During his lifetime, Bob Ross was one of the modern world’s most beloved artists. He wasn’t necessarily a technical master of his craft, but he spent the majority of his life teaching us that you don’t need to be to create something beautiful. He introduced a generation of people to the joys of art, and despite a life of hardships, he kept his positive world view, earning him a spot in the hearts of millions. To this day, his legacy ensures through not only his own works, but through the works of the artists he inspired.
And these artists have taken his approach to artistic self-expression and applied it to more than just music. Finland’s Strunkiin is an atmospheric black metal band whose debut full-length, The Joy of Creation, was inspired directly by the teachings found in Ross’ series, The Joy of Painting.
One of Ross’ most famous lessons was that if there is to be light, there must also be the contrast of darkness. Strunkiin understand this lesson perfectly. On this album there are lush orchestral movements, twinkling keyboards and gentle acoustic interludes, but at its core it is a black metal album. And that means there’s plenty of frenzied tremolos, blastbeats and harsh soundscapes to navigate over the course of the album’s five eight+ minute long songs.
Despite the songs’ length, the album manages to keep things interesting with its varied songwriting. Each song takes its title from a Bob Ross piece and does its best to capture the feel of the painting it’s based on. “Island in the Wilderness” features roiling, tumulus riffs that move like waves in a lake, but also boasts idyllic, peaceful orchestrations that acts as a calm shore amidst the raging waters. “Blue Ridge Falls” starts off with a folky acoustic scale and sampled bird sounds, and you feel as though you’re walking through the beautiful landscape of the falls themselves.
Despite my obvious enjoyment of The Joy of Creation, I do have one issue with it, and it’s a difficult issue to cover. This is an instrumental album, as many atmospheric black metal albums are. But I feel that it would be a much stronger record with vocals. That said, I have to ask myself – would lyrics dampen the effect of the album? Some things are better left unsaid, and I think that lyrics would diminish the album’s effect. Perhaps the Ghost Bath method of vocals consisting entirely of wordless sounds would work?
BUT for what it is, The Joy of Creation is a very good album with a rock-solid concept. It touches on the works of Bob Ross in a way that is respectful and demonstrates a deep reverence for the man’s art and ideas. This album probably won’t end up on my year-end list, but with all the potential Strunkiin display here, it’s very likely that their extreme album will. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for anything this Finnish black metal upstart does next.
You can order The Joy of Creation from Strunkiin’s Bandcamp page.