Entwine

Painstained

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What a long, strange trip it's been for Finland's Entwine, from their mid-‘90s death metal origins, through their early goth metal efforts, leading into what's essentially a modern radio rock album in their sixth full-length, 2009's Painstained. Seriously, wipe off that resilient eyeliner and the studiously morose looks seemingly super-glued onto these guys' faces, and they may as well be Nickelback or Daughtry -- with keyboards, brains, and a distinctly European aesthetic. That last bit is crucial: it's precisely why the keening vocals, swirling synths, and Neanderthal riffs of "Dying Moan" suggest a fusion between Entwine's defunct countrymen Sentenced and Floridian corporate rockers Creed. The electronic production on "Greed of Mankind," meanwhile, points directly to Linkin Park, while the slow-marching depression and vocal harmonies of "Lost in My Denial" fall squarely in the post-Alice in Chains universe inhabited by most of these mainstream rock bands. Don't misunderstand, though: far from a condemnation, these references only help to highlight what a more imaginative and versatile band like Entwine can do with this catchy collision between power and hooks -- the new millennium equivalent to AOR, if you will. And that essentially boils down to a few irresistible hard rock singles like "Soul Sacrifice," "Strife," and "Dead by Silence" that, to their immense credit, also manage to exude real emotion instead of glassy-eyed misogyny (thank you Mr. Kroeger). The end results are still not for everyone -- certainly not the heavy metal set that first supported Entwine -- but anyone seeking appealing, accessible hard rock could do a lot worse. Rocking out for the sake of rocking out is not a sin.

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