"Kun Jumala tulee, ei fysiikka kestä"

Years active: Genres: Related artists:
1985 - Alternative rock, rock, progressive rock, metal, punk rock n/a

Line-up: Started as A.W. Yrjänä (vocals, bass), Pekka Kanniainen (drums) and Kimmo Suomalainen (guitars). Suomalainen left in 1990 when he couldn't relocate himself with the rest of the band to Southern Finland and was replaced by Janne Halmkrona. Timo Rasio joined as a second guitarist in 1991. Kanniainen left the band in 1997 and was replaced by Tuomas Peippo, with the classic line-up now complete. Peippo was unceremoniously let go due to growing schedule issues in 2012 and after a brief three-piece period, Olli-Matti Wahlström joined as the new drummer. Technically you also had Pasi Isometsä in guitar duties in 1990 but his time in the band was so short he never even ended up recording anything with the rest.

When I still lived in Finland, I barely spared the time for Finnish artists. In my young and ignorant eyes nothing in Finland could surpass the wealth of music from the anglosphere and while there were some artists that did penetrate my defenses, they were very obvious exceptions. CMX decidedly were not one of them. When I moved to the UK and started to experience frequent pouts of homesickness, Finnish music suddenly started to reveal its unique traits to me and I began to explore many-a discography that I had formerly neglected. By some twist of fate, CMX were among the first bands that profoundly clicked with me and for the first year or two of living in the UK, I kept ordering their albums one by one whenever I had the chance. For a while, their music became a touch of home when I pined for my actual home, reminding me of my roots.

In hindsight, that association feels so profoundly weird when you think how, well, profoundly weird CMX themselves are. The growth of the Finnish underground and the emerging US alternative scene influences of the 1980s gave birth to a sudden rise in erratic, art-minded and prog-indebted rock bands in Finland in the turn of the 1990s. While these bands had their own particular inspirations, they were all bound by a kind of fearlessness and uninhibited boldness in being wholly themselves, refusing to compromise when mixing together disparate influences that didn't necessarily make sense together. It worked though and struck a particular chord with the nation, with Finland having its own 90s alternative rock boom with a very distinct identity. CMX were among the biggest successes, crossing over relatively quicky with a few surprise radio hits and then steadfastly retaining their position over the coming years and decades as one of the key rock bands in Finland who enjoyed both critical and commercial success despite constantly changing and often challenging their audiences, whether musically or whether just by being a group of stubborn Northern men with a peculiar sense of humour.

CMX's particular unique traits in comparison to their peers are two-part. In one corner you had their restless musical nature, with their hardcore punk beginnings slowly morphing into a more metal-adjacent territory as the band slowed down with age but retained their lean towards confrontational volume of sound; all the while, their love for progressive rock steadily grew a stronger foothold. CMX's music was frequently situated in the center of a Venn diagram of a multitude of wildly different sounds, and that's not even taking into account whatever stylistic moodswings they were going through at any given time. The other corner has A.W. Yrjänä, one of Finnish rock history's great frontmen whose voice could go from demonic gremlin growls to hymnal grace in a moment's notice, and his seemingly impenetrable lyrics that took inspiration from theology and philosophy to the point that half the meaning could be lost if you weren't an expert on either field. The combination is at times wild: it's largely impossible to actually define CMX in a simple fashion because while there is a clear connecting tissue between all their works when viewed chronologically, they are tonally so all over the place that each album should be approached with an open mind because it's never going to be what you expect. They're controlled chaos in the form of a rock band.

But I guess that's why they also hit me with such magnitude. Their omnipresence in the Finnish music media that I had consumed while still in Finland gave them a sense of familiarity and the quality of the songwriting was what won me over when I finally did plunge properly into their catalogue through one of the compilations. But it was the seemingly endless and always surprising nature of that catalogue that consumed me (which was already sizeable by the time I became a fan), where each new album felt like a step into the unknown. I've made no secret on these pages of my pet love for vast discographies because while daunting to dig into at first, once you've taken that first dip it becomes exhilirating to explore the depth. Not every band with a big discography is going to offer that, but it's precisely bands like CMX who make archive digging such a rewarding matter for a music fan. And in their particular case, for the longest time I could always find something new to listen to from the band that had become a strange comfort zone for me despite being a bunch of loud, rowdy and irreverent agents of disorder who had as much as ambition as they had pretension, who could just as easily elicit a chuckle as they could shed a tear after every corner you turned.

They are still arguably my favourite Finnish rock band - certainly in terms of artists who actually have had a career and haven't fizzled out after an album or two. Over the years I've become slightly more emotionally detached from them, largely because I'm so used living in the UK now and have other means to combat my occasional desire to be Nordic, but I'm writing this after binging through their discography in order for the purposes of the reviews below and it's done nothing but reinforce the vastness and strength of their music. For anyone who doesn't find the language barrier an overwhelming obstacle, CMX are one of my favourite Finnish bands to introduce to others.

Main chronology:

Other releases:


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
1990 4 "Sika ja perkele", "Nahkaparturi", "Taivas ja helvetti"

1) Johdatus salatieteisiin; 2) Sika ja perkele; 3) Nahkaparturi; 4) Kaikki nämä kädet; 5) Götterdämmerung; 6) Kuolemattomuuden ääni; 7) Pyydä mahdotonta; 8) Pyörivät sähkökoneet; 9) Taivas ja helvetti; 10) Voittamaton; 11) Suuri äiti; 12) Kolmas Johannes; 13) Hiljaisuuden pelko; 14) Liekkisusi ja sulkakäärme; 1993 CD Edition bonus tracks: Raivo EP (1989): 15) Lintu; 16) Rituaali; 17) Syvä vesi; 18) Jumalan ruoska; 19) Raivo; 20) Hiki; 21) Kolme näkyä; 22) Anathema; 23) Maailmoiden välissä;

A weird ass punk album which, while fun, is not something I unfortunately vibe with.

It's a hard one for me to rate, this, because Kolmikärki is one of those cases where I understand its aims and respect it for them, but its chosen style just happens to be one I don't particularly bat for. CMX in 1990 were still a trio without any of their key members except for the lead man A.W. Yrjänä, and they were three eccentric and furious lads with a crooked sense of humour and a background in extreme punk. By their debut album CMX had already calmed down slightly (compare this to the hardcore punk blast of the Raivo EP from a year earlier, served as the bonus tracks, to hear the difference), but that's calm in a relative sense: for most parts this is still an explosive slice of art-minded punk recorded raw and rough, which isn't a realm I frequent.

Simplifying Kolmikärki by calling it "just" a punk album would be doing it a massive disservice though. Yrjänä, the key songwriter, has always had a love for prog rock and that love would colour so much of their later work, but even this early on and within the most anti-prog of genres, it's leaking to a point that it makes perfect sense how the band would turn out how they did. CMX on Kolmikärki are more like a prog or art rock band doing a punk experiment and while its foundations are in high-speed fury, a smattering of other sounds and genres from completely different ends of the spectrum keep appearing in Kolmikärki like they're leaks from another timeline. It makes for a seriously strange little record - one that starts with four minutes of shaman drums and throat singing ("Johdatus salatieteisiin", translated as "Introduction to the Occult" which is the best song title the first song on the first CMX album could have), and ends similarly with the moody "Liekkisusi ja sulkakäärme" which throws Yrjänä's murmuring vocals into the pile and melodically sounds like someone wrung R.E.M.'s "Time After Time" through a demonic portal. The brightly acoustic singalong "Pyydä mahdotonta" and the oddly earnest stadium torchlight (but not really) moment "Suuri äiti" are possibly even more perplexing given what they're surrounded by.

I didn't mention CMX's particular sense of humour for no reason in the first paragraph, and the combining element across the board is cheeky streak of erratic, risk-averse fun running throughout the record. For all its occasional aggro Kolmikärki never sounds particularly angry and rather, it's nearly fun, with even the more traditionally punk-esque songs being fuelled by an unholy sense of outrageousness and fun, the band coming up with both the wryest and the most over the top ways of expressing Yrjänä's cryptic lyrics. And then occasionally you can almost hear the band having a mad giggle in the studio at their own tricks, or how else could you explain the hilariously upbeat horn section in "Taivas ja helvetti"? Or the entirety of whatever the hell "Sika ja perkele" is doing, where the fake-out alternative rock intro moves right into a steamrolling punk blast, and just as suddenly it erupts into a funk rock section that wouldn't be amiss on an early Red Hot Chili Peppers album - and the fact that I'm comparing CMX with the Chili Peppers (and on their punkiest of punk days nonetheless) is just as mad as the song itself.

So it is fair to say that I do derive some enjoyment out of Kolmikärki, and it isn't so far removed from the band's later alternative rock/prog days as to completely alienate any listeners who got into them through those records (like me). Even some of the more straightforwardly delivered cuts like "Nahkaparturi" (its titular chant another tick in the bizarre sense of humour list) and the chugging metal-churner "Pyörivät sähkökoneet" do hit in varying degrees. The thing is, this isn't a sound or a genre that in the wider frame excites or resonates with me all that much and towards the last third the album starts losing me completed as it's shown everything it has to offer and even the quirkiness has become less interesting. It's an album I can comfortably listen to but the main question that keeps coming to my head is why would I, when I prefer what CMX have done with all these same quirks later down in their career, and the parts of Kolmikärki that belong to it alone are not ones I get much out of? As far as I can gather Kolmikärki has a positive reputation among people who are generally attuned to this sound and I don't doubt for one moment that the album doesn't deserve any of its accolades. But for the most part, it just isn't doing things that strike a chord with me and the main feeling I take away from it is no feeling whatsoever.

So, the harsh rating here isn't really a condemnation of Kolmikärki, if anything it's a condemnation of my music tastes - these songs and this sound aren't ones that resonate with me, and some kind of resonance is one of the main things I seek in music - so this friendship was unlikely ever really to be. If this didn't belong to the discography of a band whose works I generally really enjoy, I wouldn't have ever felt the need to write any thoughts down about this. So it's not you Kolmikärki, it's me, sorry.

And regarding the bonus tracks, i.e. the Raivo EP, if you take into account everything above and then understand that Raivo is effectively a more primal version of this album and more rooted in the hardcore scene, you can decipher where I stand with it. "Hiki" is the highlight, if you want to call it that. Just not my thing.

Physically: A basic early 90s jewel case (black spine and all) with a minimalistic, single-gatefold "booklet" with the lyrics in black on white.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
1991 6 "Veljeskunta", "Helvetin hyvä paimen", "Kätketty kukka"

1) Kulje vasten; 2) Neljäs valtakunta; 3) Metallipurkaus; 4) Kuu; 5) Veljeskunta; 6) Rytmitehdas; 7) Helvetin hyvä paimen; 8) Vaskiperse; 9) Ääni ja vimma; 10) Tanssitauti; 11) Kätketty kukka; 12) Enteitä; 13) Täynnä naisia; 14) Tulikiveä; 2002 Gold Edition Bonus Tracks: Tanssitauti EP (1990): 15) "Matti"; 16) Tanssin jumala; 17) Hän on tullut; 18) Pimeä maa; 19) Pornogeneraattori; Musiikin ystävälliset kasvot EP (1991): 20) Musiikin ystävälliset kasvot; 21) Vieraita avaruudesta (I); 22) Polyhymnia; 23) Vieraita avaruudesta (II)

A new line-up arrives with a desire for a new sound. Not quite there yet, but close.

Veljeskunta brings with it a few shake-ups to the CMX story. One is that after a few guitarist shake-ups the band now features both Timo Rasio and Janne Halmkrona, fixing in place the band's double-guitarist format with the two axemen that would continue with the band for the decades to come. The other, somewhat relatedly, is a change in sound. The band's crooked idea of punk had ran its course and inspired by the addition of fresh blood in their ranks and their respective skillsets, the band decided it was time for a change. A firm change, as well: Veljeskunta would turn out to be CMX's last album on Bad Vugum, and there's a great anecdote about the label head having a chat with the band after the release of the record and the subsequent Musiikin ystävälliset kasvot EP, and how he had started to feel the band was getting a little too commercial for the label.

The familiar zeal and fury of Kolmikärki is well and present on Veljeskunta but CMX have, indeed, largely given up the old punk aesthetics in favour of other ideas. Calling this close to mainstream is a reach, but it's inarguable that the band is moving to a more digestible direction compared to their first EPs and album, including a couple of attempts at more direct alternative rock cuts which would comfortably slot in many of the band's later albums: “Kätketty kukka” unofficially sets the blueprint for many CMX radio singles to come and A.W. Yrjänä’s more dissonant chorus vocals come across as an intentional attempt to tone that friendliness down, and “Helvetin hyvä paimen” shifts to an acoustic gear while retaining the angular nature of the record, and it sounds closer to classic CMX than the acoustic experiments on Kolmikärki. Other, similarly non-abrasive influences are starting to also come through more audibly - there's more keyboards and in particular the atmospheric closer "Tulikiveä" leans on them entirely, and "Täynnä naisia" has a clear hint of early R.E.M. to its swing. Alongside these is a scattered number of wildly varied pieces which are least awkwardly described as post-punk, with the band’s hardcore past making cameos at best even when the throttle pedal is pushed all the way down. Veljeskunta is a transitional record where the band are flexing new ideas and throwing out suggestions of new ideas to intake, and like so many transitional albums it's a little unfocused, slightly overlong and somewhat chaotic.

That means that overall Veljeskunta is where the pieces start clicking in place, but the wider picture is still being sketched and we’re only getting excerpts of something greater. You can hear the potential, most vividly in the excellent middle section run, featuring the gothic post-punk of the title track with Kikke Heikkinen’s manic backing vocals, the steady and solid “Rytmitehdas” and “Tanssitauti” which remind me of the similarly chaotic enthusiasm of Manic Street Preachers’ very early years, “Vaskiperse” and “Ääni ja vimma” with their bizarre but exhilaratingly contrasting surprises thrown in (the car chase soundtrack breakdown complete with a ridiculous MIDI horn section on the former, the wild backing vocals on the latter), and the aforementioned "Helvetin hyvä paimen" and "Kätketty kukka". After a relatively stiff and somewhat forgettable start, that central third is the album’s peak where its energy, brutality, melody and sense of humour (still intact from the debut, wonderfully) are in perfect balance; the same pace carries through to the album's end, but by that point the 14-track length is starting to show its length. Veljeskunta isn’t a long album - only 38 minutes - but it doesn't quite justify the amount of songs it has, because while it's got its strengths none of its songs are so good they'd carry the album. Veljeskunta is an acquaintance you see every couple of years and you enjoy spending time with when they do turn up, but who you don't really think about in the meantime and you've never felt a connection with to consider a friend. Maybe if it had been condensed into a tight ten-track movement (probably without the first four tracks, all of which are rather superfluous and starts the record off on the wrong note), we could be talking about a breakthrough record. It’s on the verge though, waiting for a nudge, and the band wouldn’t take too long to make that leap.

The 2002 “Gold” re-release of the record adds in the album’s surrounding EPs as the bonus tracks and they very much equal the main album in interest, giving the listener a sense of chronology and development in action as they fill in the gaps in the story. 1990’s Tanssitauti EP is the bridge between Kolmikärki and the band’s then-established hardcore punk sound, treating the listener to three snappy punk cuts (most famously the originally untitled but now officially nicknamed “Matti” which has become a fan favourite due to its brutally dark humour), glued together by two songs hinting at the wider sonic experimentation of Veljeskunta. The hysterical “Tanssin jumala”, with a piano section that sounds like an early 90s house piano approximated through the Sega MegaDrive soundboard and it's the best song on the EP, and the gothic gloom of “Pimeä maa" comes close in its bold, booming presence.

