The heavy music world has had plenty of contrast-minded bands in the '90s and 21st century -- bands that love to contrast clean vocals with extreme vocals or lush melodies with brutal sensory assault. Some of those contrast-minded bands are in melodic death metal or symphonic black metal (both of which have been dominated by Europe), while others have embraced the screamo/melodic hardcore/post-hardcore style (which has been dominated by the United States). Finland's Ghost Brigade favor a very contrast-minded approach on their debut album, Guided by Fire, which has been influenced by European metal more than American metal (certainly on a musical/songwriting level), but is not oblivious to metal from the United States. This early-2007 recording is not easy to pigeonhole stylistically; Ghost Brigade get a lot of inspiration from melodic death metal (minus the flashy, power metal-influenced musicianship) and doom metal as well as from goth metal. But when lead singer Manne Ikonen provides extreme vocals (he handles all the clean lead vocals as well), he goes for tortured metalcore-style screaming rather than death metal's "Cookie Monster" growl or black metal's sinister rasp. Guided by Fire, however, is by no means traditional metalcore or even screamo; this is an album that gets most of its musical/songwriting inspiration from Europe and more of its vocal inspiration from the United States. Even though Ikonen's extreme vocals add a lot of heaviness and intensity to this album, Guided by Fire consistently thrives on melodies -- dark, gloomy, brooding melodies. Melody is not an afterthought on Guided by Fire; it is a vital, essential part of what Ghost Brigade do on their very listenable and respectable debut.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson