To Paint a Bird of Fire is the second full-length album by Finnish prog metallers Perihelion Ship, which not only tells a riveting story, but it also serves to accentuate the band’s gift as the omniscient storyteller. Both the arc of the narrative and the incredibly dynamic shifts in mood give Perihelion Ship the opportunity to take their sound into unanticipated directions. What really sets the group apart from other prog metal contemporaries is their idiosyncratic juxtaposition of the darkness and the light, the elegance in life and the unrelenting dread. PH‘s expansive songwriting paves the way for conflicting passages that reflect this dichotomy. Some passages involve harsh, growling vocals alongside pulse-pounding guitars and percussion and others embrace softer moments of desolation cloaked in acoustic guitars and mastermind Andreas Hammer’s voice.
This awe-inspiring balance brings a high level of unpredictability to the album. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, but even when the light seems to dominate the picture, there is always a skulking shadow. Right from the very beginning of this recording, the listener is immersed in the waters of instability, given that any moment of gentleness could give way to demonic outbursts and that any stretch of brutality could transform without warning to understated consolation. In a cathartic intro, “New Sun” opens with an uncanny ambience that is gracefully nudged by a soothing guitar. As the tension builds, the listener knows that collapse is imminent, but it is difficult to pinpoint when or how it will happen. Once the pummeling riff breaks down the door, the intensity reaches an apex of anxiety and angst. Most of these songs unfold over relatively long lengths, during which Perihelion Ship’s music drifts between clashing emotions of anger and sadness.
Furthermore, the band explores various elements of progressive rock over the course of the album. One can hear faint traces of bands like Yes on the melodic interludes of tracks like “The Sad Mountain.” Also, Perihelion Ship rarely adhere to conventional song structure, instead allowing their songs to germinate of their own accord. Thus, the band ventures so far into the abyss of humanity that the songs themselves take on a life of their own, constantly encountering forks in the road and constantly developing. This forward momentum fuels heavy tracks like “Wind of No Echoes” and closing “New Sun?” On the closing piece, for example, the guitars seethe with ferocity and present a barrage of memorable solos. However, even this track takes a more delicate and reflective turn. From beginning to end, Perihelion Ship’s compositions are multifaceted and highly detailed to the point where each listen can lead to new discoveries whether it be Jari-Markus Kohijoki’s fevered drumming or Hammer’s vivid lyricism.
To Paint a Bird of Fire takes the time to explore the emotional depths of tortured souls. On the peaceful acoustic track “River’s Three,” the guitar reads like the love letter of a man haunted by his unforgiving environment who seeks to fulfill his most primal desire of unconditional love.
On this engrossing concept album, Perihelion Ship allow passion to guide their musical progression. Finding the charm buried within dour soundscapes, the band evoke imagery that is both poignant and indelible. Through and through, the album’s scale is nothing short of breathtaking.
1. New Sun 10:43
2. Bird of Fire 02:34
3. The Sad Mountain 07:54
4. River’s Three 02:37
5. Wind of No Echoes 06:59
6. New Sun? 11:56
* Andreas Hammer – guitar, vocals
* Jani Konttinen – Hammond organ, Mellotron, synths
* Jari-Markus Kohijoki – drums
* Jouko Lehtonen – bass guitar