Charming Timur – Focused Rage

 Charming Timur – Focused Rage

Charming Timur – Focused Rage – Album Review

You know…for just one man this guy sure keeps busy.  Santeri Lohi of the Nu-Metal/Experimental Noise-Rock project Charming Timur is back…for what’s actually the sixth time in four years if you can believe it; and believe it or not, I haven’t even reviewed the entirety of his online catalog.  Most of it…but not quite all of it…I still think it’s safe to say after five past reviews and a brand-new one on the Focused Rage album today that you can consider me a fan.  I think of Charming Timur like that badass cousin that comes around every once in a while to inject some mischief and deviousness into your daily life and into your speakers…he’s genuinely exposed me to a lot of the extremities and dark corners of music that I didn’t often find myself in and opened the door to being able to accept similar extremes ever since I began to listen.  Well…I say similar…but let’s face facts…nothing is really quite like the music of Charming Timur.

On that note, before we even crack into this review there’s other wicked news I should share with you.  Charming Timur is one of the upcoming guests on SBS Live This Week in September and the episode is seriously going to blow your fucking mind.  Don’t forget, dude is from Helsinki, Finland…we’re way over here in Canada…so you got it, it’s a video-interview…that awesome thing we do that allows an artist to express themselves however they want to – and believe me, Santeri Lohi DID.  He absolutely nailed the interview; and just like the music of Charming Timur, it’s bizarre, weird and brilliant all at the same time.  Watch for episodes 072 & 073 out later this month and you’ll get to know this guy in ways you’ll never forget…promise you that.  By far & away one of the most unique episodes we’ve done and I’m freakin’ stoked to put it out there.  That’ll happen soon enough here this month…for now, back to the music…

Focused Rage begins with “Rampage Anthem” and starts to build the atmosphere with powerful force immediately.  What IS that though?  Could it be?  Could this album’s title be revealing a bit of truth in the approach Santeri’s taken to the writing and execution of this Charming Timur record?  Because I’ll tell you this…I think the production sounds great…I think some of the guitar parts he’s got soaring in this opening track are hands-down genius ideas…and overall I think there are decisive hooks you can hear in the swirling madness of the music.  Maybe a bit too flat in that first verse vocally…but the way that those guitars sound just before the first minute is up more than makes up for it; Santeri retreats into the shadows for the next verse in a dark, cold whisper before brightening up the sound to add melody into the chorus.  Every time this song passes the fifty-second mark, my ears perk up…because those guitars…THOSE GUITARS are so awesome at that moment I can’t take my ears off’em.  The final minute-plus of “Rampage Anthem” ends instrumentally as he soars into the atmosphere, breaking into a melodic highlight over the last thirty-seconds and delivering a spoken word moment as it finishes.

Hmmm.  Focused Rage indeed!  “Dangerous To Self And Others” I think continues to prove that title to be true.  Especially if you’re as familiar with the catalog as I am, then you’ll hear the differences being applied to the writing here…Santeri’s dialed-back some of the constant wall-of-sound tendencies he’s had in the past to allow many of these new songs some room to breathe, which adds definition and punch as he transitions from part-to-part.  And don’t get me wrong…that familiar, comforting brutality and force he’s known for is still completely present…, the beginning comes out with that familiar gnarly, twisted sound you know & love from Charming Timur…but the chorus of “Dangerous To Self And Others” will straight-up rip you in half.  But notice that the music is more spread-out to allow the dynamics of the song make more impact…Santeri seems to have taken more time to explore a different path on Focused Rage when it comes to the structure and sound of many of these new tracks – and if you ask me, I think it’s all working in his favor.  I asked him about the evolution of Charming Timur in the interview we just did too…he could have just said ‘listen to my new record’ and that would have been a perfect answer.  Throughout the years, I’ve felt that Santeri has become more connected to his style & capabilities…and I’ve heard it too; “Dangerous to Self And Others” is a great example of the two worlds colliding as he takes the ferocity of his past and redesigns his approach to fit this update on his sound.  Having Damjan Kapor fill in the low-end by playing the bass on this record was another great call made on Focused Rage…he’s added a lot into the depth of sound with clearly defined, rumbling bass-lines often carrying the melody so that Santeri can do his thing, whatever that may be, surrounding it.

“Hand Of God” provides a real highlight early on during Focused Rage, taking the music into a wild sonic terrain that has just as many elements of post-rock as it does Nu-Metal & experimental ideas.  The switches between parts & sounds come through powerfully and structurally bulletproof…Santeri has some of his best moments vocally on this cut as well.  As far as the Charming Timur catalog is concerned, I think this is another track that really shows another side & dimension of Santeri’s creativity…and he really comes out winning here with a weighty tune that packs just as many ideas into the background as it does up close in the leads.  Definitely dig the bass parts, really love the layers of tortured, whispered screams filling the surrounding atmosphere and above all things, the lead vocal parts sound excellent.