But out of the two EPs, Musiikin ystävälliset kasvot is the one to really pay attention to. Prior to its original release Bad Vugum objected to its direction (see also the anecdote from the beginning of this review) and they cropped it to a two-song single release with the title track and the second "Vieraita avaruudesta". The Gold edition restores it in its originally intended four-track form, and you can hear why the proudly confrontational label was starting to think it was time for the band to move on. The entire EP has a heightened sense of melody compared to anything that the band had released before, and more adventurous arrangements and deeper songwriting are starting to regularise in their output. The first "Vieraita avaruudesta" has a brilliant bridge section that feels practically revelatory after such sections being glaringly absent from the last two albums, the second one moves the song into slower and darker waters with a heavy, processed sound (and a wonderfully crunchy bass) that acts as CMX's first attempt at using the recording studio as another instrument layer of its own, and the stripped down "Polyhymnia" breaks through its distorted chords with some actual beauty. The title track is a bonafide CMX anthem and absolutely the best song of their Bad Vugum years: a distinct lead guitar part that hooks instantly, the Kalevala-reminiscent lyrical meter in the verse that gives the vocals an eccentric but captivating melody, and the whole concoction thrashes through with a near-metal stomp under its feet. The whole EP is unmistakenly, thoroughly CMX and it's the starting line for the rest of their catalogue.

The solid, positively leaning 6/10 above is for Veljeskunta itself, but this is definitely one release where the extras go above and beyond adding value to the whole package. Knowing these EPs and especially Musiikin ystävälliset kasvot are essential to any CMX fan from a historical and from a pure song quality perspective, and I'd happily bump this up to a good 7/10 for the entire 23-song package.

Physically: Jewel case with a fold-out lyrics sheet, including the bonus tracks.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
1992 5 "Manalainen", "Ainomieli", "Marian ilmestys"

1) Pyhiinvaeltaja; 2) Härjät); 3) Aivosähköä; 4) Katariinanpyörä; 5) Todellisuuksien ylhäiset luokat; 6) Tähteinvälinen; 7) Manalainen; 8) Ainomieli; 9) Kaksi jokea; 10) Timanttirumpu; 11) Marian ilmestys; 12) Yö ei ole pimeä päivä

A lot of vigour and noise, but they're at the crossroads and uncertain where to go.

Aurinko was CMX's first album on a major label, and it has the overwhelming feeling of the band doing their darnest to convince their existing fans that they've not sold out. Or, at least that's how its downright stubborn attitude comes across for me. Its more energized moments are full of spit and brawn like the band's earliest recordings and its experimental side is drawn out to extremes to test the audience's patience, all in service of an uncompromising major label debut: a case of a band sticking it to temptations and label suggestions upon receipt of creative freedom for their big audience debut.

That's not necessarily good, or at least Aurinko is a surprisingly lackluster album after the interesting twists and turns the preceding Veljeskunta and its follow-up EP suggested. Aurinko tries to have its cake and eat it: it's absolutely a more self-assured record in its presentation than either of its predecessors and the band's vast range of influences is starting to creep through more clearly, but despite that Aurinko still sounds like a step backwards. It's a record that makes a lot of noise but wields it aimlessly, sounding feisty and raucous but trampling its song material underneath, and the first half makes it abundantly clear. Bar the calmer "Katariinanpyörä" which strums along with Veljeskunta-esque goth cool, the initial run of songs are more or less the same cranky rock gremlin repeated over and over again, barely distinguishing themselves from one another. There's an effort to sharpen the band's dynamic but the single-minded storming ahead is underwritten each time and despite their punk-meets-alternative volume, very few of these songs are any interesting or exciting at all. The only one that sticks with me is "Aivosähköä" because of its admittedly quite hilarious full stop in the middle of a chorus before a sudden breakdown occurs, but the rest is a series of copy/paste songs that sound desperate to prove CMX are still CMX, even under EMI. Problem is, it was more engaging the last time around.

Aurinko is an album with clear two distinct halves though and bar "Kaksi jokea" that's like a straggler epilogue to the first five songs, the second half is where CMX start branching out their ideas. It brings some life to the record and paves the way forward, but the issue is, I still don't think it makes for a particularly great set of songs. Many of the songs on the second half are either underbaked or they pick a shtick and stretch it until it's thin. That's we get the completely atonal and unbearable shaman drum jam "Timanttirumpu" (the worst of early CMX's many folklore drum circle bangers) and "Tähteinvälinen" which on paper sounds great - a beautiful interstellar declaration of love driven by organ and woodwind - but instead drones on and on, like it was threatening to be something too soft and just had to be dirtied up. The most interesting parts are the ones that clearly hint towards the next album, by way of the angry "Manalainen" that does what the first album tried to do but pulls it off and throws a surprising and impressively oppressing string section underneath itself, and the prog rock mood piece "Marian ilmestys" and its chopped off outro "Yö ei ole pimeä päivä" though you'd hear better versions of both songs in the near future. Unlike the first half of Aurinko the second half is actually memorable; they're still songs that all come with a 'but' attached to them when you describe them, but it's where CMX start brushing off the past and get ready for something unexpected and new, and that counts for something.

And then there's "Ainomieli", a genuinely excellent alternative radio pop gem, sitting in the middle of this mess. "Ainomieli" is the antithesis to everything else on Aurinko - self-composed, polished, welcoming and honestly a ton of fun - and that's why it's beaming with more confidence and boldness than anything else on the record. It's the exact kind of thing that CMX try to avoid for the rest of the album - it's the kind of radio-ready hit single that the band proactively reacted against by never making it one despite label pleads - but you can hear how much more focused and passionate they are about it compared to anything else around it. Its riotously jolly rapid fire chorus is one of CMX's key iconic moments and the rest of the song builds up around that centerpiece section with clarity and an understanding of melody which prior to this the band had often obscured under their raw approach. "Ainomieli" is a classic and singlehandedly rescues Aurinko: it's the song you want to return to, the song that keeps you going and the song that invites you to give a second chance to everything else around it.

I've given plenty of those second chances to Aurinko and over time it's warmed up to me slightly to the extent that I feel self-conscious when I'm harsh about it, but it is so obviously CMX in growing pains. If they had actually made an abrasive or difficult album to go with that ethos than fair play, but the cardinal sin of Aurinko is that for good parts of its duration it just isn't as interesting as the ruckus it tries to raise makes it out to be. It sees the band take cautious step back while building up the courage to take the leap forward, and I'd rather just listen to the truly wild early days or the confidently forward-thinking albums afterwards instead rather than the awkward in-between years.

Physically: Basic jewel case with a poster-style fold-out "booklet" with lyrics and a ton of photos, both quirky band shots and seemingly random tourist snapshots.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
1994 8 "Elokuun kruunu", "Ruoste", "Kultanaamio"

1) Mikään ei vie sitä pois; 2) Sametinpehmeä; 3) Elokuun kruunu; 4) Ruoste; 5) Nainen tanssii tangoa; 6) Turkoosi; 7) Kultanaamio; 8) Raskas; 9) Talvipäivänseisaus; 10) Työt ja päivät; 11) Pilvien kuningas; 12) Aura

More focused and unafraid to be beautiful at times - practically a reinvention for the band, and it's now time to take them seriously.

I've sometimes seen Aura described as the Finnish OK Computer and while that's a slightly hyperbolic sentiment and the two albums have very little in common musically, there is a seed of truth in there as they do both represent a turn of the tide in the popular pop culture context. Much like Radiohead's epic third album signalled the shift from the bright-eyed optimism of Britpop to the anxiety-exhausted final years of the 1990s in the UK, Aura has become the representative of the shift in Finnish rock music, with the general audiences well and truly adopting the nearly endless wealth of weird rock bands that the late 80s-early 90s Finland was giving birth to. In the wider scheme Aura didn't start the revolution, but it became its face, representing the upgrade from cult success ti actual success for CMX and many of their peers, as all these lyrically adept and musically unique acts who had been bubbling underneath became unlikely radio stars and shaped the Finnish nineties in their own characteristic ways.

The wildest thing about Aura is where it came from. Keep in mind that up to this point CMX were a chaotic group of grizzly Northern men who were always restlessly stirring their own pot, intentionally awkward to adore. They were prog-rockers doing hardcore punk, a band who found it hilarious and thrilling to pervert their hooks with abrupt twists and whose albums ran amok. After a string of three erratic albums each one more unpredictable than before (and not necessarily always in the best way), they were incredibly unlikely heroes to ever get a real break - if they ever even wanted it. CMX were a band in a constant flux, a maelstrom of wild ideas and wilder energy. But they were also talented, ambitious musicians who were growing out of the playpen they had started in and though they had tried to fight change in Aurinko, eventually it became too tempting to resist.

Aura is where CMX took a deep breath and focused. If you want to keep drawing parallels to OK Computer, then Aura bears the same notion of the band putting their heads together to plan for something greater than the sum of its parts, something that would take them to the next level artistically and musically. In Aura's case, that move was allowing ideas to represent themselves calmly and slowly if needed. The old fire hasn’t disappeared: "Sametinpehmeä" is perhaps a bit too much of a throwback to the last two albums that's a little ill-fitting in its current company and only seems to be on the album to remind any old fans right from the start that yes it's still the same CMX, but "Raskas" is just as positively punchy as anything before and the delightfully bonkers tango/heavy metal hybrid "Nainen tanssii tangoa" is fueled by the flashes of complete insanity that was the main characteristic of early CMX. Even the shaman drum jams that were synonymous with the band are still intact as far as actually opening the album, but "Mikään ei vie sitä pois" immediately highlights the changes in the band's songwriting. Unlike all the other previous drum circle anthems it's guided by melody, and rather than just standing out as a weird novelty, it makes not just for an effective intro but stands out as a song in its own right, mystically leading into Aura's world.

Those familiar throwbacks are largely there to bridge gaps though, and for most of its duration Aura looks both forward and elsewhere entirely. It is a gentler and softer record than the first three, undeniably; but it’s also more expansive and cohesive, and quite frankly more thought-out. Many of the songs are built around acoustic guitars and four tracks - a quarter of the album - are effectively ballads or mood pieces with A.W. Yrjänä's voice in the forefront in a manner it hasn't been before; among them are the elegant and softly spoken “Ruoste” that became the album’s runaway hit and the deceptively beautiful and secretly tragic “Talvipäivänkumous” that's like a light in the middle of the coldest winter night. At the center of it it's CMX embracing the concept that you can create something beautiful with a honest heart, and it opens so many paths for the band across even the harder songs. Arrangements are expanded with more keyboards and most notably a set of strings, which land a central role in every song they turn up in thanks to some sublime string arrangements that are overy and beyond the generic rock band orchestral wallpaper. The band’s prog influences are rising right to the surface as well, with the Pink Floydian “Pilvien kuningas” resting in its keyboard-trodden groove for a good nine minutes as the band lose themselves in the kind of instrumental jamming that they’d shy away from previously. “Elokuun kruunu” and “Kultanaamio” complete the band’s transformation into 90s alternative stars: they're two towering guitar anthems that sound as majestic on the hundredth listen as they do on the first, boldly soaring. "Elokuun kruunu" is fantastic in its own right, showing a little restraint even as it goes for the jugular in its anthemic chorus, but "Kultanaamio" is the album's centrepiece - you can predict right from the simple bass intro that the song is eventually going to explode and when it does, with the string section swooping in from the shadows like a gust of wind that just gave the song's wings flight, it's truly incredible. It's CMX well and truly reincarnated, unafraid to be a little more open towards its listeners but backing that notion up with a melodic abundance that begs to be heard.

As a first for CMX, it's also a set of songs that hold together remarkably. Aura is an album, a statement of intent for CMX's brand new form. It’s exciting in its cohesiveness, how dramatic arcs are built and sustained through several songs, where everything builds up on what appeared before. “Mikään ei vie sitä pois” and “Sametinpehmeä” bridge the gap from the past to the present, “Elokuun kruunu” reveals the band’s new more elegant side, “Ruoste” digs deeper into that and introduces the strings, “Nainen tanssii tangoa” incorporates those strings in something more conventional for the band, et cetera. They're also, for the most, part great songs. There's a few that truly make a stand - "Elokuun kruunu", "Kultanaamio", "Ruoste", "Talvipäivänseisaus" - but the overall flow is not only cohesive, but consistent. There was a lot of potential as well as flashes of greatness across the past three albums, but it's like it finally clicked for the band themselves what exactly those moments were, and they've removed the chaff around them. There's grace, there's fury and there's a constant sense of surprise and excitement, and it's not easy to understand why this album in particular lifted CMX on a pedestal. For me personally Aura is a few small steps away from being a truly classic album, but it is still undeniable in so many ways.

Physically: Jewel case with a lyrics booklet. It's nothing grand but the presentation is definitely getting a bit more elaborate, we're starting to move from barebones cover slips to actual golden age of CD booklets.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
1995 8 "Kirosäkeet", "G", "Pelasta maailma"

1) Rautakantele; 2) Yöllisiä; 3) Palvonnan eleitä; 4) Talviunia; 5) Kirosäkeet; 6) Ennustaja; 7) Päivälintu; 8) G; 9) Pelasta maailma; 10) Linnunhammas; 11) Veden ääri; 12) Pirunmaitoa; 13) Hiljaisuuteen

Beautiful songs pushing through a production that tries to stifle them.

Aura was a big deal and so a good amount of pressure was always going to be involved when it came time to follow it up, and from the outset Rautakantele looked to be destined to fail. The motivation difficulties that would lead then-drummer Pekka Kanniainen to become an ex-drummer in a few years time became more apparent as Kanniainen struggled to attend writing or practice sessions. Disagreements about the production of the album gave the band the idea to self-produce the record, which didn't go quite according to plan and the band's regret about how the album sounds would become the first thing they’d ever mention when discussing the record. Given the studio time had been booked and the band had plenty of songs in bank they started the recording sessions without their drummer, which meant that most of the material that was recorded leaned towards the softer side of CMX's spectrum - so much so that towards the end of the sessions there were so many doubts within the group about how the album so far had turned out that they quickly recorded a number of songs more in vein with what you'd expect from CMX.

Somehow, through all that, Rautakantele survived. The touch of tenderness and the open embrace of something more graceful that Aura introduced to CMX's sound is followed upon and even emphasised on Rautakantele, through the abysmal production job. The drums are so anemic it makes you wonder if it was a direct snapback to the issues the rest of CMX had with Kanniainen (“Palvonnan eleitä" alone has probably the worst hi-hat sound I’ve ever heard in an actual studio release), the guitars are completely depthless be it acoustic or electric, and everything else is simply so flat this may as well be a 2D release. But the songs bloom through the concrete, and the skeletal sound and the frequent more raw outbursts of volume turn Rautakantele into an album that's both beautiful and ugly at the same time. The troubles that lead to the album are reflected within its tones, with a sense of melancholy and discord across it but through it all, there's a bright warmth that pulls through against the odds reflected in its nonetheless rich arrangements, filled with more playful guitar parts, adventurous vocal lines and a frequently appearing three-piece backing vocalist set whose soft cadence smoothen Yrjänä’s gravel and always become the best part of any song they appear in. Rautakantele like a barren country field in the middle of winter: stark and lifeless, but still picturesque with all the snow over it.

Much of the album is made out rock songs with serene hearts, where underneath the scarred guitars there's an abundance of strong melodies, and it's at this intersection of heavy and tender where Rautakantele is most often at its best. It’s where you find the anthemic "Kirosäkeet", vulnerable power-ballad-in-making "Talviunia", "Ennustaja" which is awash with playful vocal melodies that beam through and the simply sublime "G" that escalates into a flurry of backing vocal harmonies over one of the band's most - almost spiritually - heavenly choruses. The more traditionally CMX-esque bursts of manic energy like the rhythm-flailing title track and the entertainingly twisted “Palvonnan eleitä” (that speak-song second verse!) support their gentler counterparts and lend the album a surprisingly rapid pace - and even they have a melodic flourish that gives them an airier footing. It all feels - for the first time with CMX - light as air, with none of the pressure behind the scenes detectable; anything but really, as the band has never sounded this effortlessly great.

