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Trading his microphone for a guitar, Sentenced frontman Ville Laihila teamed with Finnish musicians J.P. Leppaluoto (vocals) and Janne Kukkonen (bass) to write Escapexstacy, an energetic album of goth metal songs. Unlike many bands in the genre, Poisonblack is an vigorous bunch, relying on somber keyboards and Leppaluoto's vampiric vocals to provide the gloom. Featuring huge, catchy hooks and dynamic guitar riffs delivered with grim seriousness and shrouded in ethereal keyboards, their music is basically a gothic variation of pop-metal. This is particularly evident during "In Lust," a textbook power ballad, and the up-tempo "With Her I Die," a rocker that lifts its rousing guitar intro from, of all places, Poison's "Life Goes On." Listeners expecting this to be an exercise in chilling soundscapes will be in for a big surprise, but Poisonblack's energetic approach and hook-driven songwriting is equally effective, if not as dreary. The few times when they emphasize chilling atmosphere over melody -- the bland intro to "The State" stands out -- are the moments when Escapexstacy falls flat. Poisonblack inadvertently (or maybe even purposefully) makes what is usually a depressing subgenre fun and accessible, and their debut is a campy delight because of it.

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