Charming Timur – There Is No Going Back – Album Review
Well now…if it ain’t the ol’ persistent noise-rock experiment Charming Timur back in the mix here in 2018 already! That seems fair to me…Santeri Lohi, the dude that runs the show here in CT, totally copped out last time around with a greatest hits record called So Far So Good earlier on in the year, so the way I see it, the guy completely owes all our ears some fresh ideas that are long overdue by now.
Just kidding. Anyone that knows anything about our pages is likely familiar with the name Charming Timur, which has permeated just about every kind of project I’ve taken on at SBS at some point or another; there’s verifiable proof through the scads of albums, EPs, and singles released throughout the years that point to the fact that this is indisputably one of the most active bands out there in the scene.
With the advantage of knowing the material about as much as anyone out there possibly can, I can tell you firsthand that Charming Timur has actually grown exponentially since day one. For anyone out there who might be experiencing the music for the first time still, there’s a damn good chance you’re in for a serious shock to the system. For me personally, Santeri has shocked me so many times through the music he makes that I’m now impervious to the burn…and oddly, I’ve probably learned to enjoy his insane songs just as much as he does…at this point anyhow. There might have been a time where I couldn’t have claimed that…but that’s on him, not on me. I mean, he COULD have just started off writing the more killer material that he’s writing these days and I probably never would have made a single complaint along the way. But I suppose, to be fair and realistic…just like any other artist out there, evolution needs to occur over time to get to those significant breakthroughs that make the difference. The sound has been tweaked in multiple ways throughout the years since I first started to listen to the bellowing rage of Charming Timur’s music…and Santeri might just be moving the chains forward once again here with There Is No Going Back…this is like…actually accessible at points?
I actually looked at my music player’s song-titles/credits to make sure I was really listening to Charming Timur after I wrote that sentence…that should pretty much tell you everything you need to know.
For the record though…no matter what you feel about what you experience, the fact is that this project really has been finding its way to stronger material. I felt like there were great things getting started a couple albums or so back, which continued on through to the last original record in 2017 called Focused Rage – and though it seems cliché to keep on claiming Charming Timur is making its best music to-date every time a new album comes out, sometimes that’s just the reality of a band’s evolution or an artist’s capabilities. The facts are the facts…and you can hear’em – There Is No Going Back might just be my favorite record from Charming Timur up til this point…I think Santeri has made excellent moves here. In particular, you’ll notice that he’s really found a way to refine his wall-of-sound approach with added clarity in the production and that he’s discovered he CAN have both of these aspects in his music at the same damn time. The difference that it’s made on this record & to the songs is fully commendable.
It’s all still grim & grimy as fuck, don’t get me wrong – but it’s undeniably more powerful music than Charming Timur was capable of way back when. There Is No Going Back starts out with the gripping thrust of “First Instinct Backstab” – and the first thing I noticed, after hearing so many Charming Timur records throughout the years…is that the vocal effects have been further refined and the sound is clearer. It still retains that signature essence of the CT sound, but if you’re familiar with the music, you’ll hear the differences in the sound of Santeri’s voice in the verse immediately, and you’ll even hear similarities as well in how he’ll tackle the chorus, but I’d still argue that improvements have been made to the sound. That might have meant adjusting a single knob a fraction of an inch…or heck, he might have even hit the dial as he set his guitar down on a pedal one day…whatever he’s done, to me it sounds like he’s examined what really makes that sound in the effects he chooses work, and found a way to control it with even more precision. “First Instinct Backstab” is one hell of a meatgrinder of a song and a wicked opening to the new Charming Timur record…retaining enough of the essence of what’s made the music untamed, wild, & raw all along, but with noticeable improvements made to further the sound & style. The background vocals of “First Instinct Backstab” alone are worth the price of admission – LISTEN closely to the verses…you’ll wonder if those are additional voices in your head or within the song. I love that the bass is more pronounced on this entire record and I think the majority of this opening track really hits the mark; I think it’s got a few questionable moments in the final minute that will leave your ears wondering wtf is happening and people scratching their heads a bit…but it still seems to work.
Besides…by the time you start to question what the hell is going on, “First Instinct Backstab” quickly cuts out to reveal the immediate hooks in the guitars of “Chronesthesia.” I can admit when I gotta Google something – I had no idea what the heck this word meant; it’s a pretty cool concept referring to the idea that we could be aware of our past & future at the same damn time, which would be kinda awesome I think? I mean…the song’s awesome enough, so how could the experience of “Chronesthesia” not be in real life too? In any event, I have almost no doubt that this is one of my new favorite Charming Timur songs…I think the opening guitars are excellent, I like the deep dive into the abyss for the verse and the pronounced bass-lines once again…like I said earlier, the music is just stronger on this record all-around. Perfect mix on the vocals…I can’t hear a damn word, but I can totally dig their vibe and how much they truly add to the enveloping atmosphere closing in on you throughout the verses until you break free into the chorus. Embracing a bit of melody even, Santeri has written really great parts that are as versatile as they are exciting to listen to on “Chronesthesia” – there’s even a like…jeez…UPLIFTING energy in the sound of those guitars. I’ve used that word to make fun of Charming Timur in the past, but I mean it when it comes to this particular cut. The ending is sheer brilliance…excellent deconstruction, leading you into altogether different terrain…more sonically textured & subtle sounds than CT typically explores.