It is the slow and hymnal heart of Rautakantele that’s become synonymous with the album though, with an intimate touch rare for a CMX album. It's that side which also offers "Pelasta maailma" which became one of CMX's great evergreens shortly after its appearance, and little wonder why. It's a startling song, really, because it's so honest with its romance and peace. No hidden tricks, no cheeky twists: simply a ballad the size of a small personal universe, colouring the night sky with the northern lights in tune with its wistful woodwinds, heartbeat of a drum machine and a genuinely touching vocal performance from Yrjänä and the backing vocalists. "Päivälintu" and "Veden ääri" are more traditional acoustic campfire ballads and are more unarmed than anything the band has recorded before, and "Yöllisiä" even proves that it's possible to mix CMX's erratic whimsy into these new ideas as it topsy-turvies around its strums like a court jester - and then suddenly clearing the table with a moment of quietly touching resonance as the backing vocals begin to gather behind. You even get a literal hymn, “Hiljaisuuteen”, to close the album: a choir piece that has all the holy heavy-heartedness of an actual church song, Yrjänä backed by a multi-head chorus all a cappella who bid a hallow farewell to the album which strikes straight into the heart for this little atheist who grew up in a habitually Christian country. The transition from "Pirunmaitoa" - angry and growling at start but moving into a calmer extended instrumental jam in the way the band enjoyed tiding their albums to the close at the time - isn't perfect, but I'm not sure what exactly could lead flawlessly into "Hiljaisuuteen" either, and as an actual ending it feels just perfect. I don't think I'd ever be able to rank it among my favourite CMX songs as a song, but it's up there with my favourite album closers of theirs, haunting the space long after its brought the disc into its silent end.

“Hiljaisuuteen” is by no means representative of Rautakantele but despite the initial surprise it makes perfect sense for it to exist here. There’s strands of serenity, intimacy and almost spiritual calm throughout the album and after those strands have spent the album wading between rowdy guitars, gentle embraces of melody and a rudimentary production that threatens to strangle the life out of them, a hymn is a natural place for them to gather together. In its own way it makes sense that the band would retreat into a clearer headspace when all four walls around them kept crashing down, and the first thing that comes to my mind from Rautakantele is just how clearly it’s guided by vision, allowing itself to sound so uninhibitedly pretty even if it means shaking away the edge the band had carried - and will go on to carry - with them; to the extent that no matter how long the discography has grown it still remains unique in that extent. The strength of the songwriting and the weakness of the production makes it a strong but wounded album, clearly imperfect but its strengths glow so strongly they sweep away the shadows. If it sounded better maybe it would be an all-time great - and yet in a way its that crippled grace that the record bears which makes it so alluring

Physically: Jewel case, nice and thick booklet with each lyric given its own page and a number of additional scribbles and artwork all across its pages. There's also a yellow sticker bearing the band's name on the top right of the jewel case, given it's otherwise absent from the artwork. As a bonus, the CD tray still has the inventory sticker from my old local record shop that I bought this from, kept it for the memories...


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
1996 7 "Antroposentrifugi", "Aamutähti", "Vallat ja väet"

1) Discoinferno; 2) Antroposentrifugi; 3) Nimetön; 4) Aamutähti; 5) Jerusalem; 6) Vallat ja väet; 7) Paha; 8) Suljettu astia; 9) Epäonnisten liikemiesten helvetti; 10) Arcana; 11) Silmien ummistamisesta Nansenin galvanointiin

Enter the industrial disco inferno. Twists, turns and loops.

Where to start? If you are following CMX's journey chronologically then Discopolis is the first truly befuddling curveball they throw at you; and if you're just going through the back catalogue in a random order, it's still going to be a strange trip no matter when you stumble onto it. Let down by the self-production experiment of Rautakantele where they had the songs ready before they hit the studio, together with an ol' faithful friend Gabi Hakanen the band took the total opposite route for the follow-up. Instead of having already written the material the band started recording sketches, demos and ideas in the studio and then began to construct the actual songs by cutting and clipping sections together, utilising the latest studio technology (this is apparently Finland's first ever ProTools-recorded album?) to form a piecemeal record. And that still doesn't explain how the songs turned out the way they did, as the band took the highly technological approach as inspiration to head towards an industrial techno-hell soundscape where heavy metal riffs would mingle with remix-ready drum loops: where you can't tell where the irony ends and earnest experimentation begins in-between the mosh pit numbers, the heartfelt moments where the facade is stripped off and whatever side the sardonic smoky jazz club number "Paha" is meant to represent.

Discopolis gets a weird rep because it is a weird album, both on the obvious surface level and - once you get to know it a bit better - perhaps moreso a little deeper under the surface as well. It finds CMX at crossroads: after two incredibly successful albums with big ballad hits and a more nuanced (some might say audience-friendly) sound CMX were bigger than ever, but the internal schism with drummer Pekka Kanniainen's disillusionment with the band and the music industry had began to affect the group's internal chemistry and the band's future was looking blurry. Throwing themselves into this studio experiment that was so different to their former recording ethos feels like a carpe diem moment to try and stoke a new fire going - and the loop-heavy approach probably helped with the issues with Kanniainen too. It's an album of thrown-in ideas where nothing was too peculiar to be shelved outright if it had the possibility of finding a place in one production cut/paste job or another - and a lot of those ideas still stem from the same band who had been evolving their songcraft and were keen to move forward in that respect. The weird industrial dancefloor metal moments and their adlibbed Scatman-riffing ("Nimetön", and maybe the "di-di-di-di-diii-ii-ii-ii-iisco" in "Discoinferno" could count as an eurodance hook too) and the bonkers euroclub-goes-metal homages ("Antroposentrifugi", without a doubt one of the wildest songs CMX have ever released and so ecstatic in its insanity) share spaces with earnest moments of songwriting which clearly stem from the preceding two records. "Aamutähti" is a gentle lullaby decorated with beautiful horn sections and light-as-air backing vocals with only the drum loop giving it that overt Discopolis vibe, "Suljettu astia" is such a normal rock song that it feels awkwardly out of place here, and "Vallat ja väet" rises from the ashes of its noise breakdowns into a heartfelt and longing giant that has the honest strength of a band acknowledging they've made it big time and they're going to ensure it damn well means something, by precision-firing an anthem so sharp and striking it instantly becomes a landmark song for them. They're reminiscent of the peaks of the past two albums - and in terms of "Vallat ja väet" and "Aamutähti" specifically they surpass many of them - but in the vortex of Discopolis they're almost too serious and too focused.

It's a bit of a mess then: a band heading down a clear path, but intentionally disorienting themselves from it. But it's a really good mess, if a bit uneven. Discopolis is a little bit of everything: hilarious (intentionally or unintentionally) and emotional, heavy as hell and still at times incredibly graceful, successfully exploring new concepts as well as sometimes clunkily forcing them down the band's material. But it's always, always memorable and most of the time really interesting and still solidly written underneath the ProTools trickery where you can literally hear the cuts between takes. It is, as expected, a little uneven and if there's a fault to Discopolis it's that its flow is all over the place and in particular that it ends with a whimper: "Epäonnisten liikemiesten helvetti" is mostly just loud and disgruntled huffing-and-puffing which at this stage feels a little regressive, and the sprawling and outro-like "Silmien ummistamisesta Nansenin galvanointiin" is a great guitar hook aimlessly lost in search of an actual song to be in. At least "Arcana" in between is one of the best marriages of machine and man that the album boasts, highlighting that in another timeline Discopolis could've been an incredibly solid industrial rock album, even if sans its quirks. "Jerusalem" too isn't as good as its admittedly impressive choir explosion of a hook would give the impression of, because that choir is the only really memorable part of the song. And if you want an example of how the flow in general feels like a crapshoot, just check out how "Aamutähti" and its skygazing grace follows three of the album's most outrageous songs and it feels like the album abruptly hits the handbrakes each and every time. Discopolis is uneven and all over the place - but it's so often close to genius too.

I can absolutely understand why one person would be over the moon for this album and another would consider it a confusing dip in quality, and boringly I meet the extremes somewhere a little more centrist. Discopolis is as thrilling and inspired as it is an odd duck hinting at a greater potential; whether that'd have been by focusing more on either its earnest or its unhinged qualities, or CMX simply tightening the quality control a little bit more. But even with that caveat, it's still one of CMX's most fascinating albums and in a thoroughly positive way. It nails that unpredictability and askewness that makes up so much of the band's DNA and appeal, which has certainly already made appearances across the past five albums but nowhere so imminently as it has in these brimstone disco floor fillers and whirlwind industrial anthems. After Discopolis CMX would calm down a little and begin their second life as a steadfast and focused rock act, as if they deliberately trapped their excess madness within the confinements of Discopolis; while it's no classic album, it's riveting to peek into its Pandora's box nonetheless

Physically: Jewel case with a lyrics booklet.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
1998 7 "Surunmurhaaja", "Taivaan lapset", "Arkangeli"

1) Iskusävelmä; 2) Surunmurhaaja; 3) Vainajala; 4) Vierasta viljaa; 5) Ei yksikään; 6) Taivaan lapset; 7) Sillanrakentaja; 8) Laulu palavasta linnusta; 9) Eufrat; 10) Kirjeitä paratiisista; 11) Arkangeli; 12) Vanha talvitie

Kicking off the next chapter with an honest, loud rock album.

Vainajala is a skin shedding moment for CMX. After an early career full of divergent musical strands, the band have figured out who they are and more importantly, how to blend all that raw power, emotional grace and trickster prog flair into a singular sound that represents CMX above anything else. Along with that, they’ve got a new drummer with Tuomas Peippo whose machine-like precision serves as the perfect technical and diverse backbone to the band's growing ideas. Unlike the prior handful of albums which had long gestation periods due to the band figuring things out within the studio, the idea for Vainajala was to go with gut feeling and capture the spark quickly. Faith No More’s Billy Gould was enlisted as the producer as CMX holed up in a Lapland cabin for a mere couple of weeks to crank out the record, and the change in the man behind the desk to someone brand new instead of the old friends who produced the prior albums has arguably been just as important to the band in helping them forge ahead a new path. In the greater scheme of things Vainajala was a bit of a detour in itself and rather unrepresentative of the next stretch of records, but it was a palate cleanser, wiping the slate clean for the next steps.

Funny enough, Vainajala turned out to be an honest rock album. It’s not the much dreaded "back to basics" - CMX’s basics were never like this - but it is an intentionally more straightforward album, even if the prog rock tendencies creep in subtly by way of understated time signature shenanigans and little segments like the non sequitur breakdown of lead single "Ei yksikään". It's an album lead by big guitars and the sturdy classic four-member rock band groove, with A.W. Yrjänä alternating between a shouting maniac and a charismatic frontman as he adopts both sides of his frontman persona - it's music that's meant to be played loud, ideally in front of people. After the line-up changes and restless changes in direction, its role is a succint and instinctive re-introduction for the band as well as a needed re-focus to line the sights up for the future. As these things often go, it’s not a particularly nuanced or deep album, and you can easily say that not only has much of the band's former edge been toned down, but that there is definitely a really fine line between the album as it stands and a safe, radio-friendly rock album - by the Finnish definition of one, at least.

Vainajala holds its ground because ultimately it’s a (pun intended) rock solid record. The songwriting favours punchy hooks over artistic flair but the little prog tangents and Yrjänä's lyricism (can't say I've heard many rock songs tap onto the Kalevala meter like "Laulu palavasta linnusta" does) keep it distinguishably CMX-esque. There's always been a good couple get-to-the-chorus rock jams per album and CMX know how to carve their crooked melodies within a more foot tap inviting structure, and this just happens to be an album full of them for once. Gould's production isn't flashy but it's got some muscle to it which befits the chosen direction, and the band-centric arrangements mean that the few keyboard and backing vocal parts that do appear sound all the more lush. There's no new ideas for CMX within Vainajala, but you are effectively dealing with a great rock band playing snappy rock songs with a renewed spirit, and it's hard to complain about it - especially when the hits keep coming. A handful of these reach all the way to the hallowed canon: the twinkling "Taivaan lapset" is exhuberantly melodic, "Laulu palavasta linnusta" fiercely battering rams ahead, and "Vanha talvitie" is one of the band's all time great closers, lurching forward full of deep melancholy and purging volume, its ever-towering coldness growing into handsome heights. CMX work excellently as "just" a rock band as well, which Vainajala demonstrates excellently. It's only a few times where it feels like the band is starting to run on thin ince, namely the schlager-leaning "Sillanrakentaja" and "Kirjeitä paratiisista" (which wastes its powerful opening, leading on from the interlude/intro "Eufrat") lean a little too close to less exciting radio rock waters; I've also never been too taken by the prog-punk gremlin "Ei yksikään" despite its memetic scream-along chorus, as it feels like a song trying to be tricky for tricky's sake with its tempo shifts and stop-starts, which end up muddling the tune more than they make it interesting. But they're minor bumps than blemishes, and quickly brushed off.

That said, some of the songs that stick the hardest are the ones where the band stray from the core thesis. The particularly brilliant "Surunmurhaaja" wraps its manic ruckus within entrancingly atmospheric verses which are unlike anything else on the record, and "Arkangeli" towards the end is a serene acoustic ballad that turns out to be one of the album's stand-out moments, part in due because that contrast is a welcome respite by that point in the runtime, but also because it features one of Yrjänä's most beautiful vocal melodies in the chorus with a particularly fantastic backing vocal part emphasising that melody. "Vierasta viljaa" starts as an acoustic ballad as well to showcase early on that not everything here is guitars-to-eleven, but when it finally does break out the electrics for its final chorus the effect is magnified and it's one of the boldest parts of the record - the parts you remember the most. And somewhere there lies the distillation of where my overall opinion on Vainajala stands. There's no doubt that it's a really good record, but it's also not an album that I think about when I reach out for CMX. Next to its more flamboyant peers it starts to grow pale and its most interesting parts are the ones where the band do something a little more different than what the rest of the album actually stands for.

I don't like rating "against" an album because it's a more straightforward rock record - my tastes are nowhere near complicated enough to even pretend I could do that with a good conscience - but as good as CMX are playing things loud and straight, it's not where their greatest appeal lies. Vainajala is an album of bangers and there's a time and place for that - but I actually associate some of these songs more closely with their places in later compilation albums than this actual tracklist. Nonetheless, it sets off CMX's next chapter with a blast, and that re-energising would serve the band brilliantly going forward. That alone gives it a place in the pantheon

Physically: As usual, a basic jewel case with a standard-good booklet featuring some artwork, the lyrics and a band shot. You've been here before with these guys by now, you know the drill.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2000 8 "Jatkuu niinkuin syntimme", "Meidän syntimme", "Baikonur"

CD1: 1) Kreetan härkä; 2) Kansantalouden saavutusten näyttely; 3) Ei koskaan; 4) Iliman pielet; 5) Ohjelmansiirtoketjun mittaustauko; 6) Pelon enkeli; 7) Loputtomasti samaa; 8) Ilmestyskirjanpitäjä; 9) Kylmänmarja; 10) Baikonur; 11) Negatiivinen alkusoitto
CD2: 1) Jatkuu niinkuin sade; 2) Tuonen lintu; 3) Luuhamara; 4) Tämän runon tahtoisin unohtaa; 5) Kultaiset portaat; 6) Meidän syntimme; 7) Myrskyn ratsut; 8) Karsikkopuu; 9) Olkoon täysi sinun maljasi; 10) Suurta yötä päin; 11) Tähdet sylissään

The prog beast has been unleashed!

Towards the late 1990s CMX fell out of love with performing live, and it eventually escalated in the band announcing that they would stop touring altogether. The whole hulaballoo that began around this with the media and the fans is now a somewhat infamous chapter in the band’s history, once they awkwardly reversed the decision just a few years later (and they’d steadfastly insist for years to come that they only ever meant a taking hiatus rather than fully cease live performances) but temporary or not, it laid out the groundwork for Dinosaurus Stereophonicus. The two-hour, two-disc giant indulges in CMX’s hitherto somewhat hidden love for progressive rock and it’s above all a studio album: a record written and recorded without a single thought given to whether it could ever be replicated with just four people on stage, utilising every and any technology available in the studio to fulfil a meticulously arranged widescreen vision. One filled with mellotrons, synthesizers and organs, string sections, hundred-head choirs and songs hovering around the ten-minute mark that would be miles beyond anything the band had released before from both a technical and technological standpoint.

