ALBUM EDEL RELEASE: OCTOBER 4, 1999 REVIEW: MARCH 3, 2000
I think Finland has always been a country of rock stars. Looking at prominent figures in Finnish culture, they're often extreme personalities who make no compromises. Everybody from Elias Lönnroth who wandered around Karelia collecting the stories for the Kalevala in the early 19th century and, according to rumours, only slept two or three hours each night. To artist Markus Copper, whose art pieces are constructed to attack anybody getting close to them.
For rock stars in the musical area, Andy "The Fly" McCoy is perhaps the greatest of them, the former guitarist of Hanoi Rocks and the very embodiment of the rock'n'roll lifestyle (and a complete nutcase, it seems). More recently, Ville Valo of Sabbathesque "love metal" band HIM has emerged as the old fashioned cars, women and booze hero of the Finnish rock scene. Topping charts in a big way in Germany right now, it seems that Valo's (as well as McCoy's used to do) image and music work internationally as well.
And then there's Kärtsy Hatakka. Since 1986 he has lead his band Waltari to moderate international success and navigated between different styles of rock music. Redhaired and paleskinned, he looks a bit like an alien on speed, and his stage presence is that of a total rock star. He is a man of monumental visions, including death metal symphonies with string orchestras and, most recently, a sold out heavy metal/modern dance performance at the Finnish national opera.
Sadly, Waltari has never been able to live up to Hatakkas visions musically. While they're constantly reinventing their style, a cheesy, almost glam rock feeling remains.
"Radium Round" is a more commercial effort than the previous album "Space Avenue" (produced by Rhys Fulber). It contains several singalong-anthems, two ballads and some faster pieces, but there is nothing really powerful here. Just working rock choruses with unusually stupid lyrics.
Raymond Ebanks, member of Finland's most popular dance act Bomfunk MC's, contributes some rapping on one track, but his appearance only brings the record's problem to light. Waltari is a traditional rock band struggling somewhat unsuccesfully with new technology and seeking a modern sound. And if they want to get out of the silly metal-category, they really need to work on those lyrics.
Still, Waltari rocks here and there, and songs like "Atom Angel" and "Broken Bizarre" get stuck in you mind after a while. So even though I think the music is getting pretty stale, there is some beauty here that deserves compliment. In a way I love the larger than life ambitions of the band and the incredibly kitsch manifesto for the new millennium printed on the record sleeve. "Hello earthlings! It's Waltari calling from a somewhat distant space avenue, from somewhere far away which may not be existing at all! Or maybe, it's all hidden somewhere deep inside the net jungle!"
Give me a break.