Even the gentle beginning of “Coastal Pines” just doesn’t seem like something Santeri would have written a couple years back…and I think the results again speak for themselves – moves like this & changing things up are rewarding to listen to. Awesome beginning to this third cut from the new CT record and I dig how the vibe is carried into the verse underneath the layers that have helped define the Charming Timur sound so well throughout its own history. Again, more refined here…the bass-lines are really helping that along overall and are doing another incredible job of adding in more melody to the music throughout this album and certainly on “Coastal Pines” as well. Santeri will take the song eventually into harder & darker moments – but for a large part of this song, it’s quite placid & serene at times as well. Impressive throughout, the shrouded melody masked in the thrashing sound of “Coastal Pines” is quite remarkable…it’s buried tightly in there, but you can hear it at all times…and it connects. Musically, he’s actually not too far away from the Post-Rock vibe here…nearly Mogwai-esque loud/quiet dynamics that shift on a dime and explode into that next part of the music from the calm before the storm – that kinda thing. Really dig this tune.
Charming Timur is really branching out in contrast. “Suicide By Police” for example, maybe only a couple years back for Santeri’s music, might have remained in its first horrific gear without trying to find that next step or dramatic shift in direction that this song eventually takes. Here now in his current work, he’s clearly reaching for different ideas and sounds, different combinations that offer something different to the ears from what he’s done in the past – and hell, who wouldn’t dig that? I think the most punishing moments of “Suicide By Police” hit about as hard and thundering as music can – and I felt like this song shifts in all kinds of incredible directions I could have never predicted. Because SURPRISE – this song lightens right up from where it starts believe it or not…melody again pervades his music like never before in the parts surrounding the most brutalizing moments of “Suicide By Police.” Solid lyrically from what I can hear – I dig both halves of this split personality quite a bit and think they each have their own strong appeal…chorus might be slightly over-filled…but the final ninety-seconds of “Suicide By Police” more than makes up for it through the sparse melody this track hypnotically slides into for its final moments. It’s small attention to details like this in terms of how a record flows and leads us from one track to the next that Santeri has dialed into so impressively here…another brilliantly unique ending.
Which takes us right into “Everyone You Love Will Rot To Death” – you might have seen the video SBS put together to support the song on SBS Live This Week. My gut tells me this is an ‘end of the album’ song and might have served There Is No Going Back a bit better at that point in the record…BUT…if you’re as old as I am and remember the whole side-A and side-B thing from a record or a cassette, it then makes a ton of sense to place this song right here. Otherwise, I’d say Charming Timur was on a roll of creating some really strong crossover tunes that had just enough appeal hooks-wise to bring in or fool a few new listeners; as to what they’ll do once they reach “Everyone You Love Will Rot To Death” – that’s another story. Hard for me to be completely impartial on this one…it’s an audibly destructive tune that’s like a fireball of sonic fury spread out in a slow-burn, but I’ve come to really dig this track. Santeri’s done an extraordinary job on the vocals if you’re listening…he’s giving it the ol’ 110% when it comes to the madness & intensity in his performance – but because of the smart way he’s mixing it with the music, the rage just peers through the crashing sounds around him. To me, the effect of that is seriously badass to listen to…the music is massive, the vocals are gigantic, and combined together, it’s like each element knows to keep a safe distance to allow each part to pull off its maximum potential. Definitely not a tune for everyone out there…I can get that…but I also think that, if you’re a fan of Charming Timur and you’ve stuck with the extremes of the ideas in this music throughout the years, this is pretty gnarly.
I probably ended up being more tossed up over “Trapped In Emptiness” than any of the other tunes by comparison. On the one hand, I absolutely love the musical hooks of this cut – I think the main bass-lines of this song are entirely rad to listen to and completely fuel the energy of the chorus, which I also loved. Even though I’ve cited contrast as being an ally to Santeri throughout this record, he might have pushed it a step too far here…I’m not sure. I found the shift from verse to chorus always really worked for me…I think that progression really hits home; but on the flipside of that, the shift back into the verse from the chorus ended up being a bit jarring at first. Another riotously exceptional ending – Santeri lets the beast loose throughout the atmosphere of the final minute and roars towards the end before letting the music handle the rest. Overall verdict here…I feel like “Trapped In Emptiness” was almost the tune that I was supposed to like the most and I think it sounds like it would be wicked fun to actually play as a musician. I think Santeri’s got some of his raddest hooks & wildest ideas in the chorus…I think it’s just the balance between the strength, power, and tempo of the song’s main two parts that made this cut feel a bit more uneven. Undeniable hooks in the music on this track though…just as strong in the instrumentation as it is bold in the vocal presence…like I said, it’s kind of a bizarre cut that has many reasons to like each individual part…as to whether or not it works as one idea, that’ll be up to each set of ears out there. I have no doubt that because of the strength displayed in the musicianship and accessibility of the rhythm & groove in behind the rage, this could be many people’s favorite track.