The two separate sections of Dinosaurus Stereophonicus aren't there just because of course you're going to aim for a double album if you're doing your big prog rock record, but also because of how CMX have chosen to approach this vague direction. The ethos is the same across both discs - intensely maximalist, polished to perfection and primed to explore the entire space between the full wingspan what the band are capable of. There's a certain kind of fearlessness I appreciate - and love - when artists take a studio-focused approach like this because it’s often the time when they redefine themselves and blow open new doors. Dinosaurus Stereophonicus is precisely that, and the extra long length serves as the means to separate the two distinct paths that these new paths have lead CMX to: one unpredictable and turned inwards, the other full of pomp and grandeur.

The first disc represents the former approach - the more askew side of the kind of prog rock that CMX pay tribute to. The songs are long and twisted with crooked time signatures with heavier guitar tones and lengthy instrumental sections (including the ultimate taboo - a drum solo), all the way down to multiple fully instrumental songs which appear as the lead-in, the mid-album palate cleanser (“Ohjelmansiirtoketjun mittaustauko”) and the outro. “Kreetan härkä” starts the journey with four minutes of synthesizer-warbling scene setting, from where the album travels through multiple heavy dramatic musical drops and not one but two big giants one right after another, and the conclusion isn’t really even an outro for the last ten songs but a sneaky bridge to the next disc ("Negatiivinen alkusoitto" - "Negative Prelude"). Of those two epochs one is a metal-adjacent churner with a doomsday choir ("Kylmänmarja"), the other a ten-minute ambient space-farer ballad ("Baikonur"). Taken as a whole it's some of the most unpredictable and audience-challenging material CMX have produced to date: more of a mood sequence than a string of evergreens, to be considered as a wider piece even if some pieces are a little easier to take in isolation than others such as mildly arena-flirting “Loputtomasti samaa”.

The second disc is actually the more welcoming of the two halves even though it appears last. The prog elements here emphasise depth of sound rather than hefty experimentation and they retain more conventional (even chorus-friendly) structures: less Tales from Topographic Oceans, more Dark Side of the Moon. You still have space for quirkier cuts like the janky jamming of "Luuhamara" and the atmospheric groove of "Karsikkopuu", but in either case CMX aren’t taking the wilder ideas as far as they did on the first disc and they’re placed right alongside the classic rock singalong "Tämän runon tahtoisin unohtaa" (complete with "hey hey!"s and cowbells) and the vintage prog epic "Olkoon täysin sinun maljasi" with a keyboard sound and solo lifted directly from the 1970s - both of which the first disc would chew and spit out without mercy. The defining element of this half is the presence of a grand choir that "Kylmänmarja" sneakily introduced and which goes on to appear throughout the second set of eleven songs: in the angelic harmonies of the anthem single "Jatkuu niinkuin sade", booming down from the skies to out-heavy the guitars in the grunge beast "Meidän syntimme", to embrace the listener in the galaxy-sized lullaby "Tähdet sylissään". Disc two of Dinosaurus is about the size of the sound and the options it presents, married to clearly distinct and melody-oriented songs - the closest thing to an interlude is the elegiac piano piece "Suurta yötä päin" that strips down the excess for a brief moment while paving the way to the grand finale.

The second disc is the easier way to approach and unlock the album - certainly based on personal experience - but if you were to listen to these as one big block of music then the order here works just right. The first half’s headiness and heftiness is the more intriguing initial dip into the strange waters of the record, and the second half’s more obvious anthems feel more impactful after the tightly wound tension of the first half and they lead more naturally to the grand finale - "Tähdet sylissään" is the awe striking homecoming where seemingly everyone and everything on the album is brought together for one last singalong, in an unashamedly epic manner that’s the only real way to finish something as massive as this album, and it’s a heartwarmingly beautiful song that radiates warmth and understanding, a sense of belonging. I would ultimately say that I personally prefer the second half, just because the new ideas are used to augment what is some of CMX's best songwriting from a melodic perspective: in particular the positively soaring "Jatkuu niinkuin sade", intense "Meidän syntimme" (and its awesome choir drop) and the tender dreamscape of "Myrskyn ratsut" are close to perfection. Whether they’d sound as immense without the extra production values is completely irrelevant (as this argument always is) because they’re songs built around that go-big-or-go-home approach and they ride that wave proudly and beautifully, every grand gesture hitting sweet emotional spots.

That isn't to say that the first disc is a letdown or that it isn't without its merits: its more arcane approach is inspired in its own right and carries much of the album’s magic on its back. It is however an entity that I need to be in a specific mood for, largely listened to only when I really want to dive deep into the album’s layers. The question that naturally crops up is whether I’d prefer if the album was just the second disc, and maybe from a purely numerical rating perspective that would be the case, but I also reckon the record would lose an important dimension if these two halves didn't compliment one another. It’s what I mean when I say that the second disc unlocks the first: it’s the hook that pulls you in and draws attention to the album’s ideas and concepts, after which the ways the first CD utilises (and in some ways foreshadows) the same concepts and ideas becomes more fascinating to dig into. Not to mention that the first eleven songs are still very good in their own right (bar the instrumentals which really are there just to serve the prog vibe) and I'd lament the loss of its best parts - especially "Baikonur" which is a truly incredible song and the grandeur of which cannot be understated, floating peacefully in the galaxy and sighing with weary beauty for the most wonderful ten minutes. I’d happily stay within its soft electronic hold and comet's tail guitar solos for another ten.

Like many double albums Dinosaurus Stereophonicus is a bit of a compromise act between its parts, everything inevitably balancing out to something that’s a little lesser than perhaps what could’ve been with further editing involved. That'd defeat the point though and it’s not something I hold against the album - it’s an impressive piece of work with many incredible songs, some of which I consider integral to the band and moreso to my feelings about the band. The video for "Jatkuu niinkuin sade" is probably the first time I became aware of CMX and while it would take me another decade before I actually became invested in their music, it did manage to spark something that stuck around in my memory bank. Some fans probably lost the CMX they loved with this record for good given the roughest edges of their music had now been sanded off for good by this stage, and the way the album embraces its more "prog" elements and balances the melodic with the heavy would impact the rest of their career as they continued to move beyond the punk and erratic alternative rock sound of their 1990s. But I always think that each band should have at least one grand studio statement in their back catalogue and the sheer inspired excess that CMX rammed through with it gave them a landmark record and another unique iteration of their sound in their collection.

Physically: Basic 2-CD jewel case, booklet with lyrics and a bunch of cover-adjacent artwork/photos.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2004 7 "Pohjoista leveyttä", "Minun sydämeni on särkynyt", "Lihan syvyyksiin"

1) Päänsärkijä; 2) Pohjoista leveyttä; 3) Veitsenterä; 4) Minne paha haudattiin; 5) Isohaara; 6) Revontulten repijä; 7) Minun sydämeni on särkynyt; 8) Post mortem; 9) Lihan syvyyksiin; 10) Silmien takana; 11) Tuulilukko

No plans, "just" songs in a breadth of styles - in good and bad.

The album that restarts with each song, as CMX themselves have retrospectively described Isohaara. Recorded across several months with no real plan behind the sessions, Isohaara looks like an obvious U-turn to take immediately after the prog epic Dinosaurus Stereophonicus: just songs, with little cohesion in-between them. Within its eleven songs you can find punk-energised thrashing around, wistful pop songs, heavy metal, an ambient ballad, an acoustic cut and radio-friendly pop/rock - there’s no connecting tissue between any of them and the tracklist may as well have been shuffled (even the band would start posting alternative song orders in later years through social media once streaming became a thing).

Isohaara wears its flaws on its sleeves and so I don’t think it’s too surprising if I say that it’s an unfocused grab bag of a record. It’s the first - and only - CMX album that doesn’t have an identity beyond a selection of songs packaged in one disc, and that obviously has an impact on the overall experience. Nor is it therefore too surprising that the quality is all over the place here, and that does include the kind of bottom of barrel material we’ve not heard in several albums: “Isohaara” only stands out because of its children’s choir (which doesn’t really add anything either), “Post mortem” doesn’t even do that and in the tracklist it represents a three minute gap in my memory. “Silmien takana” is almost a guilty pleasure, so deep in soft rock cliches that it could be a parody and yet it’s positively catchy even if it feels wrong. You can never tell what's around each corner, in style or quality. Albums with no greater focus can turn their messiness into a boon if they tap into a certain kind of creative anything-goes ethos and turn their wildness into their focus - in case of Isohaara, it sounds like a band who have plateaued and who aren’t really sure what to do except to make another record, and some of the songs make that abundantly clear.

Nonetheless, just as much as it swings low it does also score high at an even greater frequency. The lack of any guiding musical concept or theme means that CMX (inadvertently or not) steer the good ship Isohaara towards some really interesting sonic places that haven't really had space in their albums before. "Revontulten repijä" echoes within gargantuan space, sounding both mystical and futuristic as it stretches its slowburning rhythm across six minutes like a deep space funeral march; with "Minne paha haudattiin" the band who have joked about their occasional metal flair finally lean right into it, with crushing brick wall guitar riffs, an inherently Finnish coldness and even a genuine, honest-to-god guitar solo (which CMX never do); "Lihan syvyyksiin" is at its core a good ol' CMX rock number but its arrangement shifts shape throughout, lending the song a restlessly twitchy feel halfway between groovy and derailed. Other songs drill down on the essentials without anything superfluous in the way, primarily the balls-to-walls guitar energy of the punk-spirited lead single "Pohjoista leveyttä" and the sublime pop gem "Minun sydämeni on särkynyt", the most honest and earnestly immediate song CMX have ever dared to release, far away from any attempts of self-sabotage or trying to make it weirder and it's all the better for it. Sometimes you simply need a beautiful melody and set it to simple, resonant lyrics to create something immortal - "Minun sydämeni on särkynyt" does just that and decorates it with a wistful, lush arrangement. In the chaos of Isohaara it feels like a breather in the centre, the heart that pulls the rest of the songs together as much as it can.

It's a simple case of the good songs outweighing the weak. On an album like Isohaara where there's no red line running through - that sounds like a compilation of singles and their respective b-sides - it's that simple factoid that makes it worth a check. It's an obvious hold note, a stop gap release between two high profile albums that define the band in their own particular ways; in-between them, Isohaara primarily acts as a reminder of CMX's diversity. If you think of the album starting over with each new song, the tracks here are almost like individual teasers of eleven entirely different albums, of which almost all would have been worth a punt exploring more. And the worst thing about it is how easy it is to forget that, simply because it doesn't have a strong identity and thus gets lost in this vast discography it's in. Coming back to Isohaara always means to also rediscover it; just separate the wheat from the chaff and it becomes clear just how much of the good stuff there actually is in its song selection, obscured by memories of the incohesiveness around them.

Physically: Standard jewel case and a booklet with lyrics and some moody band photos - this time also there's a cryptic "So the writings would come true" message above the credits.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2003 9 "Sielunvihollinen", "Palvelemaan konetta", "Kuoleman risteyksestä kolme virstaa pohjoiseen"

1) Pirunnyrkki; 2) Sielunvihollinen; 3) Melankolia; 4) Fysiikka ei kestä; 5) Palvelemaan konetta; 6) Kuoleman risteyksestä kolme virstaa pohjoiseen; 7) Kyyn pimeä puoli; 8) Sivu paholaisen päiväkirjasta; 9) Nahkasiipi; 10) Ensimmäinen saattaja; 11) Hautalinnut

Where everything so far has lead to. The apex of it all - heavy, bold and stunning.

By this point CMX had started to operate on a cycle of reactions and counter-reactions, each album indirectly acting as the opposite of what came before thanks to the band continuously looking for new challenges. Aion follows suite, and thus after the pick-n-mix Isohaara comes something focused - terrifyingly focused.

Aion is a loose concept album with the running lyrical theme of inherent evil everywhere - spiritual, human, literal or metaphorical. That's where the terrifying from the previous paragraph comes in, as that shadow seeps through its every crook and corner. Aion creeps like it's constantly foreshadowing something moving from the deep any moment now, like it's preceding the final days and we don't even know it. It's not a dark album - there's enough light around its shades - but it's heavy and foreboding. Its walls of sound tower high above and come crashing down, one showman-like centrepiece song at a time. The wry sense of humour CMX usually carry around them is nearly absent here, and the stern attitude found in its place enforces the idea of the band knowing they were onto something important and for once in their lifetime they took it dead seriously. The album's only real moment of levity is the atypically rhyme-happy chorus to the lead single "Melankolia", which rise from the ominously bubbling verses into a delirious singalong romp. But even its cheeriness is more akin to a madman's laugh.

Aion's actual legacy as one chapter in the great tome of CMX's journey is that this is the pinnacle of it all, the crossroads where everything meets and the rest shoots out from. Aion wouldn't exist without the three albums before it, the trilogy of development following the band's creative reboot: the raw power of Vainajala, the progressive layers of Dinosaurus Stereophonicus and the experimental freedom of Isohaara are all parts of Aion's DNA. Following the line-up shuffle in 1997 CMX had reinvented themselves as a muscular rock band with a pronounced lean towards all things weird and "artsy", and the five years afterwards were really the band learning to fly again in ways they hadn't thought before. The tangled tendrils of Aion is the sum of the lessons learned, brought together with a single-minded concentration that the nature of the previous albums didn't lend to. The result is a record that not only peaks the evolution that had taken place but it distills CMX as a musical entity, as much as you are able to sum them up anyway; you can hear traces of Aion in every album since, just as the discography so far leads to it piece by piece. There's very few cases I've come across that are as clear definitions of a magnum opus for a group as Aion is to CMX.

The body of Aion is CMX at their heaviest to date. It's not like the former hardcore punks have ever shied away from coming across hard, but with the muscular riff-lead guitar work and Peippo's fiercely technical powerhouse drumming Aion is often ramming through with bulldozer force. The producer has changed from one long-time collaborator Gabi Hakanen to future long-time collaborator Illusion Rake, and Rake taps onto the dynamics of the band's playing more than the texturally-oriented Hakanen did, and it suits this new incarnation of the band. On top of the lead-weight volume CMX layer additional ideas that run through the album tying the songs together: time signature flickers that throw curveballs throughout ("Palvelemaan konetta" taking it as far as it can by restlessly shifting in its skin while still going full steam ahead), sudden swells of string orchestras that descend onto the songs with near-violent bombast, and the appropriately haunting atmospheric passages providing the occasional respite. It's these that offer the album's most diverse outings: the cold steel dread of "Sivu paholaisen päiväkirjasta", the hopeless march of "Viimeinen saattaja", the circling percussion of "Hautalinnut" which closes the album like a rushed exorcism, and the resurfacing of synth-CMX with the ghostly electronic shimmer of "Sielunvihollinen". "Sielunvihollinen" is a heck of a thing to drop as the second track, especially after the wrecking ball opener "Pirunnyrkki" that rolls through the speakers with no warning. The sudden dead halt slowdown to "Sielunvihollinen"'s ambient murmur is the real start to Aion, the rug pull that drops you to the middle of the album's concept, from where you then try to find your way and emerge song by song afterwards. It's chillingly eery and yet beautiful in its wistfulness, and in its strangeness it's one of the key pieces of the record.<

Therein lies Aion's card in sleeve: its cohesiveness and how well it all works together. CMX are consistent but rarely in sound, their albums guided by their oddball sense of direction which finds them frequently taking side tracts that make their own weird kind of sense in ethos, but which most of the time leave the albums as "just" really solid collections of songs. Aion makes sense as a whole entity, even when it diverges from the general path. Its songs stand strong by themselves - even "Sielunvihollinen" and the palate cleansing "Kyyn pimeä puoli" with its Up-era R.E.M. textures - and throughout the record you are treated to some of the best CMX there is. "Melankolia" is the token single that pulls you in but doesn't lose any of the album's core identity with its hooks, "Fysiikka ei kestä" is aching, enormous and yet almost oppressively crushing, "Sivu paholaisen päiväkirjasta" is so tightly wound and constructed that it doesn't sound something a human being could have written, "Palvelemaan konetta" is both brutal and giddily pogoing at the same time. "Kuoleman risteyksestä kolme virstaa pohjoiseen" was considered by Yrjänä at one point the finest song CMX had ever written and it has every right to that title, sharply slithering between frigid acoustic passages and electronically distorted outbursts until the strings rise and fierily engulf over everything, the song burning to the sound of heavy guitars and orchestras: an anthem, but not as we know it. But these songs are still even more fearsome together as part of one pack, with the album's dramatic curves moving through multiple songs at a time. As impressive as the individual moments are, Aion's allure is in the whole journey to its abyss.