I liked the way that Santeri recorded the vocals for “A Bit Clingy” – this might be one of the times you hear him most clearly through the effects on any track throughout this record.  I’m a little more mixed on this tune overall…I think his verse outshines his chorus here a bit, which is fine…but overall I dig the fact that you can certainly hear him reaching for more on Focused Rage.  Innovation and creativity has definitely returned to the creator of Charming Timur’s music, which leads to new inspiration and different ideas like you hear on “A Bit Clingy.”  The more I heard the chorus of this tune, the more I found I liked it…if anything, it’s probably the contrast between the darkness of the verse and the brightness of the chorus that felt a little jarring…but still entertaining and a direction I’d still encourage Santeri to continue to explore.  Tons of melody in his voice on “A Bit Clingy” and that makes a huge difference each time it comes out hitting the intended mark for tone…keeps things more accessible.

You hear it too thought right?  The chaotic nature of Charming Timur is still retained…but more refined.  The early stages of Focused Rage lives up to its apt name through songs like “Hand Of God,” “A Bit Clingy” and “FUNINA” all together back-to-back-to-back.  The elements and layers of vocals he’s threaded into the background of “FUNINA” are freakin’ extraordinary to listen to.  I dig the progression in the music as it moves…I think the low-end rumble from Kapor sounds beastly and bold…”FUNINA” is probably fundamentally less accessible than many of the rest on this album, but highly rewarding to listen to if you’re a fan of what Charming Timur is all about.  The last thirty seconds of this cut has Santeri unleashing the beast entirely with one of the album’s most gripping endings to any of the songs.

“Blackouts” is definitely the exception to the rules of the Charming Timur strategy.  Not that Santeri would say there’s ever one specific angle or route he takes to making his music – but he knows full-well what I mean when it comes to how different this tune is from the rest of what he’s done.  At the dead-center of his new album, he’s got the most stripped-back tune in the entire Charming Timur catalog…and it makes for an absolutely brilliant moment in time on Focused Rage.  I love everything about this…I even love the fact that there is extra ‘air’ in this track…almost like it’s recorded on tape and then back to digital…it’s melodic, it’s demonic, it’s more suppressed than he’s ever been able to contain himself, but still full of that menace, mischief and mystery that makes Charming Timur an experience to listen to every time.  Personally, I like hearing Santeri branch-out like he clearly has on this record…this sounds like the evolution of an artist; it’s inarguably a smoother & more accessible experience overall…but I’m hearing genuine evolution, not selling-out.  The end of “Blackouts” is superbly hypnotic.

The melodies are certainly more pronounced in the songwriting on this record, especially in the middle.  “Breaking Free From The Samsara” almost sounds like it’s on the border of reaching into territory occupied by a band like Chevelle…musically that is.  Vocally, Santeri’s signature flange-effect on his voice always keeps everything you hear highly identifiable to the Charming Timur sound.  Most of the time, I feel like he’s got a great grip on how it moves and affects his vocals…there are still a few moments like at the beginning of “Rampage Anthem” that come through as a bit of a flatline…but in contrast, there are songs like “Breaking Free From The Samsara” that highlight how well it can work in his favor.  It’s a tough effect to use & he’s always bound to experience a few fluctuations that roll the wrong way just by using it, that’s just the nature of the beast…but over time, those quirks that used to be a disadvantage to some of the incredible effort he was putting in have clearly begun to smooth themselves out.  Santeri now wields these effects like a warrior that truly understands the strengths of his weapon.  It’s always tough to think of what the ‘single’ may be from Charming Timur’s music…but as far as I can tell, my opinion would be that “Breaking Free From The Samsara” would be an excellent candidate.

That being said, “Psychotic Depression” is actually the lead-single from this record as far as I know…which honestly…is kind of an interesting choice…maybe even one you could consider ‘safe.’  “Psychotic Depression” probably has the most ties to the past music of Charming Timur…it’s one of the hardest cuts on the record with some of the most punishing & extreme-sides to the sound.  So in that sense…it’s what people likely know and have come to expect and yeah, a bit safe to put out there as the first single from Focused Rage…but really, when you get right into this album you realize there’s so much more to what Santeri’s doing this time around than what we’ve heard before.  Essentially what I’m saying is…I’m not claiming ‘false advertising’ here or anything like that…but I might be saying that if this was back in the day when a released single led you to buying the album, this one would be one of those records that is much different than what “Psychotic Depression” might imply to your ears.  It’s a rager for sure…Charming Timur is storming through this one with deadly pacing and movement to maximum effect; the true fans will dig this cut for sure and I suppose it’s a good gateway tune or bridge between Santeri’s past & present.  The snarling whispers that fuel the verse are like shadows in lyrical form…the unbridled explosion of white-hot rage in the pre-chorus is the Charming Timur sound at its most enormous, powerful & monstrous and the transitions between the extremes sides of each personality he puts into every part of this song is flawless.  That’s a goddamn achievement people…the range of sound and ideas on “Psychotic Depression” is seriously widespread, but he’s got this whole cut sounding like it somehow belongs together while singing “Not all of this makes any fucking sense to me.”  I don’t know if it makes any sense to me either, but I definitely dig this tune…that much I know.

