When I check out my collection of music, it shows that the albums that differ from the rest usually come from Finland; unorthodox music, dark and grim and sometimes just brilliant. So when especially a guitar orientated album from that country finds its way to my place, my heart starts to beat a little faster in anticipation of what is expecting me. This time guitarist, multi-instrumentalist and composer Mikko Iivanainen's album Last Room found its way to the right place. With a background in jazz and rock Mikko built himself a strong base to work with. Please forgive me, I love the Finnish people and even have friends over there, but I am not going into the musicians that have participated or guested on this album, for the simple reason that those names are impossible to type and I guess even harder to pronounce.
Basically Last Room is a solo album with guitar as a main instrument, nevertheless during the ambient style compositions a string quartet will create a darker and intimate atmosphere. When the album starts with Rebirth, a cool ambience is presented; smooth guitars and strings lay down the base for a spoken word part with that typical accent you just have to love. When the album continues you are gently drawn into another style Mikko masters; From Dark To Light moves from an ambient sphere to one of the most intriguing guitar parts I have heard in a while. Fabulous guitar sounds with grim and harsh vocals that are almost whispered take you to what sounds like a sort of metal song, but not in the regular way. I love the way the guitar riff sounds during this stunning composition. Flying is a short acoustic based composition where Mikko plays a second layer of electric guitar over it. A nice melodic part without a true soloing feel with a soft banjo that plays in the back. The following compositions are more mellowed down, more ambient and can be seen as soundscapes, but drenched in jazz and fusion. Another Time Another Place is smooth and acoustic, Holy Playground combines world fusion and cello with strong guitar playing, while Haunted Mind grows from smooth to a more darker sound towards the end, totally embedding the string quartet into Mikko's compositions. Room Full Of Angels gently moves away from the darker atmosphere from the previous songs and takes you to the light at the end of the tunnel, the overall sound is brighter and the string quartet seems to have tuned up from a minor to a major setting, bringing joy to the music. The second outburst on the album comes from the song Final Ride; guitars are screaming, and so is Aija Puurtinen, creating my personal second highlight of the album. The final song on the album: Welcome Home takes you back to the more ambient side of music; smooth but great sounding guitars are brilliantly combined with a cello, taking this album to the last second.
OK; is this an ambient album, or is it rock, instrumental with spoken passages or due to the two powerful compositions, is this metal, brought to you in a very strange way? You tell me, for me this is an album that keeps intriguing me every time I listen to it, the ambient orientated parts sound great, especially when the cello plays alongside the guitar. The two metallic compositions just make me want an album that is focused on the heavier side of Mikko's music. Last Room is an album that has several faces, which I all like, but deep inside I do look forward to that album, where Mikko gets angry and combines his great sound with Aija's growls.
**** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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