MOONSORROW- V: Hävitetty (Spinefarm Records)
The kings of Finnish metal return with their 5th full-length album and most ambitious effort yet. Arguably the most consistent band in the entire folk metal scene, as well as being rightfully regarded as one of the most highly-revered bands in underground metal circles, MOONSORROW have created a true genre landmark with V: Havitetty
. Coming off a string of highly influential and well-received albums, including 2005's Verisakeet
, MOONSORROW continue to set the bar for the entire pagan metal scene with their ability to create such a dense and striking atmosphere. Creating the right ambiance is such a fundamental part of any folk-influenced music, and MOONSORROW are clearly perfecters of this art, as demonstrated by their new opus compromised of 2 songs spanning a combined 56 minutes long. Quite a radical step indeed for this arena of music; though MOONSORROW and many of their contemporaries generally tend to dabble in longer song lengths with epic arrangements, nothing comes close to what they have crafted here, a testament not only to the band’s incredible songwriting abilities, but also to their dedication to evoking the nature-based atmosphere that is the root of such music.
Despite the seemingly indulgent song-lengths of the 2 tracks on the album, neither one resorts to simple repetition or rehashing of ideas. MOONSORROW generally do use what would be considered by some to be excessive repetition, but the key is that it never gets monotonous because the melodies upon which the songs are built are so moving and well-crafted. This is obviously melody-centered metal as opposed to riff-centered metal, yet it still feels heavy and epic without being overly bombastic. Unlike on past albums, the band makes less apparent usage of traditional folk instruments that color their sound and bring it that unique appeal, rather they instead make more subtle use of them to accent the guitars. The band do not actually perform the instruments themselves (they are triggered by keyboard), but the sound still retains a genuine feel. It is likely they chose to implement less folk aspects into this album because they were going for a darker mood than past albums, and also for a darker type of setting, as the cover alludes to. Nonetheless, their unique character is still intact despite the guitars and drums being more at the forefront of the attack. The band makes excellent use of acoustic guitars throughout the album as well, and not just during acoustic parts alone; often times the acoustic guitar backs up what the electric guitar is doing and provides for a richer, more textured sound. Production-wise it is not a major departure from the type of sound found on Verisakeet
, although the drums do sound a bit louder and more prominent, which works to the album’s advantage. There is very little fast paced material on here, much of it remains mid-tempo within an epic scope, with a couple blast-beat parts such as in the first song “Jäästä Syntynyt/Varjojen Virta”, which opens with a haunting acoustic passage and doesn’t get heavy until nearly 7 minutes in. This song goes through the many peaks and valleys of MOONSORROW’s sound, showcasing once again their innate ability to create some of the most stirring melodies out there. They clearly spent a lot of time and effort arranging the songs to work in a sense that the listener can feel the flow of the song, how it builds, progresses, and releases, all in different orders. The second song “Tuleen Ajettu Maa” is a textbook example of how the band set everything up perfectly and then deliver the knockout, with an absolutely furious tremolo-riffing section complete with more blast-beats and scathing vocals. Throughout the album MOONSORROW do a good job of adding variety to the vocal attack, injecting some choir elements as well as the archetypal black metal rasp. The bassist deserves to be credited as well for adding to the music with some excellent complementary bass lines, especially in “Tuleen Ajettu Maa.” The entire album is well-executed by every instrument to make the expertise shown in the songwriting really shine through.
Yes, this is a difficult album to digest, and yes it requires a lot of work on the listeners part. This album is definitely a grower, meaning not one that can really be appreciated on the first few listens. That’s definitely a cliche, and I doubted that sentiment myself after listening and loving it the first couple spins, but there is so much going on that I came to find something new every time. Not to mention the simple fact that this is 2 songs that are both over 25 minutes long; obviously there is a lot to take in. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a hard album to get into, just one that takes some patience to become completely engrossed in, unlike albums like Voimasta Ja Kuniasta
where the reward comes quicker. MOONSORROW have further solidified themselves as the standard-bearers of pagan/viking/folk metal with V: Havietty
, and in the process have made quite possibly the crowing achievement of their career.