One of my favorite cuts on this record is “Against The Brainwashed” – this is a perfect blend of intensity and melody that seriously delivers.  I’m not indifferent about the verse entirely…but the chorus of this cut is definitely one of the best I’ve ever heard from Charming Timur.  The waver in the vocal sound works incredibly well with the way the chorus comes out; it takes “Against The Brainwashed” to that next-level without question.  Santeri’s got his vocals edited to perfection in the song’s main hooks, adding a slight delay bouncing the words around in the atmosphere of “Against The Brainwashed” becomes impressively addictive to the ears.  The whispered bridge works well enough…I dunno…there’s not too many times where one part of a song shines so hard that I barely hear the rest of what’s going on – but when it comes to the chorus of this song, I don’t even know the rest of the world around me exists anymore.  The chorus of “Against The Brainwashed” is one of the highlight moments in the entire Charming Timur catalog if you ask me…completely fuckin’ LOVE it!

“Not The Same Anymore” is another song that heads towards the quietest moments you’ll ever find from Santeri…an intimate guitar-only tune that provides a real break in the record like “Blackouts” did.  I’ll say this…I was probably more of a fan of “Blackouts” due to the way that first stripped-back moment really makes its impact on this record, but I think “Not The Same Anymore” might have the advantage when it comes to the lyrics.  It’s definitely not a happy tune…not many in the Charming Timur catalog are if any at all…but I think the way that Santeri seems to make this moment sound a bit more personal works to the advantage of the words he’s chosen.  Above all things, I think it’s an important track to have included on Focused Rage to keep this sonic journey more diverse in sound than Charming Timur has ever been in the past.  To be truthful, many of the past records are solid to listen to – but also demanding and draining to listen to at times; the opposite effect is in play here on Focused Rage…it’s surprisingly smooth & accessible in comparison to the past music of Charming Timur and even in the quietest moments like on “Not The Same Anymore,” the overall structure and layout of these tunes ends up leaving you energized and seriously wanting MORE of it…not a break for some Tylenol.

“The Morning Meds” brings the record back to life with a thicker & bolder atmosphere.  Musically, it’s one of my favorites without question – I love the guitars & searing tones that stoke the fire of this tune…vocally, I think this track gives Santeri more trouble than any of the rest.  The parts he’s written sound good, but that flanger is definitely a worthy adversary on this cut and might be getting the better of him at points throughout “The Morning Meds.”  Again, I think you can hear in the writing and movement of the vocals that he’s got the right idea here…and of course after arguing on behalf of more clarity in the vocals in past reviews of Charming Timur’s music, well logically I want it both ways now and feel like he might have left “The Morning Meds” a little bare.  Loved the guitars around the 3:20 mark…that instrumental breakdown was a simple but effective one…and ultimately, I really like the idea he’s got in the chorus for the vocal-flow…something tells me this one just needed to be hit a bit harder, or needed a more aggressive mix to bring up the background and sink some of those seething & searing lead-guitar tones more firmly into the atmosphere.  Wouldn’t hurt their awesomeness at all, but it would probably give “The Morning Meds” that looming presence and depth he’s looking for.

The burly distorted chords & grind of “Special” end the record with the familiar crunch of Charming Timur’s classic sound in the verse leading into the more developed & accessible approach he’s been working with on Focused Rage as he blazes into the chorus.  Dig the sound of the drums & cymbals a lot on this cut, they add wicked dimension and depth to this final tune on the record…guitars are solid…effects are rampant…most importantly, the tone is on-point and Santeri ends this album on a real highlight.  He’s got a knack for creating memorable endings and this new record is no exception to that rule – “Special” has seriously unique melody running through its veins, layered expertly into the mix of the music, bringing up the bitter beauty just a touch to have this last moment on the album make a real impact and leave a solid impression on our ears.  If I’m correct, he’s upped the dosage on the vocal-effects by quite a degree here…likely including the ol’ auto-tuner along with the flanger.  Usually that’s going to create even more of a pain in the ass when it comes time to mix a song…but somehow, some way, Santeri’s got this one completely dialed in.  The music is captivating, the vocals really hit the mark and have him sounding fantastic; they’ve got a seriously warm and beautiful glow to them…and as those guitars come roaring to life right as the song ends, you instantly want to repeat this entire experience.

THAT…is the impact you really want that last tune to have…and Santeri has NAILED that here as tight as can possibly be done.  He continues to evolve his art & music to that next level creatively, each time out building upon the last and raising the stakes even higher.  Focused Rage has him at his very best to-date.

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