Silent Stage

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Three albums into their career and Finland's Rapture continue to fly under most peoples' (even most heavy metal fans') radars: in part, no doubt, due to being confused with that other, far more mainstream band sharing their name (only prefaced with a "the"); in part perhaps because their melancholy brand of gothic death metal (think Katatonia and Paradise Lost) has inexplicably gone into relative disuse since around the mid-'90s. And still, listening to this stunning third LP, 2005's Silent Stage, only makes the group's enduring anonymity more perplexing -- particularly in a day and age when so many of the world's most successful heavy metal bands are baking their bread with exactly this sort of recipe for harsh contrasts between light and dark, bruising metallic riffing, and keening melodies, melodic and death-styled vocals. Textbook Rapture numbers like the title track, "Misery 24/7," "Cold on My Side," and the heartbreakingly sublime "Dreaming of Oblivion" traverse diverse tempos ranging from suicidal sloth to driving desire, while countering bouts of unflinching death metal power with delicate passages filled with aching, desolate loss. Even notably more accessible offerings like "The Past Nightmares," "I Am Complete," and "The Times We Bled Together (Closure)," which have the band sounding quite a bit like recently retired compatriots Sentenced, never do without at least a little bit of Cookie Monster vocal action. And when a band can get away with not one, but two instrumentals ("For the Ghosts of Our Time" and "Completion"), and make them absolutely count, you know there's talent here to be reckoned with. If only Rapture can keep recording music of such consistently high caliber until fashions turn around toward gothic death/doom again, they are bound to be given their due in the end.

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