Unless you’ve been living under a giant rock wrapped in a Faraday cage, you’re probably all too aware that the 90s are back with a fucking vengeance. Craft-esque chokers and flannel are once again fashionable, OJ Simpson is in the news, the jerk who gave Kevin McCallister shitty directions in Home Alone 2 is still a fucking jerk, and almost every flavour of 90s music is having its revivalist moment in the sun. During their original run, many of these genres were very much associated with a particular geographic location, whether it was grunge in Seattle, garage and jungle in the UK, or death metal in Florida (and tons of others – my frame of reference is admittedly limited). Today, advancements in technology have granted the latest generation of musicians unprecedented access to the decade’s entire output, which is at their disposal regardless of location. And while this 90s musical revival has its share of uninspired rehashes, albums like 3D Land, the new record from Finland’s Meth Elvis, demonstrate that it’s possible to pay homage to an iconic sound while still bringing something unique to the table.
Written and performed entirely by Helsinki native Antti Väärälä, 3D Land is, at its heart, a love letter to 90s institutions like Alice In Chains and Failure. Opening track “Mostly the Voices” leads with an extended, plodding drum groove before evolving into a slow-burn refrain featuring jangly, textured guitars and a brooding, serpentine bass line. Väärälä’s subdued vocals have a quintessentially 90s timbre and fit the song’s laid back, almost tranquil tone.
Almost as if to indicate that the opening song was a trap meant to lull listeners into a false sense of security, the thundering drum gallop and meaty, metallic riff of “Walk Slash Run” dials everything to the red line. On top of showcasing a healthy amount of stylistic and musical variety, Väärälä demonstrates impressive vocal range employing just the right amount of grit without sacrificing musicality. Not to harp too much on the Alice In Chains comparison, but it would be fair to draw comparisons to original AIC vocalist Layne Staley.
The variety found in 3D Land‘s first two songs continues throughout the rest of the album. It is clear Väärälä gave proper thought to precise sequencing, as the impact of burlier fist-pumpers like “Peter” and “Safety Reasons” is amplified by their juxtaposition to more delicate and intricate jams such as “Life in Quicksand.”
My only gripe with 3D Land is the album’s production. While certainly sharp and professional sounding, there are a number of elements that lay bare the fact that 3D Land was the work of one man in a recording studio. The instruments feel rather separate from one another, and the level of compression on the drums makes it difficult to discern where Väärälä’s skills as a percussionist end and studio Pro Tools magic begins.
Despite this, 3D Land is commendable effort from a single musician, and a refreshing take on a classic sound. So, for all of you 90s fanatics out there, I suggest popping this into your giant, yellow Sony Discman while waiting for your friends to call your landline.
Written by Jesse Gainer
*edited by Kate Erickson