I’m jumping ahead a bit here, but just before the three-minute mark of “When Life Gives You Lemons Go Get A Gun,” Charming Timur puts in a highlight breakdown before surging back into the chorus. Really skillful and punchy bass-lines in this cut once again help lead the song towards standout results – in many ways I felt like this was one of the most focused tunes on the record from start to finish. That bass! C’MON PEOPLE that’s KILLER tone and played to perfection. From the moment this slick & deadly vibe begins to move, it creeps and crawls into a structure that’s designed to deliver. The whispered vocals from Santeri sound menacing & threatening…the distance on the guitars adds in a haunting thread to the song that really works well too – the chorus sticks to a defined melody line that is desolate but memorable…it all adds up strongly here on “When Life Gives You Lemons Go Get A Gun.” The mid-tempo nature of the song is definitely always going to be tougher on some listeners out there, but the adherence to a more typical format could very well play to his advantage in snagging a few more ears.
Holding nothing back, “A Thousand Thousands” appears nearly friendly at first before attempting to melt your face off through the scorching sounds to follow. It doesn’t take long at all before the longest song on the album sounds determined to murder you personally. Right before you likely feel like you can’t take anymore, Santeri takes us into one of the most ambitious moments in melody on the entire record; vocally, I’m a bit unsure of it, but musically I think this song’s most subtle moments are just as aces as the most extreme. Even though I tend to dig the more melodic stuff out there in the music world for the most part, my ears still can’t deny top-notch kick-ass intensity when they hear it too – and that’s the standout element of “A Thousand Thousands.” Don’t get me wrong…there’s a good chance that the sound of Santeri’s guitars on the chorus of this song are my FAVORITE sound on the whole album – BUT – I’d probably argue that the most intense moments of “A Thousand Thousands” are also some of the most gripping, well-executed, and cunningly mixed music that you’ll find on There Is No Going Back as well. He’s working with a bizarre melody for his vocals in the chorus, there’s no doubt about it…but that being said, the hook itself is memorable…combined with those brilliantly soaring guitar notes taking over once the vocals finish up…I think people will find they dig this tune more over time than they might assume at first – I know I did.
Look…I’m not gonna be the guy to discourage Charming Timur from branching out & evolving as time goes on. Do I think “Euthymia” works? Kinda, but kinda not as well…bottom line is, I’d still encourage Santeri from exploring these kind of ideas and intros leading into his main ideas. Even adding in a synth line to mix here, “Euthymia” as the title would suggest, leads Charming Timur into more tranquil territory…and the resulting like, almost happiness, doesn’t not work – it’s just somewhat surprising to hear from this guy! Appealing in the sense that it does stretch out to try something different in the context & confines of this particular record…my guy tells me this one might be a tougher one for the people to love. While there are hooks and melody in both the music & vocals you can latch onto – it’s almost like this song has two sets of emotions playing against each other, which very well may have been the intention. The music displays a surprising amount of expressive & joyful energy – and at times, even Lohi’s vocals dip into that lyrically, but tone-wise, I’m not sure he quite reached that peak-happy vibe that would have pulled this entire idea together. I dunno…part of me thinks I’m wrong about that too, so it’s honestly hard to say…best way I can put it is that there ARE ideas that exist on “Euthymia” that really work well, I just think they’re harder to get to from a listener’s perspective than intended.
The lead-single, or at least the first song I heard from this record ends up finishing it off strongly as the final song on the album – “Diamorphine” still holds up as one of the most badass cuts from the CT collection. Guitars, bass, mix, music, vocals – you name it and I’m a fan of what’s happening on this last cut from There Is No Going Back – I still think the chorus he’s created is one of the most powerful moments he’s written and I think the guitar solo that he ends this song on is absolutely killer. If anything, “Diamorphine” needs an extended remix where he brings that solo & hook out a couple more times – because he gives you just enough to make you instantly need another hit of this musical crack as it stands now. Ain’t nothing wrong with that at the end of the day, I’ll take badassery in music wherever I can get it however I can, and while it might be one final transition at the very end of this tune, if that’s what I get, I’m still turning it up loud & proud. “Diamorphine” was a perfect choice as a lead-single – it’s explosive & melodic balance is impeccable, the hooks & movement of the music completely hits the mark, the sonic-depth of the sound of the mix & production is spot-on…it’s a quality tune loaded with spectacular ideas and a wicked way to end what has been another wild adventure in the land of CT. Definitely a project that’s continually evolving…I’m massively satisfied with the content of this record and the way I see Santeri’s music developing…dude’s a one-man musical army and he proves that again beyond a shadow of a doubt with what’s likely his best material to-date on There Is No Going Back.
Find out more about Charming Timur from the official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Charming-Timur-577484229012169
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