It's a superlative review with no ifs and buts, simply because it's an awe-striking album. Aion is CMX perfecting their trick and revealing their hand to clear out the table, in one frightening and dominant move. They never bettered it but they probably even couldn't have if they had wanted to - it's a lightning striking in one place for enough time to conjure together an album that doesn't sound like it was created or written, but that it had always existed somewhere in the universe and then it leaked into our reality through some arcane means. It's a bold and hefty record that everything so far has lead to, and it stands fearsomely tall.

Physically: Jewel case, booklet with lyrics, nothing out of the ordinary. I do love how vividly pink everything is though, in contrast to the darkness of the record.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2005 9 "Mustat siivet yli taivaan", "Kain", "Sanansaattaja"

1) Eteläisen tähtitaivaan kartoitus; 2) Pedot; 3) Uusi ihmiskunta; 4) Mustat siivet yli taivaan; 5) Kain; 6) Suojelusperkele; 7) Taivaanääreläiset; 8) Näkyvän valon olennot; 9) Tuulenkosija; 10) Syysmyrkkylilja; 11) Sanansaattaja; 12) Valoa nopeammat koneet

Another palate cleanser, but this time just as cohesive and impactful as the more conceptual pieces.

The CMX cycle holds water and after the tightly cohesive conceptual hell of Aion, the subsequent Pedot is simply a selection of songs held loosely together where individual moments take precedence over the whole- but this time the influence of the preceding album hasn't subsided completely. Pedot is an altogether more freewheeling experience in spirit than its older sibling but it shares its soundscape with Aion and with its often-segued songs creating tangible links from mood to mood and style to style, the focus on the greater whole ends up sneaking in small, almost unintentionally light ways. The previous CMX palate cleanser albums were clear 180-degree breaks from the albums that preceded them, whereas Pedot is like Aion's little brother, sharing the same DNA but growing up differently.

The one common thing is that Pedot is just as muscular as its big brother, with Rauli Eskolin returning to man the production desk and making sure that every guitar riff, drum fill and baritone scream from A.W. Yrjänä leave a tangible impact when they boom through the speakers. The songs, however, are a different beast. Aspects of the depths explored on Aion are present, in particular the title track's scifi-metal which is just about the heaviest thing CMX have committed to tape, growing wilder and meaner with each time signature tick; Yrjänä's sped-up vocals after the first verse is the most mental moment across the two records, even taking into account Aion's general insanity. Pedot can get heavy if it wants - but mostly it treats that aspect of CMX as a side flavour that throws an unexpected flair into an otherwise overwhelmingly melodic record.

CMX have for the longest time masterfully balanced between melody and weight, but here that combination is straight-up exciting. I want to call it joyous even, although that would perhaps give the wrong impression of the album's mood: there's a lot of ache and sorrow throughout the album lyrically and you could consider it a Trojan horse that delivers its melancholy hidden behind unusual wild abandon. It sounds lush even when it wants to crawl into a corner. "Kain" aches with forlorn and ancient melancholy, "Taivaanääreläiset" sounds like the moment the sky falls down and sun falls dark until the spiralling synth arpeggios appear and pull it to safety - and they're both built around such widescreen melodies that they embrace the listener and soar mightily through the sky like grand statements. "Sanansaattaja" is a song ostensibly about holding onto a sense of false hope even as everything looks intensely futile and yet its chorus radiates with a sense of freedom, pushing down the throttle with wind in its hair. It's the moment that arguably defines Pedot the best.

Even when the band do add their signature edge onto things they still retain that resonant kind of immediacy - the hard turns and aggressive push of "Suojelusperkele" hide behind a starkly emotional giant, and how the band turn the chorus of the ramshackle chugga-chugga-rhythm gremlin "Näkyvän valon olennot" into such a sharp and cunningly catchy moment is mad genius in action. At its most direct Pedot shows a glimpse of a world where CMX are a more straightforward alternative rock band, with the majestic choruses of "Mustat siivet yli taivaan" not being too far away from Manic Street Preachers at their most towering and the bright and atmospheric "Syysmyrkkylilja" bringing the band's R.E.M. fan club merits onto the surface the clearest they've ever been, with its Peter Buck-esque guitar lines ran through a CMX filter. Turns out, they are absolutely great at being such a band when the mood strikes, and Pedot turns out to hit really hard because of the careful balance between honestly melodic and still eccentric.

Pedot is also one of those albums where you could easily go ahead and list through it song-by-song, and it'd actually benefit from it because everything sounds so distinct and brings something different to the table. There's a range of ideas tucked between the celestially vast piano ballad "Eteläisen tähtitaivaan kartanot" (this is the only CMX album that starts with a whisper, not a bang) and the similarly cosmically soaring but wistfully world-weary "Valoa nopeammat koneet", the most beautifully resigned CMX have ever sounded as they finish the album with an intergalactic sigh. Guitar colossi, noisy shamblers, prog pastiches ("Tuulenkosija" with a flute solo, "Sanansaattaja" with a sax solo) - Pedot does a lot of things, but compare this to the most obvious counterpart i.e. Isohaara a few years before and the difference is obvious in how both albums go about their stylistic stretching. Isohaara pulled together just as many disparate ideas as Pedot, more if we're honest, but it also sounded like the ragtag quilt it was. Pedot sticks together as a cohesive entity where even the token radio single ("Uusi ihmiskunta", which slaps in its in-your-faceness and gets wonderfully mighty when the last choruses hit) works in context. Part of it is thanks to the production which treats each song with the same powerful seasoning, but in their heart all these songs are anthems and that's what ties them together. Not in the sense that they're all big gig-friendly crowd pleasers, but in how they all attempt to reach for a greater connection. It's definitely a large and loud record, but the more I think about the more it strikes me as a resonantly emotional one, closer to the listener than the usually somewhat personally distant CMX approach.

There is a personal element at play here, in that I got into CMX during my university years and for some reason I latched onto Pedot particularly hard when trawling through their already-immense back catalogue, and to this day there are parts of this record that remind me of idle moments in student halls and getting stuck in traffic on the bus home. It's an evocative album, and the music within has made it all the more easier to stick those memories to it. Pedot is unassuming: many of its hardest-hitting moments are slow-burn love affairs that wait patiently for the spark to ignite with the listener, it doesn't contain any obvious CMX classics ("Kain" and "Uusi ihmiskunta" were pretty big hits, but anything could've been a hit at this stage for them) and between Aion and Talvikuningas it practically fades into the background with its simple-presenting rock songs. But it's rewarding, with each of its rising cascades of choruses eliciting awe and its quietly burning despair converting into songs so enthusiastic and effortlessly inspired that the mix of emotions is an arrow aimed right in the heart. It's as if they looked at the selection of hits and fan favourites across their career, which often have been the outliers in their respective albums, and decided to carve an album in their shape. It sneaks in unexpectedly as one of their best.

Physically: No change here either, just a jewel case with lyrics and some adjacent artwork. I do have to praise CMX though for the fact that for a while now each song gets its own lyric page, rather than all the words getting crammed one after another across a couple of pages. Makes for a more impressive booklet even if the content isn't anything out of this world per se.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2007 8 "Kaikkivaltias", "Vallan haamut", "Punainen komentaja"

1) Kaikkivaltias; 2) Resurssikysymys; 3) Pretoriaanikyborgit; 4) Vallan haamut; 5) Tähtilaivan kapteeni; 6) Kosmologisen vakion laulu; 7) Parvatin tietäjä; 8) Punainen komentaja; 9) Langennut valo; 10) Quanta; 11) Rusalkai; 12) Kaikkivaltiaan peili

They've gone mad, haven't they? On the positive side, they've gone mad and unleashed an once-in-a-lifetime creature.

I don't think anyone had CMX recording a sci-fi prog rock opera crossed on their bingo cards, did they?

Let's lay some context down here first. The saga of Talvikuningas had been brewing in the background and on A.W. Yrjänä's mind for years before its eventual ascend. Yrjänä - who by this point had become an active writer and author outside his rock band day job - had been quietly plotting a grand science fiction epic in secret for years, fleshing out the world and the story in his spare time. Sometimes these ideas sneakily rose to the surface and if you've ever wondered why science fiction terminology had become an infrequent but regular occurrence in the post-2000s CMX work, it's because Yrjänä had been writing poetry set in the world of his pet project and sometimes these verses became songs and the songs then retrospectively became early seedlings of Talvikuningas, retrospectively and canonically confirmed to tie into the main story. Most of this poetry remained unreleased though, until the band's court producer of the time Rake Eskolin/Illusion Rake discovered it by happenstance and encouraged Yrjänä to turn it into an album. And the band thought why not - they were riding their musical peak wave and in their search for new ways of approaching the now-regular album writing process, creating an interconnected concept album seemed like a new kind of challenge. Albeit a mad one, and not one their label was particularly thrilled about - the band only got the permission to release the album if the initial edition was an overpriced deluxe box set to cover some of the costs without a catchy lead single in place to secure the usual level of success.

Talvikuningas isn't a straightforward narrative either, it makes you work for it. Its story is non-chronological, told through third party view points and unreliable narrators, swamped with conflicting details and spanning centuries in its timespan. Each song represents a particular written piece in the album's mythology, from military march songs to religious chronicles and cryptic scribblings on wall reliefs. "Kosmologisen vakion laulu" near the center is the only song which explicitly happens somewhere in the reality of the timeline and the bulk of it references the other writings in the other songs like an archivist going through his sources. Go through it all with a fine comb and you can start to decipher excerpts of the story of Maltan Hiram, a cyborg soldier fighting in an endless war in a distant galaxy who rises in ranks to become the fearsome Scarlet Commander, turns his back on his immortal King and his creators soon afterwards, gathers his own forces and brings an end to the dominion that he once served. There's gaps in the story, no real clarity who exactly the titular Winter King/Talvikuningas is and the overall story isn't so much a novel as it is a scattering of ancient tomes in a vast library that you are trying to trace from what actually happened.

It's dense and so is the music. The combination of alternative rock melodies, prog unpredictability and light metal flourishes that CMX have adopted as their own is present as it has been for the last couple of albums, but everything is just so much more impenetrably thick. Everything segues together as intended as "one long song" and so the frequently extensive and expansive songs change tracts and tones at the drop of a beat, peppered with leitmotifts, tracks within tracks, time signatures are a free game, etc. The music - atypically composed for the lyrics rather than the other way around, and in the intended running order - carries the story as much as the words do by accentuating and highlighting the dramatic up- and downlifts. Based on some reviews from non-Finnish speaking sources I've read, it seems like CMX have pulled that off well with people being able to "understand" the pace of the narrative at the very least through the music alone. And understanding the lyrics might just make the songs even more impenetrable because they are first and foremost prose that happens to rhyme and at times Yrjänä's litanies are as high and lofty as the music.

It's impressive. Chaotic, mad and hard to approach, but by golly is it impressive. Talvikuningas is a record that brings awe just by its very existence and how it's been presented. It's an album that demands multiple careful listens simply because there's too much to take on in one go, and what's there isn't the most immediate. It's a colossus of a record that isn't concerned about radio singles or crowd pleasers, it's an insular scribe zealously devoted to its narrative. There are hooks to grab onto, they're just weaved into the greater whole almost as a byproduct rather than as the leading thought behind the songwriting. Much of Talvikuningas refuses to stand comfortably outside its context and parts of it are absolutely present simply to tie connections together (still can't recollect what "Quanta" sounds like if I'm not listening to the song, and I've heard this album countless times).

And, well, they don't need to either. Talvikuningas is one of the few times a band has talked about how they consider their album as a single song (split into multiple tracklist entries for convenience) and it actually makes sense, and isn't just referring to a number of perfectly individual songs with quaint crossfades connecting them together. Nor are Talvikuningas' 12 songs just a single entity obviously either, but the intent is there: that this is a single piece of work intended to be treated as such, and when you do experience it like that you appreciate the best. The moments of serenity and intensity compliment eachother in ways like the perfect bridge connects together an incredible verse and chorus, the denseness of it all becomes practically rewarding when you start connecting the finer touches with the repeating melodies and lyrical callbacks, and the epic finale of "Talvikuninkaan peili" is genuinely hair-raising because it serves as the explosive coda to everything that came before. There are many incredible sections within Talvikuningas' depths: the Pedot-esque atmospherics of "Vallan haamut" that are interspersed with breakdowns each more out-there than the one before (the sudden vocal harmonies, the abrupt twiddly guitar cut...), the suddenly surged choruses of "Kosmologisen vakion laulu" that ride on Peippo's brisk drums, the towering choruses(??) on "Parvatin tietäjä", to name a few. But I have to actively go through the tracks making notes to actually remember which particular designated section those parts belong to, because of how the album keeps transforming within its confinements while also keeping a tight focus on each interconnecting piece working as part of the greater whole.

Of course there are songs that stand completely and proudly on their own two feet; they're just not the focus and you don't really come to long for them either because Talvikuningas demands to be listened whole. But as they do appear, they're ambitious and thrilling. The glorious multi-part opener "Kaikkivaltias" is one of CMX's finest compositions, introducing the Talvikuningas signature riff which quickly becomes the band's number one headbanger moment and then navigates through individual instrument breakdowns, multiple build-ups with respective pay-offs and its own majestic ending before the album's even had a chance to fully start. "Punainen komentaja" was the reluctant single and it is by far the most instant track on the record, the distinctive double-bass drum barrage of the verses paving way to the album's catchiest chorus; and if you want more proof of just how well-crafted this album is, it's in how the band turn "and he knows the secrets of the Rings of Schwarzschild" into a strong singalong melody. "Tähtilaivan kapteeni" stands out by way of its singular focus in its deep space melancholy, acting as the breather section of the album that gives you a second to reflect what's come before and brace for the next run of songs - it's most gracefully melodic song on the album, which otherwise isn't too fussed about that particular facet of the band's music.

Even in a discography full of strange ducks, Talvikuningas is still the most idiosyncratic. It's CMX at their most uncompromising, quite literally: it acts and sounds like a passion project created solely to cater its creators' whims with their full belief and love behind it, with its potential reception outside its creative bubble considered completely irrelevant. The actual reception split half-and-half, between those who got absorbed wholly into its world and found it a revelation and those who were left completely cold by the very same things others felt passionately drawn to. The truth is... that it's great but not among their best, as predictably middling of an opinion that is? It's a one-of-a-kind event that in its ethos I think any artist should strive for at least once in their lifetime - that pure creative, isolated and unfiltered freedom from any expectations, purely focused on realising the most ambitious ideas of its creator. It's also an impenetrable colossus that demands you to be receptive for it, lest it leaves you completely cold. It's not CMX's best written album in terms of the strength of its songs, but it also feels like that's judging it on the wrong scale because the point here isn't a handful of bangers in a row. It's the presentation of a singular hour-long piece, split into twelve distinct sections for sure but bound so tightly together that there's no point in splitting them. It's a hell of an epic thing and while it's not among my top tier of CMX, it's the one album of theirs that still leaves me in awe the most.

