Jumalten aika (Age of Gods): Moonsorrow

Rating: 95%

jumalten_aikaIn 2016, Moonsorrow released “Jumalten aika (Age of Gods).” This album is among one of their best projects to date. The influences of folk and classical music blending with their style of Black Metal is amazing. That is what makes this album so epic from start to finish. The songs are on the lengthy side, but Moonsorrow always seems to make the the music interesting and never allows the music to get bogged down with phony background noise of false instruments. Because of that, the song structures are very well written.

Musically, this album has some interesting melodies that are centered around classic Black Metal traits. When you hear flutes, mouth harps, and other acoustical string instruments playing along side of the distorted guitars and harsh music, the songs themselves have a bigger sound to them. Moonsorrow seems to work all that to their advantage. That is where the word “Epic” seems best described the material. The melody and choirs are done perfectly from song to song. Each song carries the listener on a journey.

This album lacks two minor things. The vocals seem a tad in the distance, but everything else as far as instrumentation is perfectly heard. Secondly, the sound of the music seems to follow “Verisäkeet” rather than evolving into something new. But these are little things.

Musicianship to me is still at it’s best.  Bassist and lead vocalist Ville Sorvali again just nails it. His style of vocals and bass will surely influence another generation of musicians who are looking at this mastering this style of Black Metal. Even his style of vocals seem to get better with age. Pounding on the drums is the very talented Marko Tarvonen. I love his style of drumming. On the axes are Henri Sorvali and Mitja Harvilahti. These guys help to create the huge epic sound. Rounding out the spot on keyboards is  Markus Eurén.

If you haven’t heard this album yet, you’re missing out on one of the best new heavy metal albums of 2016. This album is fantastic and is one of the best Moonsorrow albums to date. Don’t pass this one by.

Track listing:

1. “Jumalten aika” The Age of Gods 12:43
2. “Ruttolehto incl. Päivättömän päivän kansa” Plague Grove incl. People of the Dayless Day 15:21
3. “Suden tunti” Wolf’s Hour 7:06
4. “Mimisbrunn” Mímir’s Well 15:55
5. “Ihmisen aika (Kumarrus pimeyteen)” The Age of Man (A Bow into Darkness) 16:00
6. “Soulless” (Grave cover; bonus track) 3:18
7. “Non Serviam” (Rotting Christ cover; bonus track) 5:10

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Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa (As Shadows We Walk in the Land of the Dead): Moonsorrow

Rating: 95%

Varjoina_kuljemme_kuolleiden_maassa.jpgIn 2011, Moonsorrow released “Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa.”  I have always respected Moonsorrow for their huge epic and powerful sound. And this album doesn’t disappoint. Moonsorrow has added a another great noteworthy album to their discography. Although, consistent with regards to their genre, Moonsorrow seems to make it work well. The only disappointment that I have with this album is the small fillers or the interludes that are under two minutes long. I know that those interludes lead into the much larger sagas.

Musicianship is very good. The guitar riffs, the bass lines and the powerful drumming along with the keyboards gives this album a great full sound. Vocally, this is another great piece. Although, this album lacks lead guitars, it’s still a great album. Each musician is very talented and each brings that piece to the band that is needed to make a great Heavy Metal band.

Song structures are intense. Moonsorrow doesn’t disappoint when it comes to blending elements of Black Metal and Folk influenced melodies together. The music is very full, rich and filled with content. Each song, excluding the interludes, are vibrant and in some cases sound very complex. For their length, it’s almost as if you’re on a journey that never disappoints. I still love the large choir and the orchestra mixed with those Folk instrumentation. The jaw harp is another added touch that makes the music. There’s lot’s of great melodies and yes, harmony.

This album is not only a great Moonsorrow album, but it’s also a great Folk Metal album too. Moonsorrow is one of those bands that continues to define this genre that we call a sub-genre of Black Metal into it’s own category.

