A few years ago an independent label by the name of Topshelf Records announced that they were giving away every album they had released up to that point. I picked up a handful of records that sounded like something I’d enjoy, including Diamond Youth’s Nothing Matters, Field Mouse’s Hold Still Life, and Have Mercy’s The Earth Pushed Back. Among these picks was an album that sounded a little off to me at first. The screamed vocals were pushed back and muffled and the music was delicate rather than heavy. Everything a typical hardcore album did, Riala would do the opposite. I was just getting into metal at the time so to hear the vocals pushed to the middle of the mix rather than upfront and centre was strange, to say the least. And where were the thundering drums, the blistering solos, the chugs and the breakdowns? I downloaded Riala more out of curiosity than anticipation.
Whether it’s the gentle acoustics of the morning, the energetic punk of the midday, or the balladry of the evening, there’s something for every hour of the day. But what about the time after the sweet reminiscence? When everyone has gone to bed and there’s nothing but you, your thoughts, and the accompanying darkness? That’s when Riala clicked. That’s when I realised this unique swirl of sounds was actually some of the best music I had ever heard. Period.
I started to approach Riala with the intention of finding nothing but an empty soundtrack to my thoughts, regrets, and worries as opposed to something I could enjoy musically or lyrically. When the broken screams of Henning Runolf met my ears, I finally understood why this record was such a turn off at first.
Metal prides itself on voicing the anger, frustration, and sadness we too often feel. These musicians understood us and why we felt the way we did. To hear someone share our pain was almost cathartic (just watch Metalhead, a beautiful film about a girl who finds solace in the music her deceased brother used to listen to). Suis La Lune had crafted a sound for the hurting and the lonely.
Now, remember how I said that everything a typical hardcore album did, Riala would do the opposite? Suis La Lune didn’t try to voice the anger or frustration towards those around us, they emphasised the desperation we feel towards ourselves. The album revolves around a failed love and a broken heart. The songs paint a picture of a desperate want of reconciliation in knowing all too well that it won’t happen. Instead of anger, we hear defeat and surrender as if we are the ones who have done wrong as opposed to feeling wronged by others. The album’s opening track captures this perfectly as the vocalist cries, “Don’t show the tears in your eyes / Don’t show what I’m becoming.”
The vocals themselves are very rough and unpolished, which only adds to the emotional turmoil. In contrast to this are the lovely guitars that weave in between the yelling and vicious drumming. The guitar and horn section of “Wishes and Hopes” is a breathtaking example of the instrumentation spread throughout this record. Likewise, the title track is an instrumental interlude that features some of the best sounds I have ever come across. Similar things can be said for songs such as “Stop Motion,” “In Confidence” and “Songs In a Broken Dialogue.” The instrumentation seems to serve more as a comfort to the hurting vocals every time I revisit it.
Riala is an album that goes beyond most. It doesn’t stop at merely sharing our pain, it joins us in finding comfort and rest. Where the vocals are voicing our inner struggle, the music is caressing and embracing that voice in its delicate arms. If you haven’t given an ear to this album yet, I strongly suggest you do so. Riala will always find a place on my playlist when I need it most.