'EI VALO MINUA SEURAA'
Roger Berzerk Fauske
There are all variety of sub-genres of Metal emanating from Finland these days – hell, they have probably invented a few of their own. This one is no exception and while describing itself as Pagan Metal is hardly a new thing from the Nordic climes, when you add orchestra to that it gives rise to at least an added interest.
This is their second full length album and in English the title is 'No Light Follows Me', so now you know.
All the tracks are in Finnish but it is their mother tongue and personally I am all for bands singing in their native language (apart from Coldplay of course who shouldn't be allowed to sing in any language). Time for the music...
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'Harmaudesta' ('Away from Grey') is the first one to have a go at my ears and after a very atmospheric beginning, almost military in feel, setting the tone and giving a taster of what is to come, there is a very catchy guitar melody that dives straight in to your cranial extremities with its melancholy and purposeful mood.
Growling vocals fitting perfectly with all that is going on around it, drums guiding the direction of all concerned. A good beginning, and easy to see why the word orchestra is used with this lot.
'Jälkemme' ('Heritage') is a much longer affair coming in at over seven and a half minutes and begins perfectly with some eerie synth leading to some more very catchy and melodious riffery. The song is called 'Heritage' and very much fills the head with their Nordic ancestors – it just has that Viking feel to it.
Growls kick in along with nice off beat synth behind it and it is all done to great effect taking us on a journey, mid-section full of uplifting feel, drums all the while powering mightily through it all. The real ball-grabber with this is the deliciously delivered guitar melody and drums, combining perfectly together to really hammer its point across.
Who needs words when the music can speak to you like this? A very well constructed song just adds to its effect, layer upon layer, section after section like wave after wave of Viking. In a word, marvellous.
'Itsetön' ('Soul Shriven') has a hard job following that but it doesn't seem at all unnerved. Again a long one, even longer than its predecessor, and more scene setting from the piano-based synth. This time when it hits full power, the mood is altogether a lot more one of menace and dreaded intent, Salovaara's vocals very deliberate and full of wrath.
Again the guitars play the perfect foil, their melody acting as a counterbalance to the fierce vocals before letting rip along with some more nifty synth accompaniment. This is another well planned and executed track, the last half especially leaving no space unused in the mix but it never feels crowded or chaotic – just a band, or should I say Orchestra, fully in tune with each other literally and musically.
The ending is a tumultuous affair, rampaging instrumentation and vocals before the well timed military drums take it to its conclusion.
'Sieluni varjossa' ('In the Nightside of Self') approaches things from a different perspective, the rhythm twins providing the heat and impetus, Vanninen's drums and the bass of Niilo Könönen driving the juggernaut with all the force of a horde of berserkers.
Again the vocals add their menace and intrigue into the melting pot, the now familiar military theme in the break accompanied by chanting vocals works perfectly doing what it says on the tin, breaking the layers up providing a seamless buffer.
The guitars are more inconspicuous on this one, although not without adding to the effect, letting rip towards the end with some great melodious interplay with the growls.
'Vaipunut' ('Of Life Descended') is about half the length of the previous few tracks and the first quarter of it is pure atmosphere, the sound of a wave lapping gently, muffled synths providing the backdrop before they gain prominence, the wave effect still coming through.
This even when it gets into gear is again very different, giving a more than melancholy feel – but perhaps most surprising are the clean vocals and they are impressive, perfectly sitting on top of the synth. A brief journey into a thumping ballad like rendition from the whole band takes it into the quieter end.
Whilst it is a very short track, in a way it gives more emphasis to the album as a whole as some of the longer orchestrations, and the aforementioned clean voice is something that maybe should appear more often – the man has a very fine voice indeed.
'Yksin' ('Alone') starts off with synths and synth voices of the more traditional orchestral nature, giving the music the perfect embodiment of the song title. Rasping vocals, back to the growls, overlaying first the keys and then after the guitars leap in, mixing it up with the speeding six strings whilst more thunder is thrown in from the rhythm boys.
Once more this is a multi-layered affair, dropping back down for some synth emphasis and even when they all come back in, the synths maintain their place. There is a rousing stampede towards the finishing line, the whole lot of them going at it hammer and tongs but always keeping it well in check, vocals right on the edge with a mesh of pain and sorrow about them.
So to the final track 'Hiljaiset rauniot' ('Silent Ruins'), one I have played on my radio show and the title is a whole heap easier to write down than pronounce on air. But my lack of command of the Finnish language aside, the track is a fitting one to remember the guys by, kicking off with some more military rhythm'd drums, although this time more signalling a charge of the heavy brigade.
The whole feel is anthemic, uplifting and revitalising, the guitars again combining superbly, bass breaking between them, vocals growling their message and from a purely musically melodious perspective, this one needs to come with some sort of health warning as banging heads and gyrating bodies are its natural consequence.
I have to say when all is said and done, this leaves me definitely wanting more. Probably the best compliment I can give them is that I never knew I was a big fan of Pagan Metal, but this is mighty impressive stuff and there is so much more to it than the compulsory industry labelling suggests and as it turns out, the word orchestra is indeed a vital addition to that label because that is the feel of this
It somehow seems more than just a band, the multi-layered song writing giving room for so much to be happening that you will need more than a few listens to hear everything that is going on.
Vesa Salovaara – Vocals
Arttu Järvisalo – Guitars
Henri Lammintausta – Guitars
Niilo Könönen – Bass
Saku Myyryläinen – Keyboards
Mikael Vanninen – Drums