Track listing:

1. “Tähdetön” Starless 12:44
2. “Hävitetty” Ravaged 1:34
3. “Muinaiset” The Ancient Ones 11:43
4. “Nälkä, väsymys ja epätoivo” Hunger, Weariness and Despair 1:12
5. “Huuto” The Scream 15:58
6. “Kuolleille” For the Dead 1:35
7. “Kuolleiden maa” The Land of the Dead 16:22

Kivenkantaja (“Stonebearer”): Moonsorrow

Rating: 90%

moonsorrowIn 2003, Moonsorrow released their third album entitled “Kivenkantaja.”  This album is a bit different than their previous albums with regards that it add a dash of Progressive Metal into their main sound of Folk Black Metal. The end result isn’t to bad. When I first heard this album, I had mixed feelings about it musically. To me, there seemed to be some minor flaws in the overall production and then it hit me. It was the Prog influences that I was hearing. Knowing that, I went back and re-listened to it and this time around, I really enjoyed this album. But some of the flaws are still there.

First, this album seems to lack a bit of the raw edge to the overall approach. However, with that said, the album has a lot of content and is full. The mixing just doesn’t do the album justice. But that is only on a few of the songs. The vocals seem to be pushed further into the background rather than more toward the front of the music. Secondly, the overall keyboards also seem to be lacking a bit with regards to adding to that epic sound. But then again, this could be from the Prog influences that I hear. Some of the riffs are a bit weak.

But what this album lacks, there are other strong areas that make this album really unique and enjoyable. For one, the epic sound and song structures are there. Moonsorrow really does a great job when it comes to balancing the Folk and Black Metal portions of their genre.  I really do like the longer songs that Moonsorrow does and how they manage to not bog it down as they keep playing. Secondly, I enjoy the way Moonsorrow  adds that traditional sound of Folk into their music. There’s nothing like hearing a heavy and distorted song and then without notice, the Folk instrumentation begins to play. It makes the music more of a journey and adds to the listening experience. When the album is finished, it leaves you wanting to hear more. This quality is missing from many of the Black Metal bands out there.

Musically, again, this is a good album as I mentioned. The song structures are well balanced and defined. Some of the structures are complex. So let’s break it down. The first track, “Raunioilla” has the sound and introduction of a classic Moonsorrow song. It’s long, slow and heavy. But then you hear the accordion setting the melody and adding harmony to the overall sound. The overall vocal work does seem to be in the background. The overall musicianship is very good.

“Unohduksen lapsi” took me a while to warm up to. This is where you really hear the Prog influences. There’s a lot of weird riffs and timing going on during the bridges. But, this song although, has a heavy sound to it, the guitars seem to be not as strong. The melody does flow nicely. It does have a strong orchestra background to it.

“Jumalten kaupunki/Tuhatvuotinen perintö”  is a fantastic song. Lot’s of good instrumentation. The bridge is very weird leading into the chorus. But, the choirs are excellent. “Kivenkantaja” is a fun journey and is a classic Moonsorrow song. The arrangements are fantastic. I love the epic and big sound that this song has.

“Tuulen tytär/Soturin tie” I absolutely love. It begins with a rolling of the piano keys. That’s right, Black Metal done with beauty. It follows with the accordion and simple sticks keeping the beat. The jaw harp comes in. About a 1/3 of the way through the song, the electric heavy riffs come in. I love the almost spoken lyric and the strong beefy chorus.

“Matkan lopussa” is the last track which features Petra Lindberg performing the female vocals. This song is fantastic and is well done. The accordion and jaw harp really makes the mood of the song. Combined by the big male choirs.

Track listing:

1. “Raunioilla” (“At the Ruins”) 13:36
2. “Unohduksen lapsi” (“Child of Oblivion”) 08:17
3. “Jumalten kaupunki/Tuhatvuotinen perintö” (“City of the Gods/A Thousand Years of Heritage”) 10:42
4. “Kivenkantaja” (“Stonebearer”) 07:39
5. “Tuulen tytär/Soturin tie” (“Daughter of the Wind/Way of the Warrior”) 08:36
6. “Matkan lopussa” (“At the Journey’s End”) 04:54

Voimasta ja kunniasta (“Of Strength and Honor”): Moonsorrow

Rating: 100%

Voimasta_ja_Kunniasta.jpgThis was the record that attracted me to Moonsorrow back in 2001 when it was released. The epic sound with the raspy vocals and strong choirs pulled me not only into Moonsorrow, but it introduced me to Folk Metal and Viking Metal during a time when I thought that Heavy Metal was getting dull. This was during the wake of Grunge and Nu Metal had begun playing itself out. Both, Groove and Sludge Metal were just still heavily underground. Nothing good was one the radio. Then I heard this album on Serious radio. I was blown away!!!!