Physically: So a bit of a change here - and not for the better. Talvikuningas was originally released in a lavish book-shaped box with your usual booklet trimmings etc for a deluxe price - one of the conditions the label had when they allowed the band to release something this uncommercial. I don't have that issue. Instead, mine's the cheap-ass normal version released some months later - in a bog standard jewel case, with a pathetic single-fold booklet with nothing but album credits and a brief introductionary lore paragraph welcoming you into the world of the album. One of their biggest statements - one of their cheapest packagings.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2010 6 "Sateenkaaren pää", "Iäti", "Linnunrata"

1) Sateenkaaren pää; 2) Kappaleina; 3) Taistele; 4) Auringon kultainen kaupunki; 5) Kuoleman kulkumies; 6) Iäti; 7) Totenmann; 8) Manisola; 9) Kättenpäällepanijat; 10) Linnunrata; 11) Laulu todellisuuden luonteesta

Simplification and less pretension are fine goals on their own, but the opposites were always part of CMX's charm and somewhere along the line it's gotten a bit... bland.

The aim of Iäti was to simplify. Given CMX's reactionary nature at this point, it's no surprise that when it came time to follow up on the space opera prog rock epoch Talvikuningas, the band’s first instinct was to strip away the pretensions. In an equally typical CMX-like fashion, it couldn’t just end there. A set of dogma-esque rules were written, to be followed throughout the sessions. No heavy, no prog, no compression, no needless layers, no keyboards unless all other options had been thoroughly exhausted, no cryptic lyrics full of arcane theological references, and so forth. Direct and straightforward rock music. Uncomplicated.

Unsurprising. The self-imposed rule set is audible but not really in the way you’d think. You would expect something more rough and raw but that’s not the case, as Iäti sounds like any other later period CMX album through and through with enough production shine that any dogmatic lack of layers and additional instruments isn’t really all that apparent. It’s in fact the structure and style of the songs that’s affected the most. The “no prog, no heavy” thing doesn’t jump out when you read the list but it’s most clearly present, in the sense of the band avoiding any stylistic extremes. That means Iäti is a string of songs that comfortably course somewhere in the middle, rock a little but not too hard, aren’t keen on twists and turns and are always racing for the next chorus. The band have always included a token “easy” radio single like this on their albums but this time it’s an album full of them, and rather than making Iäti a compact and direct streak of hits, it’s instead made the band sound like any (Finnish) mainstream rock band. Iäti sounds predictable, in lieu of a better word, and is settled down and content with it.

It doesn’t help that for major parts of the album the band seem to be coasting along through the motions, and the typically efficient production style that’s worked on the prior albums now just highlights how streamlined the songs are. A good chunk of the album, particularly towards the latter half, is one largely unbothered riff rocker after another, the kind that the band could write in their sleep. Sometimes they wake up from their stupor momentarily - the chorus of “Totenmann” threatens to be effective, “Manisola” has some interesting vocal manipulation going that’s memorable if nothing else, “Kappaleina” comes so awfully close to Apulanta et al that you remember it for that alone, “Laulu todellisuuden luonteesta” almost reaches the epic closer levels it wants to be when the uncharacteristic guitar solo appears. Mostly though, they stay effectively in the background, not particularly budging in either quality direction. For once in their lives, CMX are dangerously close to uninteresting.

But when it works, it works really well. Pardon the cliché but there’s a great EP (or an extended singles run) within Iäti that is so much more thoroughly exciting than anything else on the album. “Sateenkaaren pää” for instance highlights everything that works in the album’s chosen direction: a shamelessly catchy, devilishly instant chorus monster with a deliciously crunchy bass (one instance of the album where the production shows some life). Almost like a perfect prototype that they couldn’t replicate again. “Linnunrata”, similarly, applies the same strategies to a classic rock anthem formula and turns out something genuinely soaring and heartfelt. “Taistele” was once described by someone else as a hockey match anthem (and I’m stealing that description) and there’s a lot to raise your eyebrow about its hokey motivational fist-pumping, but damn it if it doesn’t get the foot tapping and energy going. “Auringon kultainen kaupunki” is the secret weapon, an initially unassuming song that eventually unleashes a chorus so lush that it makes up for the slow start. The album peaks at its title track: in start contrast to the rest of the album it’s gentle and has space to breathe, turning into something very effortlessly beautiful. The replacement of your usual keyboard part with vocal harmonies is also one of the album’s most inspired moments in light of its ruleset, and gives it a heightened sense of intimacy.

These five songs give Iäti its main reason to get in the listening rotation, without which it would probably get lost in the discography completely. It’s no total failure but rather it lacks character and, to some degree, inspiration, as if somewhere down the line the goal posts got moved and the restricted, dogmatic album became just the simple album. And it’s not an issue with the direction in itself, because the band have gone back to basics before with 1998’s Vainajala. The difference between the two is obvious though. Vainajala was full of rejuvenated gusto, not only because of the context it was recorded in (and the age gap) but also because all those intentionally direct songs were packed with power and intent. In comparison Iäti is borderline stiff in its execution and flat on energy, and it’s all rather blurry whether it’s because of the production, inspiration or motivation (funny enough, Vainajala was the first album recorded with drummer Tuomas Peippo who at the time injected a new level of vitality to the band, whereas Iäti was his last album before being let go due to lack of motivation - this seems entirely coincidental though). Whatever the case, even if Iäti generally stays in the alright level, it’s a notable drop down from the previous run of albums - and out of all of the band’s albums, including the weaker ones, it’s arguably the least interesting one. Basic, if you will.

Physically: Back to the usual - jewel case, comprehensive lyrics booklet, etc.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2013 5 "En tahdo nähdä enää yhtään alastonta", "Kusimyrsky", "Seitsentahokas"

1) Valoruumis; 2) Etuvartio; 3) En tahdo nähdä enää yhtään alastonta; 4) Luotisuora; 5) Nrsisti; 6) Kusimyrsky; 7) Rikkisuudeltu; 8) Me tulemme kaikkialta; 9) Jyrsijä; 10) Seitsentahokas

Loud and brash but with little to say.

Seitsentahokas didn't arrive in this world easily. The original sessions were pushed back by a year when A.W. Yrjänä's home was broken into and, among many other things, the thieves had taken the early sketches for CMX's next album. After Yrjänä had taken a long break to recover and the band reconvened the following year, everyone disagreed about the new songs - guitarist Halmkrona infamously walked out of the session in frustration. Once everyone had calmed down and found a mutual ground to continue from, drummer Tuomas Peippo's other work outside the band meant that he wouldn't be able to invest as much time as everyone else, and conscious that this would mean yet more delays perhaps for the foreseeable future, the other three men decided that it would be easier to let him go. A friend of the band Olli-Matti Wahlström was recruited as a session drummer and after the tour was formally signed on as the new drummer, but officially Seitsentahokas was the first time since 1990's debut Kolmikärki that CMX had recorded an album as a three-piece

Whether by coincidence or not, Seitsentahokas became the oft-dreaded "back to basics" album. In order to bring the band back closer together, the record's chosen conept was to not include anything extra beyond what the four members (including whoever would be behind the drum kit) could muster together in one room. Two guitars, bass, drums and vocals and that's it; the credits section for the album is blunt and minimal, a sharp contrast to the more involved sound of the band's past decade. To give CMX credit where it's due, rather than succumb to attempts of replicating their old sound Seitsentahokas is stylistically still a continuation of where the band were overall in the early 2010s, with one foot in their imperial phase prog/metal/alternative hybrid and another in the more straightforward direction heralded by the preceding Iäti.

And it's... fine. The simpler sound world isn't actually something that particularly jumps out, primarily because there are still songs that sound complex enough to effectively distract from it - the eight-minute prog goblin "Kusimyrsky" ("Piss Storm", released as the lead single so the message was clear that this wouldn't be another easy radio record like Iäti) and the sprawling and tangled title track in particular sound like there's a lot more going on under the hood than there actually turns out to be. The sound is remarkably stuffed in fact: the two guitars fill each other's gaps and the bass is deep and steely and murmurs constantly underneath - it's so strongly in the mix in fact that it has a noticable physical reverbation through my room during select parts of the album where it growls the loudest.. Seitsentahokas is a berserker ready for war, with CMX hellbent on showing that they're not going to be pushed around by what temporary setbacks fate has thrown at their feet - it's an angry battering ram going full speed directly towards the listener for nearly its entire length.

But the noise it makes is a fleeting distraction from the obvious signs that the difficult labour period didn't leave the album unscathed. Seitsentahokas charges in straight like a missile perhaps at least partially because the band are baring their teeth against all odds, but maybe more likely because the less adventurous material got discarded along the way - perhaps in the burglary (and everyone who's ever written something long knows that you can never re-achieve the magic of the first version you accidentally deleted and forgot to save) but also because the band's now-gone online biography directly referenced the first batch of material as "too strange". Thus, the straightforward and angry songs survived, whether it was to blow off steam or because they were the only demos that everyone agreed on. But despite the energy and underneath all that muscular power they showcase, they're just not very memorable songs. Nothing Seitsentahokas displays is anything the band hasn't done before and excelled at so the direction isn't at fault, the material is simply indistinguishably monotonous. Half this record beats around the same notes and though there's a fleeting rush of adrenaline that the songs provide, it's not enough to actually remember how they go afterwards. And then there's "Jyrsijä", which has such an irritating chorus that I wish I could include it in the blur batch of songs I have no recollection of.

The proof of the material's mundanity is that the bulk of the album's better songs aren't even necessarily particularly great tracks; they just do things differently enough that in this ten-song context they have a far more positive imprint than they otherwise would. "Nrsisti" begins like any other song on this album but the swervingly melodic and soaring chorus is so shimmery and light that it sounds genius against the general backdrop; the solemn ballad "Rikkisuudeltu" pulls off the same trick with its more gracefully melodic pace, even if its overwroughtness wouldn't be a part of the upper echelon on any other CMX album. "En tahdo nähdä enää yhtään alastonta" is a little too long and repetetive but its shambling weight and dynamic shifts (from murky to brutal to almost jubilant even if still quite grim) are refreshing even after just two songs. Even the mighty "Kusimyrsky" which once stood as the album's tall central column, spitting and growling everywhere as it tears through time signatures and shouts out perverse oneliners (the chorus' "flow over me" is the obvious thing here, but the concluding full stop of "trust in the number, yourself and the holy geometry" is my favourite), is no longer the highlight it used to be even if it's still one of the more exciting songs on the album thanks to how it's one of the few moving askew rather than directly ahead. It just could be more. >

Fortunately the title track leans all-in on that and saves what it can of the album. "Seitsentahokas" is its titular album's brightest star, imploding further into itself with each weird breakdown or murmury verse, guided deeper by the deliciously metallic bass, and when its coil does unwind it bursts forward with a real rush that almost comes across as anthemic. It's the proggiest song on the entire record and I'm not meaning to imply that in order to succeed CMX must be weird and indecipherable - but it helps because that's the strength they've been operating on for nearly almost all their imperial phase albums in the decade just gone prior to this. They certainly do that better than they do charging ahead recklessly. In its last song Seitsentahokas finally finds its footing and itself and even if it's a little too late, it's finally something. Imagine a whole album filled with these dry and deranged creatures like "Kusimyrsky" and "Seitsentahokas". Just imagine. >

But that's not the album we have in our hands in reality. The funny thing is that when Seitsentahokas was originally released, I was thoroughly thrilled by it - Iäti had left me a little disappointed and I ended up having a honeymoon phase with this album, thinking it was such a strong return to form. The reason I remember this at all is because I wrotea shoddy but glowing first impressions review on the scrappy little music blog I had at the time and to my shock and surprise CMX themselves linked to it on their Twitter feed - one of the few fleeting moments of wider visibility I've achieved with my ramblings. And then I completely forgot about the album for many, many years; in fact, I think I've listened to this more in the past couple of weeks preparing for this review than I have in a decade. The result of my archaeological dig is that I've found... a lot of nothing in particular, apart from a growing appreciation for "Seitsentahokas" the song itself. And when this review is done, Seitsentahokas will likely return to its place in the shelf and stay there for another long break. It's not bad or even boring so much as it is completely uneventful: it's an album centered around the belief that volume equals personality and sheer power means a song is interesting, and then fails to back that claim up. Even my scoring is clinical, because I've given Iäti a 6 and because it has more real standout songs than this has, Seitsentahokas has to be a notch lower. I would say it's staggering how run of the mill this is despite how it really tries not to be but that would be indicate an actual emotional reaction to the record. In hindsight, it's really obvious here that CMX had waded deeper into the creative rut that defines these years in their history.

Physically: Jewel case, lyrics, etc. No changes to the usual - which I guess is good given it's a good, standard formula.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2015 4 "Laavaa", "Teräs"

1) Rakkaudessa ja sodassa; 2) Hyperborea; 3) Laavaa; 4) Ojai; 5) Kauneuden pitkä varjo; 6) Mestarirakentaja; 7) Valles Marineris; 8) Teräs; 9) Mystiikan ontologinen sydän; 10) Tuleen kirjoitettu; 11) Tulisaarna; 12) Eksopaleoklimatologi

There's a hint of CMX attempting something here, but it's like everyone is coasting along with no real interest.

Mesmeria is CMX's 15th studio album, their second on their fourth decade of operation. In the wider sea of internet dwellers with too many opinions on music I am probably one of the more positive people when it comes to bands continuing past their unofficial "sell-by" date (as mandated by fickle music nerds who latch onto the old canonical classic and ignore the rest); old dogs can learn new tricks, they can surprise and not be shackled by their past. Plenty of artists have had incredible latter day albums. But the older artists get, the easier it becomes for them to stagnate. You have to start taking bigger creative risks in order to say something meaningful; or as we Finns say, a rolling stone won't grow moss.

On Mesmeria CMX aren't rolling with the speed they used to. There's an attempt to keep things fresh: Yrjänä has switched onto a more straightforward lyrical style, even going so far as being openly biographical for probably the first time in his career on "Teräs", and the band's trusted court producer of their last decade Rauli Eskolin has stepped back. His replacement is a special superstar producer, the Pariisin Kevät lead figure Arto Tuunela - and on paper that's a titillatingly unpredictable combination, because the idea of Tuunela's hyper-colourful hi-fi productions somehow meeting CMX's pure power is bound to be a fascinating mishmash. But Tuunela has let his inner CMX fanboy stay in control a little too much and he keeps things perhaps a little too faithful. The only real way Mesmeria differs at all in sound from any other CMX album of the past two decades is the few cheeky arpeggio synths in a couple of tracks. In most parts, Mesmeria resembles your average CMX album in most ways.

Mesmeria might in fact be less than average. I've been umm-ing and ahh-ing this album over in my head for a while now and I've tried to find an insightful reason for what's wrong with it, but I'm running up empty - which may just sum up the album the best anyway. You can detect small particles of what could make an interesting album between the lines - namely some of the arrangement decisions and the couple of more askew cuts in the vein of the more acoustic and vaguely Aura-esque "Ojai" (which dates back to the early 1990s and has suddenly resurfaced now) and "Teräs" which restraints itself to a mere piano and atmospheric textures for half its runtime. But it's not enough. Mesmeria is mostly made out of politely loud and relatively straightforward cuts, destined as playlist filler for the local rock (with a big rhotic rrrrrock) radio stations who kindly allow the respected veterans to play their latest singles in-between the old hits constantly on rotation. No rough edges, no sense of adventure - simply industry pros recording a selection of songs they could have written in their sleep. This is also the first real debut of the new drummer Olli-Matti Wahlström as an official band member, but he still sounds like a session drummer cautious not to bring attention to himself, which is not only not helping with the album's general blaséness but it really highlights just what the former drummer Tuomas Peippo brought onto the formula with his technical showmanship.

