Overall impressions: Make no mistake about it. Since their first album, Signs of Life, Poets of the Fall have becoming increasingly dark in their music. Their title song from Carnival of Rust had a strange, dreamlike PV that accompanied some equally haunting lyrics. With their third album, Revolution Roulette, PotF continues to crank out new tunes. Their sound is unmistakably there, with Marko’s leading vocals and the background accompaniment that ranges from haunting (I hate to use the same word twice, but it really is) lullabies to heavy rock sections. Revolution Roulette, however, has a darker and edgier feeling about it, and it’s a formula that has propelled it to stardom in Finland, hitting the #1 spot on their charts immediately after its release. To me, this certainly is a strong album, but it still has some faults.
I was first exposed to Poets of the Fall like many other listeners in the USA, with their song ‘Late Goodbye’ providing the ending theme to Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne. To me, that song was one of the few redeeming qualities of a game that, for all intents and purposes, was a carbon copy of the original, plus some new fancy graphics. After going through Signs of Life and Carnival of Rust, I was excited to see their third album. How do each of the songs fare, in my opinion? Again, I’m using a 10 point scale, totally subjective. Complain all you want, it’s just a measure of how I feel about a song.
More: Somehow, all of the Poets’ albums open the same way - a strong, heavy song based in powerful guitar chords and repetitive verses. Unlike the previous albums, however, this one doesn’t have a lot of replayability in my head. It’s opening sound is similar to an old Linkin Park song, and the lyrics are less than spirited. The sudden shift to the darker, haunting melodies as Marko exclaims “it’s all about the money” over and over again makes for a strange mashup of a song that can’t decide if it wants to be hard rock or not. I’m not too thrilled with this song, and I think it’s a shame for the album to be opened on such a weak note.
The Ultimate Fling: The opening of this is creepy, and reminds me of American McGee’s Alice. Then it goes straight into a heavy guitar riff that really sets the tone for the rest of the song. The politically charged lyrics can be seen as a slap in the face for some, but I tend to like them as they match the emotion behind the melodies. Unlike ‘More’, the differing motifs match well in here; the stark contrast of the lullaby-esque sections and the majority of the song gives it an almost jarring feeling and keeps the listener on their toes. Heck, it even comes with a nice long guitar solo at the end. Who doesn’t like good long guitar solos?
Revolution Roulette: Ah, the title track. After having Carnival of Rust be such a strong title track, I had high expectations for this one. Like roulette, this song really just spin around a single motif. It also has lyrics that features lines like “It’s like a fistful of snake eyes, a hand grenade with bye byes”. To be honest, it’s an incredibly simple song, and yet it revels in that simplicity. The lyrics remain powerful, as most PotF songs have always been. “Welcome to revolution roulette” indeed.
Psychosis: A heavy guitar riff embodies the opening of psychosis, followed by some distorted screaming. I don’t know what happened, but Marko’s voice is tangibly different during the lyrics than in any other song by PotF. It does return during the chorus, but by then, it feels too late. Furthermore, I’m used to having some strong songwriting by the band, and this one somehow disappoints on a certain level. Maybe it’s too fast of a jump from what PotF has been doing, but it doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the album.
Fragile: I love the slower, acoustic songs by Poets of the Fall the best. It was Late Goodbye that got me into them, so I look for songs similar to it. I’m very happy that Fragile is free of a lot of sound processing, keeping only the simple, clear voice of an acoustic guitar. I’m also inclined to believe that this is the most powerful song in the entire album. “Love is peace when peace is fragile” is a hollow truth that many realize through their lives, and the truthfulness makes this so much more poignant. At the same time, it’s a hopeful song, expressing how togetherness with the one you love can really overcome even the most fragile of alliances. I absolutely adore this song, and this was worth the price of admission alone.
Clevermind: The opening almost reminded me of The Killers. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it surprised me a little bit, as it sounded more hollow than usual. With that said, Clevermind is a nice step up following a beautiful song like Fragile. It’s not abusively heavy with the guitar like Psychosis, but maintains a well-done balance between soft and harsh sounds. The lyrics are significantly darker than Fragile, however, as Markos pleads a ‘clever mind, never mind me’. It’s a strong song by anybody’s measure, and a good listen all the way to the last 5 seconds, when someone sounds like they said ‘clever mind’ into windows recorder. Kind of put a damper on things.
Miss Impossible: This is a hard song to judge. At some level, it’s not a bad song, but it does strike me as somewhat repetitive. The energy the opening riff has somehow doesn’t quite sustain throughout the entire song. Marko’s voice going into some small falsetto sections also doesn’t quite work for me, as does the weird word choice. In my opinion, the slower tempo found in the middle would have made this more compelling; but then the band yells ‘Nah!’ and keeps going anyway. I’m honestly not very impressed. Overall, it’s very strange basis for a song that has a beat that is somehow catchy.
Diamonds for Tears: This is one of three songs the band put out to promote the CD. Not that I’d know, I didn’t bother with any promos, and went straight for the CD (quite a gamble, if you know me). I would like to say that they made a great choice for a promo song. Diamonds for Tears is undeniably a Poets of the Fall masterpiece. It’s something that really must be heard, but I’m thrilled to hear something like this after three albums worth of trying. It’s right there with Fragile for my favorite song of the album. With a perfect blend of hard hitting riffs and melodies, and Marko’s voice (free of random falsettos, and satying perfectly in control) singing powerful lyrics, this is PotF at their finest.
Passion Colors Everything: …and Marko goes back to his false high-pitched whininess. I’m not too thrilled by what he does in the lyrics, especially with the lack of strong songwriting (toothpaste moment? Are you serious?). The refrain is also too repetitive for my tastes, where they chant “Everything, everything, everything” in the final line. Although the refrain is much stronger than the verses, overall it’s a bit of a letdown after Diamonds for Tears.
Save Me: “Save me, I’m my own worst enemy” sums this song up nicely. I appreciate PotF trying to expand out and do something they’re not known for doing - showing an edge to their music. But it somehow comes across as fake, even in this song, which is arguably the strongest out of the ‘new sound’ Poet songs. A monotonous background sound just seems to fail Marko’s voice, which projects the same way it did in Diamonds for Tears and Fragile, and is the single redeeming grace of this song (except for the chant of ’save me save me save me’ x 4 in the middle).
Where Do We Draw the Line: Can PotF close out the album strong? I’ve noticed their last two albums had finishing songs that I didn’t exactly like. Thankfully, that’s not the case in Roulette, as “Where Do We Draw the Line” is quite powerful, and the almost sorrowful melody contributes beautifully to the lyrics asking “So why do we keep up this charade / How do we tell apart the time to leave from the time to wait”. THIS is the dark sound that Poets of the Fall is looking for; not that hard rock crap, not the repetitive lines in the chorus and melodies. This is simple, slow, and so evocative in so many ways. If anything, it would suggest that PotF learned at the end what their true sound is, and how to go forward. Having this gives me closure, and closes the album with a great song.
OVERALL ALBUM RATING: 6.8/10
An album that has a few strong pieces, but overall marred by some “experimental” pieces that looked to change too much of Poets of the Fall’s style too quickly. It still ranks better than many new albums in my mind, but I think that Signs of Life is just so much better, as it shows PotF before it was marred by marketing and pressure to change.