Musically, I love the melody which is very strong throughout the music, especially the opening track. Lot’s of good harmony within the music as well. The instrumentation of the traditional Heavy Metal instruments along with the keyboards, accordion, and mouth harp surprisingly, get along well. Lot’s of great tempos in each track some that feature Black Metal mixed with Polka and Folk music adds to the listening experience. It’s both, very dark and bright. It’s also fun and when the last track is finished, you wish it wasn’t over yet. The strong choirs and strong hand claps add a certain appeal of class to the overall music. The song structures are very good.  There’s some really good riffs and although, this album lacks leads, it’s still a very good album.

Musicianship is exceptional. Bassist and vocalist Ville Sorvali takes hold of the music with his raspy vocal style. His bass lines are very strong throughout the entire album. Guitarist, mouth harpist, accordionist, keyboardist, and vocalist Henri Sorvali adds to the overall sound and style. The other instruments he plays really does compliment the overall sound of the music. Drummer Marko Tarvonen is great at the skins. His tempos and signatures are dead on. Guitarist Mitja Harvilahti rounds out the rest of the band.

Track listing:

1. “Tyven” (“Serene”) 01:52
2. “Sankarihauta” (“Warrior’s Grave”) 07:41
3. “Kylän päässä” (“A Village Away”) 07:38
4. “Hiidenpelto/Häpeän hiljaiset vedet” (“Field of the Devil/The Silent Waters of Shame”) 09:20
5. “Aurinko ja kuu” (“The Sun and the Moon”) 08:14
6. “Sankaritarina” (“Warrior’s Tale”) 13:50

Heimgang: Kampfar

Rating: 80%

204252.jpgIn 2008, Kampfar released “Heimgang.” This album is everything that Pagan Black Metal should be. So, I’ll go right into the song structure themselves. This has fast tempos, it’s raw, it features heavy distorted guitars and lots of fast picking.  This album also has shrieking vocals, growls and low screams. But too, this album has other traits that are uncommon to Black Metal. You have some damn good drumming, weird guitar chording, and some stand alone bass lines.

The music itself, while in Black Metal form, has a bit of enchantment. The melodies are beautifully done. It’s mystical and full of energy. It does contain some Folk elements to it. The timing, fast tempos, and atmospheric sounds make the music so much more than just Pagan Black Metal. The lyrical themes of passing through the underworld makes the album very dark in nature.

Musicianship is very good and so tight. Kampfar is led by vocalist Dolk. His shrieks and growls sets the tone for the album. He is supported by a very talented guitarist Thomas. His chording makes the guitar seem more than just a guitar. No leads here, but the melodic chords gives you the feeling that Folk instruments are being played rather than  guitar. That’s how good his guitar work is. It’s a style of beauty. II13 drumming is fucking awesome. His drums are very clear on this album and it is one of the instruments one should notice to. Then you have Jon Bakker’s brilliant bass guitar work.  So much more is Kampfar than a normal rum around the mill Black Metal band.

Track Listing:

1. Vantro 03:06
2. Inferno 03:31
3. Dødens vee 04:24
4. Skogens dyp 05:20
5. Antvort 06:10
6. Vansinn 05:36
7. Mareham 05:08
8. Feigdarvarsel 05:15
9. Vettekult 04:49
10. Vandring 03:46

Verisäkeet (Blood Verses): Moonsorrow

Rating: 95%

Verisäkeet.jpgIn 2005, Finnland’s own Moonsorrow released “Verisäkeet.” One word that describes this album is “Fantastic.” From the opening to the finish, this metal album fucking rocks!!! It’s a masterpiece of all sorts mixing Black Metal, Folk Metal, Viking Metal, Paganism and Progressive Metal together. The end result is probably one of the best records by Moonsorrow.

The music production, song composition, and the musicianship is outstanding. The songs themselves are epic. The long lengthy songs change in direction with fast moving tempos and styles. The chorus has such a beefy backing vocals that it’s electrifying.

