death metal Rapture is, but it’s not that simple. To truly understand Rapture is to listen to it, to flow with every nuance, peak and valley.
”The material on “Songs for the Withering” is a lot more diverse than on “Futile,” explains vocalist Petri Eskelinen, who now shares center stage with new vocalist Henri Villberg (ex-Diablerie). And he’s right. From the riveting “Nameless” and “Transfixion” to the dreary “Two Dead Names” and “Farewell,” “Songs for the Withering” is a more robust effort, one that offers maturity and pure songcraft in equal measure. Sonically, the album pivots on an upbeat axis, but don’t let the comforting melodies beguile you. Rapture in heart and soul is wholly disconcerting.
“I don't think we had that much of a direction besides that we wanted to sound like Rapture,” Eskelinen reveals Rapture’s stream of consciousness approach to music. “It was clear that we needed to refine our sound and take it one step further. We met with a lot of criticism that we sounded like Katatonia when “Futile” came out but we had no intentions whatsoever to really try and break out of a mold that we were put into by other people.” Even so, the songwriting didn’t come easy. In the time between albums, Rapture replaced guitarist Jarno Salomaa (Shape Of Despair) with Aleksi Ahokas (ex-Diablerie) and also added a second vocalist Villberg. In a time of strife, the rejuvenated line-up has, in fact, created a stronger Rapture in “Songs for the Withering,” and it’s something main songwriter and guitarist Tomi Ullgren hopes to develop as the band grows, as Eskelinen confirms. “Let's just say that at the time being it seems that there is a very good interaction between Tomi and Aleksi. It seems to me that Tomi connects better musically with Aleksi than he did with Jarno.”
While it’s clear that Rapture will never sell out arenas with their eclectic blend of melodically driven death and melancholic rock, the band remains optimistic of the future. The band’s quiet disposition has created a small but loyal following, something which Rapture hopes will help build a strong foundation to further propel their career. And if fame and fortune don’t come, it’s not a big deal for the band. “It seems that we've dwelled in relative obscurity so far and I don't really mind, I'm happy to be able to make music and vent some of the internal turbulence I have,” says Eskelinen. “Honestly, in the end I couldn't care less. That's not why I'm doing this, to be famous and make some money off the band. Being able to support myself with music would be the ideal situation but I won't be losing any sleep over it.”
In any event, Rapture are one of Finland’s unsung heroes, and the possibility of recognition will probably hinge on the success of “Songs for the Withering” but chart entry or not, this is one hell of an album you shouldn’t miss.