It's just all very... milquetoast. Even the token oddball, the sprawling and seemingly indecipherable closer "Eksopaleoklimatologi" which nods towards CMX's prog side, sounds like a gentle reheat of the previous album Seitsentahokas' similarly rambling closer. The lead single "Rakkaudessa ja sodassa" is the most anaemic fit-for-airplay single CMX have pulled out and the bubbly synths in its bridges aren't enough to make its middlingly rocking chorus any less stale. "Rakkaudessa ja sodassa" is about the only thing I actually frown at here though; Mesmeria largely just passes by and makes for a decent background listen, but rarely comes close to entice the listener to place it in the foreground instead. Few songs stand out either by way of form ("Ojai", "Teräs") or through a sudden appearance of something more captivating (the backing vocals of "Tuleen kirjoitettu", the smoothly soaring chorus of "Valles Marineris" that threatens to be something that sticks). The rest of it sounds like it was written under obligation or habit, almost as if knowing that no one was going to crave to hear these songs a few years down the line. Apart from "Laavaa", which ironically is the safest, most hit-seeking thing on the entire record and yet goes all-in on it, including having some actual fire in its belly. It's simple, direct and positively effective, with a snappily anthemic chorus that strikes straight into your spine (and some fun bass runs in its bridge which are really pleasing to play). It's the best thing on the album and the only real takeaway from it, proving that CMX don't need to be quirky or difficult to be great, they just have to approach the brief with some passion - it's the only song here where it sounds like the band are actively engaged with it and that makes the biggest difference.

Across the last few CMX albums there's been a steep and steady decline as the band abruptly exited their golden years. Iäti was too safe and risk-averse but it brought in some songs and generally simply sounded like an experiment that didn't quite succeed, which happens to the best of us. Seitsentahokas doubled down on it by being flimsy on the songwriting department too, but it still had vigour at least. Mesmeria inadvertently makes it clear that those weren't just coincidental stumbles, but rather CMX themselves have been on decline and this marks the foot of the hill they've been spiraling down on - no passion, no energy, no songs of particular consequence. It's an entry towards the bottom of a long discography list that no one is going to click unless they're going for a deep dive; a middling album that even a big fan has little to comment on because it doesn't incite a strong enough reaction for it.

That gorgeous cover picture deserved a lot better.

Physically: Once again - all very standard to a pleasant degree but nothing outstanding. Jewel case, lyrics booklet with nothing too flashy in it.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2018 8 "Elementa", "Paratiisin Eeva", "Sulaneet muovisotilaat"

With some (most?) of my reviews I like to provide an idea of the context behind the albums to give a little insight of how they came to be what they are, especially with these more "regional" releases where most people reading this have little to no idea what this band or album is. It gets a bit trickier with Alkuteos because CMX's website was hacked and deleted off the cyber realm in 2015; when it finally came back, in a typical CMX fashion the band announced they had no desire to spend energy trying to recreate the past and instead their website now (as it still currently stands) is largely just of a list of links on where to buy the latest releases. With the website, we also lost both the official biography where the band retrospectively revisited and reviewed their own past as they gave insight to each studio session, as well as the infamous Q&A page where in-between the band and the fans trying to outsnark one another they'd sometimes drop interesting trivia or detail behind the music when they were in the mood for it.

That means we have to take some inferred guesses, and I think the genesis behind Alkuteos lies in the band's touring activity prior to its recording. In 2016 CMX took on a concept tour subtitled "Rarely Heard Songs", with the concerts dedicated to b-sides, deep cut album tracks and songs they'd never performed live before; this meant that CMX got back in touch with some of their most erratic work, lost classics that the band had shockingly forgotten about and other songs that fans had begged to hear for years but which had been deemed too difficult to reproduce live thanks to their detailed production and/or keyboard/synthesizer heavy arrangements (CMX having never been a band with a particularly elaborate live setup). The tour was a success, and when in the following year when the band revisited their bonkers space prog opera record Talvikuningas for its 10th anniversary, they brought in another trick from their sleeves. The anniversary concert started with a "Prelude to Talvikuningas" section where the band, all four members now behind synthesizers and laptops, reimagined a number of thematically appropriate songs across the back catalogue. And if you ask me, it's that binge back into the deepest sections of their archives and the adventurous spirit bolstered by successful risk-taking which ignited a particular spark they took to the next album sessions.

I dislike the phrase "return to form" but in some cases it feels appropriate to use. CMX had been slipping across the past few albums, simplifying their form and content to diminishing degrees of success and the band was acutely aware of it as well. Alkuteos is inspired by the band's past selves, and CMX even acknowledge it openly via lyrical references (and one potentially coincidental musical reference - the near-end section of "Verenpuna" is very similar to the ending of Talvikuningas' "Kaikkivaltias" or is that just me?). The prog dials are turned up again and Yrjänä has gone back to cryptic theological prose in his lyrics, to the extent that Alkuteos could easily be read as a biblically inspired concept album - it all seems like a homecoming after years in the wilderness. But CMX are doing their return in their own way and so the 'inspired by' part is really just that, because the sound is fresh. Bringing out their prior synth escapades and inventing the "Elektro-CMX" form (which would continue to appear throughout the Alkuteos tour) has left an imprint on the album and Alkuteos is the most heavy on synths and programmed elements across an entire album's length that the band's ever been. It's not the synth-CMX album some may have hoped to hear one day because the band's clearly present throughout and they are rocking very heavy and hard; but the new elements have a fairly equal slice of the pie of the album's arrangement decisions: the new textures and sounds share an even footing with CMX of yore, and thus despite being reminiscent of the band's past Alkuteos isn't a simple retread. It's almost a hypothetical reset, a record that could have naturally followed up Talvikuningas (the metallic bass twang even feels so in touch with that album's sound world) while bypassing the decade afterwards entirely.

And for all its inherent mania (it is a very creatively mad album), Alkuteos is impeccably balanced and probably one of the best examples of CMX placing equal weight to, well, everything they're made out of in a single release. You've got your crooked and snarled prog (the chimaira-like couplet "Elementa" and "Alkemisti", "Konx om pax") and your loud and heavy guitars ("Neljäkymmentä päivää", "Puolikas hyvää"), but you also have the lush and welcoming melodic abandon that CMX used to be so wary about and now display so openly (the airy pop of "Paratiisin Eeva", the sky-reaching anthem "Verenpuna"); the warbling, keyboard-focused "Sulaneet muovisotilaat" is almost a brand new direction in its entirely. The indecipherable insanities are in harmony with the immediate choruses, like they had found a hidden formula after all these years; or it's simply the age and experience of a veteran band that has taught them to hone onto everything they are good at. With only eight songs and 45 minutes it's a compact run of songs where not a minute is wasted. It's almost economical in its approach, each of its songs assigned a clear and distinct role in the sequence where they all feel important and each jump out.

It is a welcome return home. It's the most inspired and exciting CMX have sounded in years, and they sound so inspired and excited themselves between the lines too. When a band reaches back into their past the danger is that they awkwardly try to fit into old clothes that no longer suit them, but CMX have brought back the spirit from their revisit into the past and the songs have a spark that places them alongside any past greats. Even "Puolikas hyvää", the now-expected token single that always shows any CMX album at its most uncharacteristically direct, practically refreshes the ruleset on its ilk because it's so excitingly headbanging it's almost ridiculous, and in the album's grim sterness it's a welcome flash of fun that most clearly reflects how renewed the record feels. "Paratiisin Eeva" is near heavenly in its unashamed ethereal suaveness, the twists of "Elementa" never stop thrilling. "Palaneet muovisotilaat" may be the biggest surprise, unassuming as it is at first glance in its role as a short breather among bigger statements. Its cold sound, drowned in synthetic production, is the furthest the album goes in taking its newest elements but in its heart it's a classic CMX ballad that has been given a new skin, and it makes it sound all the more chilling and yet strangely resonant and impactful.

In real life, I had partway written CMX off at this stage after a string of disappointing albums. They had become a band whose newest releases I'd only listen to thanks to a feeling of old obligation, until even that slipped through the cracks - the release of Alkuteos came and went for me without a single listen. It wasn't until a whim "well-why-not" mid-price bin purchase that it came to my life, and it was honestly a surprise. And having come back to it again for this review, I've been listening to it for a good week while holding off on finishing this review just so I don't have to cross it off my list entirely and I can keep returning to it. It's CMX finding a brand new wind, whether through fresh blood (the new producer Erno Laitinen behind the decks) or by reminding themselves of how great they used to sound by dedicating entire gigs to some of their most creatively wild material - it doesn't matter why, it's simply great that it happened. You could even consider the title of the album a pun, the likes of which Yrjänä loves so much: it translates to "Work of Origin" and while it's more obviously a biblical reference in line with much of the lyrics' theological angle, it's incredibly tempting to also see it as a sly nod for this being a new start.

Physically: Still the same: jewel case and a to-the-point lyrics booklet with the obligatory band photo as well.



Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
1997 8 Of the non-album material, "Ainomieli '97", "Siivekäs", "Saatana"

CD1 (Physis): 1) Ainomieli '97; 2) Nimetön; 3) Kultanaamio; 4) Nahkaparturi; 5) Nainen tanssii tangoa; 6) Vallat ja väet; 7) Kirosäkeet; 8) Suljettu astia; 9) Elokuun kruunu; 10) Rautakantele; 11) Hiki; 12) Manalainen; 13) Kätketty kukka; 14) Linnunhammas; 15) Marian ilmestys
CD2 (Aetheris): 1) Hiljaisuuteen; 2) Ruoste; 3) Helvetin hyvä paimen; 4) Talviunia; 5) Turkoosi; 6) Veden ääri; 7) Aura; 8) Pelasta maailma; 9) Tähteinvälinen '97; 10) Tulikiveä; 11) Yöllisiä; 12) Mikään ei vie sitä pois; 13) Yö ei ole pimeä päivä; 14) Talvipäivänseisaus
CD3 (Astralis): 1) Musiikin ystävälliset kasvot '97; 2) Katariinanpyörä (Akustinen); 3) Siivekäs; 4) Hyvä tahto; 5) Joet; 6) Aamutähti '97; 7) Keskellä; 8) Marmori; 9) Seittemän Jeesusta; 10) Riitti; 11) Saatana; 12) Pimeä maa (Live); 13) Näkyjen pitelijä; 14) Shakti; 15) Reuna

A summarised chronicle of the first six albums and the assorted b-sides and rarities; and the particularly exciting new songs tucked away.

CMX have made it a habit to close chapters of their story through the Cloaca Maxima compendiums, and the very first arrived at a particularly relevant time: drummer Pekka Kanniainen had left the band per mutual agreement by the time the compilation was out (his final recordings with CMX are here), which naturally left CMX reflecting on where they were and how they'd got there. They had been cult underdog punks who had somehow turned into national hitmakers, and the stylistic chaos of Discopolis had stirred the pot so that the next steps the temporary trio would take were still unclear both to everyone and themselves. The three discs of Cloaca Maxima act as the chronicles of that strange journey from the gritty beginning to the present: the first two collect together the singles and favourite album cuts, split between the louder, rowdier and more direct songs on disc 1 and slower, prettier and stranger ones on disc 2, while the third disc presents b-sides, previously unreleased recordings and brand new songs. Thorough and sprawling, it acts as the full stop for their first lifecycle before moving onto the next.

The third disc is going to be the big point of interest for most people who listen to this compilation at this point, so let's tackle that first. From a b-side perspective CMX weren't at this stage particularly wild with the format, and so the third CD largely consists of direct outtakes from their parent albums and it's clear why some of these weren't considered strong enough to make it to the actual records in the end. That isn't to say they're disappointing songs (only the largely pointless live version of "Pimeä maa" and thoroughly by-the-numbers "Hyvä tahto" go there), but any b-side maniac looking for that next hidden gem is unlikely to find many here. That said, there are some particularly delectable rarities here: the acoustic version of "Katariinanpyörä" is better than the original album version, the bonkers "Seittemän jeesusta" seems to be created out of elements from completely different songs (that bass groove with that acoustic picking and those odd electic guitar interjections?) and thoroughly stands out from the crowd, and "Saatana" tricks the listener with its acoustic first half before it unleashes its skeletal beat, off-kilter flute flourishes and a hell of a chorus which could've been on a single in itself. The re-recording of the early EP cut "Musiikin ystävälliset kasvot" which starts the third disc is effectively here to canonise one of their best early songs as part of the contemporary CMX lore, with the arrangement of the original version retained but everything else beefed up, and so the song is objectively improved as its maniac rock gets some muscles under it. The same goes for the re-recording of Aurinko's "Ainomieli" which receives its official coronation as one of the band's greats after being almost dismissed from its parent album in fear of being too commercial - now, here, it's showered with the respect it deserves and gets a similar faithful boost in performance and production which makes it the definitive version of the song (and it was also finally released as a single to promote the compilation). The other two 1997 re-takes across the three discs are on the other hand much less impressive: "Tähteinvälinen" has been given a new mix with a little more edge but it's still a semi-awkward song, and the brand new (and so thoroughly 1990s) trip hop -esque remix of "Aamutähti" is not a patch on the original and really shouldn't be here taking away its spot.

The actual highlights are instead in the brand new songs - five in total, but three in particular. Following directly from Discopolis CMX have continued to flirt with electronic elements (and the prevalent use of drum machines could be seen as the band experimenting around without a drummer, given the circumstances), but the spirit of these songs is closer to the somber and graceful Rautakantele; "Joet" in fact is a Rautakantele outtake that wasn't finished in time for the album and which was now finally given the chance to get recorded. "Siivekäs", "Joet" and "Marmori" are bound together by their slower tempos, acoustic guitars guiding the rhythm and the gorgeous string arrangements that act as the dominant element of each song, with atypically longing and romantic lyrics from Yrjänä - all very Rautakantele, but the first two still retaining the programmed drums and synthesizer swerves of the directly preceding album. The gentle "Joet" and the more CMX-leaning guitar walls of "Marmori" are both beautiful songs in their own right, but "Siivekäs" is the gem of the entire compilation - it leans so heavily into its synthetic elements that it could be considered CMX's take on synth pop, and within the atmospheric production and breathtaking strings lies a truly phenomenal song full of pathos, emotion and stand-out melodic bliss. It's a strange creature which sounds both classic at first sight and yet even now almost subversive for the band, but above all it's an all-time great for the band - a swooning, epic, beautiful creature out of sync with everything else on the compilation but which rivals the very best the past albums had to offer. "Shakti" and "Piste" which close the compilation are on the other hand more direct Discopolis remnants, with "Shakti" a deranged clipshow of a quasi-dance song composed out of segments left on the editing room floor and "Piste" acting as its detached outro - they're not a patch on the other three songs and they'll never be anything but curios for the fans (and obvious disc filler), but in the right mindset can be a strange amount of fun.

As far as the actual Best Of portion of Cloaca Maxima goes, it does serve the purpose of really putting it into perspective how exciting CMX could be across their first six albums. The band's first decade was an uneven ride where inconsistency was often the norm and so while the first two discs represent a rather cleaned-up version of the discography so far with the dodgy bits polished off, it also highlights perfectly why those albums are worth a visit because there's so many great moments scattered across them. The selection isn't perfect (where's "G"? The "Aamutähti" remix?) and it skews strongly towards the trilogy of hit records from Aura onwards: the debut album Kolmikärki is only represented by a single song ("Nahkaparturi", which is a fine representation of it at least), though it is explained in the extensive liner notes that the band struggled to pair up the shoddy sound quality of the early ears next to to the more professionally recorded follow-ups. Even with the quirks, it's hard to deny just how solid the run of songs across both discs is and especially so on the non-stop rock and roll fierceness of the first disc, with a hit after hit after an obscure album cut which doesn't pale all in comparison to the canon classics. Despite the uneven weighting between the six albums and the scattered early EPs, the selection that did make the cut do represent all the sides of this era of CMX accurately and they work so tightly as a set of songs (the flow from the hymnal "Hiljaisuuteen" to the gentle "Ruoste" is actually ingenius) that even an established fan can get a kick out of listening to this once in a while. As an added bonus, and if you know Finnish, the liner notes feature Yrjänä's nutshell thoughts on each song ranging from interesting trivia and anecdotes to delightfully Nordic bluntness ("A song where I got quite close to what I wanted", he so elaborately writes on "Talvipäivänseisaus").

The first Cloaca Maxima feels particularly poignant given the sheer amount of development CMX went through during its timeframe, how Kanniainen's departure gave the band a natural sequence break and how from the next album (and the next drummer) onward they really did feel like CMX 2.0. This, then, is the summarised chronicle of CMX's successes so far, a reminder of how they became one of Finland's most influential rock acts. In the playlist age it's often easy to forget how compilations like these were often treated like important milestones for artists, in particular whenever actual care was taken during the drafting process - and Cloaca Maxima really does feel like the well deserved rest at the winner's podium after the first race.