What makes this such a great Heavy Metal album? Let’s start with the band itself. The harsh vocals of Ville Sorvali. Although, he singing in his native tongue, he’s got plenty of spirit. His bass guitar stands out as well and it just pounds in the background. Even with all the instrumentation, the bass is clearly heard. The next thing you’ll notice is the great drumming that is being conducted by Marko Tarvonen. His drumming is amazing from the slower tempos to the fast beats of the double bass. He is also one of guitarist during the recording sessions. Keyboardist Lord Eurén provides much atmosphere on this album. The guitars are strong throughout the entire album and you have Mitja Harvilahti  to thank for that. You also have Henri Sorvali on guitars, keyboards, mouth harp, accordion, vocals, tin whistle, and recorder. So, the musicianship is super tight.

What about the song structures themselves? The music being created and played is again epic. Only one song that is under 14 minutes. The songs are very complex from the Black Metal sections to the powerful Folk Metal sections. You’ll also notice the big choir sequences along with the backing vocals. They are huge. This album also has wonderfully balanced melodies. As the songs change direction, you’ll hear this. This album has plenty of hard hitting guitar riffs. It’s full of guitars and yes, there are some leads on here. Plenty of guitar fills. Then you hear the bass sounds very good on all tracks. The drums are just fantastic. Other instruments you’ll hear within in this album is other percussion instruments, fiddle, mouth harp, kantele and jouhikko.

Track listing:

1. “Karhunkynsi” (“Bearclaw”) 14:00
2. “Haaska” (“Carrion”) 14:42
3. “Pimeä” (“Dark”) 14:08
4. “Jotunheim” 19:28
5. “Kaiku” (“Echo”) 08:19

Ot serdtsa k nebu: Аркона

Rating: 95%

Arkona_-_Ot_Serdtsa_K_Nebu_-_album_cover.jpgАркона aka Arkona is a Russian Folk Metal band that consists of Masha “Scream” Arkhipova on vocals, keyboards, tambourine, komuz, and guitars (acoustic),
guitarist Sergey “Lazar” Atrashkevich, bassist Ruslan “Kniaz”, and drummer Vlad “Artist.” Ot serdtsa k nebu is the band’s fourth album released in 2007. Lyrically, Arkona has themes that tell stories rooted in Russian folklore and Slavic mythology.

Musically, Arkona not only uses modern instruments of heavy metal, but incorporates traditional instruments to give it a very thick folk sound. There are some very strong guitar riffs throughout the entire album along with some very hard drumming. With regards to the guitars, they seem to play a more of a supporting role that allows the traditional instruments to play a major role on the music. What little leads on the album are done very well. The song structures blend the folk world and black metal together to give it a nice melody and harmony during the slower tempos. During the faster and more upbeat tempos, the traditional instruments do not overwhelm the heavy metal portions. It’s folk metal at it’s best. The sound quality is absolutely great.  The music is dark and at the same time enlightening.

Masha’s vocal style is both harsh and clean and she does a great job of mixing the two worlds on each track. Track four is a great example of her vocal work that is on the clean side. But her growls and screams are amazing. She can pull off any vocal style and she proves that on this album. I think that she is among the best female vocalists of her genre.

For a folk metal band, Arkona does a job well done for taking the listener on a journey through history. Although, the lyrics are in Russian, you do get the sense and feeling of what she is getting across. I have been into Arkona for a very long time and this is among my top favorite folk metal albums.

marsha_artist.jpg

Masha Arkhipova. Courtesy of Metal Encyclopedia.

Track listing:

1. “Pokrovy Nebesnovo Startsa” (Покровы Небесного Старца) Shrouds of Celestial Sage 7:34
2. “Goy, Kupala!!!” (Гой, Купала!!!) Hey, Kupala 3:42
3. “Ot Serdtsa k Nebu” (От Сердца к Небу) From the Heart to the Skies 5:06
4. “Oy, Pechal-Toska” (Ой, Печаль-Тоска) Oh, My Sorrow, My Anguish 5:33
5. “Gutsulka” (Гутсулка) Hutsulka 2:44
6. “Strela” (Стрела) Arrow 6:16
7. “Nad Propastyu Let” (Над пропастью лет) Over the Abyss of Ages 6:40
8. “Slavsya Rus!” (Славься, Русь!) Hail Rus! 4:00
9. “Kupala i Kostroma” (Купала и Кострома) Kupala and Kostroma 2:30
10. “Tsigular” (Цигулар) Violinist 3:43
11. “Sva” (Сва) 6:31
12. “Katitsya Kolo” (Катится Коло) Kolo Is Rolling 10:16