Straight from the dark, icy shores of the Gulf of Bothnia, behold an epic collection of anthemic, riff-driven hard rock from Oulu, Finland newcomers Green Straw Machine! Their debut full-length album Ultimate Threshold, released independently September 18, 2020, is appropriately dark without bordering on metal. It’s closer to stoner rock, infused with a good dose of old-school blues-based heavy metal. It’s an honest effort that displays all of the charm of something that’s not trying to hide its flaws.
Mostly, though, Ultimate Threshold is a party! Its lyrical themes are based on drugs, booze, outer space, and some more drugs thrown in for good measure! Speed and other “durgs [sic]” are listed as their main influence online, so it’s no surprise that this album is riddled with party anthems reminiscent of Guns N’ Roses and Motörhead’s golden years. These include “Mask Off” and its music video, as well as “Jimmy Jall,” a song about speed, and “Baker,” a song whose main character is both a “powder maker” and an “undertaker.” Everybody’s gotta make a living, right…? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Then, there is the “outer space/sci-fi” theme, heard on “Tesseract,” “Artificial Energy” and “Black Holes.” The party songs can be cheesy at times, but the outer space songs are where the cringeworthy moments really start to outweigh this band’s awesome riffs and fist-pumping energy. At times, the lyrics lack depth; “Holy shit, it’s a tesseract” just doesn’t cut it to describe the epic beauty of deep space.
Founding member, singer and guitarist Jiri Huovinen makes up for the cheesy moments with an effortless sense for riff composition, which is one of the strong points of Green Straw Machine’s music, along with co-founder Matias Kivelä’s tight, no-nonsense drumming. They lay a tapestry onto which everything else falls into place neatly. Sadly, this excellent working chemistry is balanced out as a quality by flawed singing. It’s a personal pet peeve of mine, and may not bother other listeners, but I strongly dislike hearing singers singing in English when their first language is something else, especially when they have a strong accent. I love hearing music sung in other languages. It’s a shame that so many artists appear to sing in English solely to remain accessible.
If hard-rocking party anthems are your thing, give this one a spin for sure— Green Straw Machine are an excellent no-nonsense rock band. They’re fun to listen to if you’re not an insufferable little bitch like me, who can’t stand singers with accents.
However, if you’re looking for more artistic and thematic depth, you can safely skip this one.
Written by Henri Brillon
*Edited by Chris Aitkens