Physically: The three discs are stored in a "chubby" style multi-CD jewel case, which gives it that extra physical impression and suits the chapter-defining archival nature of the selection. The liner notes, as detailed before, contain Yrjänä's descriptions on each song and all the lyrics for the third disc.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2004 9 Of the non-album material, "Puuvertaus", "Kauneus pettää", "Päämäärä"

CD1 (Lyijy): 1) Olet tässä; 2) Surunmurhaaja; 3) Jatkuu niinkuin sade; 4) Pohjoista leveyttä; 5) Taivaan lapset; 6) Lepattajat; 7) Ei yksikään; 8) Luuhamara; 9) Puuvertaus; 10) Pirunnyrkki; 11) Minne paha haudattiin; 12) Palvelemaan konetta; 13) Meidän syntimme (Edit); 14) Pyörivät sähkökoneet '04
CD2 (Helium): 1) Kauneus pettää; 2) Kuoleman risteyksestä kolme virstaa pohjoiseen; 3) Vainajala '04; 4) Minun sydämeni on särkynyt; 5) Tuonen lintu; 6) Sillanrakentaja; 7) Sielunvihollinen; 8) Baikonur (Edit); 9) Tähdet sylissään; 10) Tuulilukko; 11) Myrskyn ratsut; 12) Melankolia; 13) Revontulten repijä; 14) Vanha talvitie
CD3 (Uraani): 1) Päämäärä; 2) Ei tästä maailmasta; 3) Väkivallan moottorit; 4) π; 5) Kvartetto rock-yhtyeelle ja solistille, op. 1; 6) Ehdotus ensimmäisen mainoskatkon paikaksi; 7) Ruisperkele; 8) Kolme kimaltavaa neitoa; 9) Kiusaajien kiusaaja; 10) Epäluoma; 11) Negatiivinen asenne; 12) Ehdota jotain parempaa; 13) Punainen nro. 6; 14) Helevetinkone; 15) 10¹¹⁸; 16) Huntu

Another set of b-sides and familiar favourites spread across three discs. And this time it's really, really impressive.

Aion seems like a good time to pause for a moment and look back to the past few years, no? By the end of 2003 CMX were at their critical peak and regularly appearing in the airplay charts, having reached that glorious part of an artist's career where you garner respect from critics, fans and the general audience alike and have secured yourself in the pop culture history books. Cloaca Maxima II started out as just a b-side compilation until the band were convinced to do another triple-CD selection to cap off another chapter of their lifetime: this time summarising the fabled imperial phase years they'd been enjoying during the four album stretch from Vainajala to Aion.

The composition of the collection follows the original 1997 Cloaca Maxima, so the first two discs are devoted to a selection of singles and noteworthy album tracks, split between heavier and louder songs on the first CD (subtitled Lyijy - "Lead") and softer or weirder cuts on the second CD (Helium). There genuinely isn't anything to quibble about the tracks chosen: of course there's some personal favourites I think would've fit nicely here, but the overall selection is so strong that any complaints seem weak: you've even got both the ambient prog odyssey "Baikonur" (even if edited down to eight minutes to fit the disc) and the haunting synth nightmare "Sielunvihollinen", even though they're hardly the songs you'd first think to include because of how out there they are (but I'm glad they're here, both being among the best songs of their respective albums). The flow is also done superbly, especially on the second disc that ties together all its diverse tracts into a real epic experience that could be an album onto its own.

Both CDs also come with some new songs, non-album singles and remakes that are exclusive to this release physically. The two brand new songs in particular are absolutely top notch and throw away any notion of compilation singles being filler. "Olet tässä" kicks off the entire thing with fierce fury and vigour, going from nil to hundred in an instance and laughing maniacally as it does so and its machine gun of a chorus being a real tour de force moment; "Kauneus pettää" meanwhile creeps in through its e-bowed textures and spatial production, acting like a simple pop song with its clear and straightforward structure but just like in its title, it deceives. There's something unsettling to its cold and clinical delivery, beautiful though it is. Both songs join the CMX classics club immediately and are just as essential as any of the canonically bigger tracks included. Those include "Puuvertaus", a turn-of-millennium non-album single with great big guitar walls, a startlingly lush string section and an extended metaphor lyric that in its relative simplicity counts among Yrjänä's best - and the song overall is absolutely fantastic, its inclusion here being one of the best things about the compilation. The other non-album single "Lepattajat" on the other hand is far less exciting and probably one of the weakest songs across the three discs, making a lot of aimless hullaballoo for four minutes that doesn't stick in the slightest. The two 2004 remixes also feel like they're here primarily just because the original Cloaca Maxima had some re-recordings. The new "Vainajala" is a simple remix that only amplifies the guitars of the (great) original but is overall superfluous, and the re-recording of the debut album's "Pyörivät sähkökoneet" is fine but inessential, mainly just giving the listener a direct idea of how different the band sounds 14 years after the original's release.

The third disc ("Uraani/Uranium") is the b-sides compilation and it's the most deranged collection of CMX songs ever put together on a single disc. Yrjänä mentions in the (expansive and comment/trivia-heavy) liner notes that most of the b-sides for the period this compilation spans were written, arranged and recorded on a single day: the band would book a day in the studio just to record a song for a single bonus track, turn up with no plans and see what today's whims would result in. Sometimes that shows up all the way to the track titles ("Ehdota jotain parempaa" = "Suggest Something Better" after constant nagging about song titles, "Ehdotus ensimmäisen mainoskatkon paikaksi" = "Suggestion for the Placement of the First Ad Break" after a script that had been left in the studio by the previous customers), mostly just in the madness of the music. The headbanger hell chorus of "Väkivallan moottoreita", the half-acoustic half-metal mental breakdown of a folk song "Ehdotus ensimmäisen mainoskatkon paikaksi", the hard rock reggae rhythm and the ludicruous chorus stumble of "Ruisperkele", the electronic dark night of the soul of "10¹¹⁸"... I mean the list goes on. No idea (or riff) is considered too absurd not to include, and CMX at their most unhinged is often exciting and sometimes borderline hilarious. And right next to those descents into madness are some genuinely beautiful songs like “πand “Punainen nro. 6” - songs that are perhaps a little rough around the edges, but which among the chaotic energy around them sound downright bizarrely lovely and uncomplicated. The opener “Päämäärä” is the sole brand new song of the third disc, a band recording of a song Yrjänä wrote for a TV show: within its whirlwind drums and guitars that split between screaming sirens and brightly glowing melodies, it somehow distills all three discs into a single impressive song.

The Cloaca Maxima compilations are odd birds because their 3-CD big box scope doesn't smoothly suit the needs of either the casual listener or the familiar fan, both of whom might find the contents a little excessive from different perspectives. Cloaca Maxima II hits that sweet spot though, where it serves both as a deep introduction to the band (or at least one particular era of theirs) - like it did for me when I first started to seriously gain interest to the group - as well as a rewarding listen even once you've become a convert. It's the type of compilation that all its ilk should aspire to, acting like a celebration of the career sumarised within and sequenced in such a way that even an experienced fan can get something out of how the songs they're intimately familiar with are presented. I still listen to the first two discs - and the second disc in particular - because they work so well as a hit-to-hit ride and are in such a satisfying order. The third disc is like a secret album unearthed, most obviously a compilation because of how it runs all over the place but still sequenced with care to make its screwball characteristics work. That third disc alone is worth the money here for anyone who enjoyed the four albums the compilation puts in a nutshell, but this genuinely doesn't feel like money wasted in a way some other, lesser compilations do.

Physically: Same as the previous compilation - a thick 3-CD box with a booklet featuring Yrjänä's song-by-song commentary and lyrics to the new songs and b-sides.


Release year: Rating: Key tracks:
2016 7 Of the non-album material, "Kuolemaantuomitut", "Rautalankaa", "Mekaanisten lintujen puisto"

CD1 (Ilmari): 1) Tuulet ja myrskyt; 2) Uusi ihmiskunta (Videoversio); 3) Punainen komentaja; 4) Kivinen kirja; 5) En tahdo nähdä enää yhtään alastonta; 6) Sateenkaaren pää; 7) Kusimyrsky; 8) Rakkaudessa ja sodassa; 9) Laavaa; 10) Me tulemme kaikkialta; 11) Pedot; 12) Pretoriaanikyborgit; 13) Kappaleina
CD2 (Väinämö): 1) Niin me kaikki mennään; 2) Kain; 3) Iäti; 4) Linnunrata; 5) Tähtilaivan kapteeni; 6) Rikkisuudeltu; 7) Ojai; 8) Rautalankaa; 9) Teräs; 10) Kuolemaantuomitut; 11) Eteläisen tähtitaivaan kartoitus; 12) Laulu todellisuuden luonteesta; 13) Valoa nopeammat koneet
CD3 (Lemminki): 1) Hyökyaalto; 2) Magnetogorsk; 3) Suuri pyramidi; 4) Myrskynkosija; 5) Supersäie; 6) Kirotut; 7) Epätodennäköisyyslaskelma; 8) Vapaus johtaa kansaa (feat. Kotiteollisuus & 51 Koodia); 9) Mesokosmos; 10) Requiem 2012; 11) Vanhan liiton arkkiveisu; 12) Hullut koirat; 13) Mekaanisten lintujen puisto

More singles, album cuts and rare material, but a timespan full of mixed results is reflected here too.

It's 2016. Digital formats now hold a stronger foothold than physical formats and streaming has started to take over as the primary method of music consumption for the general public. For those still holding out on physical music, CDs have been branded as the uncool choice and vinyl's baffling return to the mainstream is becoming a real thing. CMX, once a band who balanced unwavering commitment to their own whims with actual commercially successful hits, haven't had a truly popular single for a little over half a decade. The truth is, absolutely no average member of public is going to buy a 3-CD box set of singles, selected album material, b-sides and other extras - not the way they would with the first two Cloaca Maxima compilations and especially when you take into account how the timespan this third part includes one album with no singles, two with zero hits and only few songs they might actually recognise.

The fact that Cloaca Maxima III exists to begin with is like a fan wishlist prompt, a tradition that needs to be fulfilled now that the band have established this series of milestone marker collections - and maybe that's why in parts it feels like a release done out of obligation rather than desire. Let's face it, everyone is here for the third disc for its rare non-album cuts and those first two CDs dedicated to a reader's digest summary of the last 12 years - once again split between the louder rock songs and softer/subtler material per disc - are more perfunctory in nature. Which would go for some way to explain why a lot of this sounds so slapdash. The flow is abrupt and awkward throughout which is a stark contrast to the well-thought running order of the first two Cloaca Maximas, with "Kappaleina" closing off the first disc being a particularly egregious example that sounds like it was made through shuffle. The selections from the segued-together Talvikuningas haven't been edited with even the laziest of fade-outs and thus they end with a direct crash into a brick wall halfway through a note, which might then explain why only three songs from that record appear here even though it's one of the key albums out of the five featured here. The two new songs aren't that exciting either: the piano-accentuated "Tuulet ja myrskyt" is a perfectly pleasant anthem and "Niin me kaikki mennään" drills really heavily into the radio-friendly suomirock vibe the band had started to fall into in the recent years. Both are fine but stereotypical compilation filler, which CMX had previously avoided. Where the discs dedicated to the old and familiar on the first two CM compilations are still fun to listen as an experienced fan, the impact isn't quite the same here.

That said, the key takeaway from the first two discs are that they act as a convenient collection point for a number of non-album tracks CMX released in the timespan of the compilation, and this time it's actually pretty significant. "Kuolemaantuomitut" was released as a one-off single right before Talvikuningas and it's effortlessly beautiful, gracefully sincere and soaringly yearning: or to summarise it, it's pretty damn huge of an anthem that strikes very particular emotional chords. It's huge and far better than just a random loose single. "Kivinen kirja" and "Rautalankaa" were originally released on the earnest greatest hits compilation Kaikki hedelmät in 2008 and now included here for the benefit of every fan who skipped on that label-mandated release, and while I do like the straightforwardly loud "Kivinen kirja", it's "Rautalankaa" that really deserves the second time in the spotlight. What starts out as a typical CMX-rocker (complete with a pun title which Yrjänä loves, "rautalanka" being the coined term for the particular guitar sound used in the lead guitar riff), as soon as the strings hit it ascends to a whole new level of grandeur that's slightly reminiscent of the golden era classic "Puuvertaus" with its combination of orchestral flair and muscular guitars. The Pedot single "Uusi ihmiskunta" is also presented as its music video version with a guest verse from the Finnish rock legend Tuomari Nurmio, which to my knowledge hasn't been released earlier and while I prefer the feature-less original, having the alternative take in my library is welcomed.

The much-awaited third disc is... in retrospect kind of obviously a little bit of a letdown, in parts anyway. Both Seitsentahokas and Mesmeria were released after actual single releases had died in the industry and thus any leftover songs from those sessions remained unreleased officially until now. The first half of the 3rd CD is mostly dedicated to previously unheard material from those sessions (touched up after the fact where required) and with those two albums being two of the weakest CMX have released, the outtakes aren't particularly exciting. "Kirotut" and "Epätodennäköisyyslaskelma", two b-sides from the Pedot era are also rather throwaway in nature and in the liner notes Yrjänä admits as much between the lines. Things do get better halfway through, kicked off by the non-album collaboration single "Vapaus johtaa kansaa" with Kotiteollisuus and 51 Koodia - it's a whole lot of unhinged testosterone and masculine thrashing about, and it's a great deal of fun in its unashamed pop-metal flirtations. The incomprehensingly slobbering "Mesokosmos", the nihilist anthem "Requiem 2012" and "Vanhan liiton arkkiveisu" with its half-improv sing-speak verses are all Iäti b-sides but they were finished after the album and they've got a tangled-up weirdness to them that's reminiscent of CMX b-sides of yore. "Mekaanisten lintujen puisto" - "The Garden of Mechanical Birds" - at the end is the undeniable triumph of this collection: it starts out innocously enough if alluringly experimental, with a restless beat and an arrangement heavy on electric piano reminiscent of Radiohead when they were reconstructing their own essence at the turn of the millennium. Then the titular birds appear and the song falls into an abyss of nightmares for the next three minutes. It's maniac, creepy, almost genuinely distressing - and thoroughly brilliant.

The much-touted cover of pop superstar Antti Tuisku's "Hyökyaalto" should probably be acknowledged as well (recorded as an "exchange of pleasantries" after Tuisku covered CMX's "Pelasta maailma" in one of his albums), but in effect CMX just turn it into a very contemporary CMX single that probably could've been on Mesmeria and it becomes yet another example of a rock act covering a pop song that only highlights how the two worlds aren't as far apart as some people might like to think. It's fine and more of a curious footnote than you'd expect; still, more interesting than the Popeda cover "Hullut koirat" that comes and goes without leaving an impression. CMX don't really do covers and maybe these two prove a point why that's the case.

I guess the slightly lukewarm positivity is to be expected though. The first two Cloaca Maxima compilations felt like natural spots for the band to park on and reflect the prior years, with the covered albums forming clear chapters in the band's history. Here we have one album that could just as easily have been included in Cloaca Maxima II and it would've made perhaps even more sense, another that was a bizarre experimental rock opera that stands as its own weird monolith in the band's story and a set of three records that are loosely combined by the notion of CMX's grip on quality control beginning to loosen. It's all much more of a hodgepodge to make any sense out of together and the diversity in both sound and quality is spread wide. At the end of the day it's a good collection, because combining (some of) the best bits of those five records together and adding some (some) interesting rarities in the mix can't really fail as a recipe. It's just not as captivating as the last two.

Physically: Same thing here too: a nice big box for the 3 CDs, with Yrjänä's commentary - this time less anecdotal/trivia-centric and with more vague and slightly poetic statements about the songs' meaning and tone.

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