Occasionally, you take a set against a record or band in the review queue before hearing a note. This is, clearly, unfair but it is also human nature. In the case of Finnish five-piece A Lie Nation, that moment was the moment I read that the band’s awkward name was a ‘play’ on the word ‘alienation’. This seemed so cringe-inducing as to immediately off-side me. This was not helped when, while perusing the band’s website ahead of hitting play on Sociopathology, I spotted the horrifically insensitive line: “Feeling suicidal? Take someone special with you!,” as a by-line for an embedded advance track, “While Our Wounds Gently Bleed.” Still, it is part of the reviewer’s role to try and put these prejudices to one side, or at the very least to be conscious of them while listening. And so, duly aware of my prejudices, I hit play, but to what effect?
Sociopathology is A Lie Nation‘s debut full-length, despite the band having been around since 2009 and follows two EPs, Begin Hate and Human Waves released in 2015 and 2017, respectively. Described as melodic blackened death metal, there’s more than a hint of the most recent Obscura to be found here but heavily diluted by something that sounds suspiciously like metalcore in places. With a line-up that seems to have been stable, if not overly productive, since 2010, A Lie Nation has delivered a slab of mediocre melodic death metal, that leans into black metal only gently and principally in the form of Miikka Pyykkönen’s vocals. These are mostly delivered in a gurgling rasp that occasionally descends into gruff growls, alongside chunky, chugging guitars, wielded by Jussi Tuomisto and Joni Moisanen.
Forgettable and anodyne in the main, there are occasional flourishes from Tuomisto and Moisanen—like the lead that drops at 1:47 on “21st”—which suggest A Lie Nation is capable of writing much better material than they deliver across the majority of Sociopathology. “Nothing has a Meaning” is the perfect example of this, as it opens in promising fashion, with mellow and melodic guitars, and sees the guitarists showing off a little about halfway through as the track falls back into brooding, somber tones, with a rising solo over the top. Sadly, around these highlights, the band relapses into utterly forgettable, death/thrash riffs and effects-laden vocals, as drummer Markus Leinonen pounds away enthusiastically but with little finesse or subtlety. For each moment of real promise (the lightning-fast, compelling opening to “God of this Age”), A Lie Nation seems able to then expertly neuter its own efforts with something utterly generic and uninspiring.
It is fair to say that the production does little to enhance Sociopathology, with Pyykkönen’s vocals far too high in the mix, along with the drums (and the bass drum in particular), which serve to largely dominate and suppress the guitars, Joonas Kokkoniemi’s bass being a particular casualty. Despite, on its face, being a heavy and harsh album, the edges to this have been softened and rounded significantly behind the mixing desk, in a way that robs it of impact. In its favor, I can report that Sociopathology is mercifully short at a trim 33 minutes.
Although not wholly devoid of decent moments, with “While Our Wounds Gently Bleed” probably the pick of the crop in terms of a consistently solid track, it’s hard to get away from how tired and uninspired Sociopathology sounds, despite its apparent energy. It’s hard to put one’s finger on exactly why that’s the case. The performances are ok, although Pyykkönen relies too much on effects in his vocals and his rasps lack any real menace or threat. The songwriting is, I think, where the problem lies. Too often, seemingly decent moments are cut short before being allowed to really bloom, only to be drowned out by derivative blackened death tropes we’ve all heard before. While not outright terrible, Sociopathology is as tedious and formulaic as the band’s name, and indeed the artwork, suggested it might be. There is little to recommend it and for a debut, seemingly 13 years in the making, the dearth of real inspiration bodes ill for A Lie Nation.
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Inverse Records
Websites: alienationmetal.bandcamp.com | alienationmetal.com | facebook.com/alienationofficial
Releases Worldwide: July 1st, 2022