Album Review: MOONSORROW Jumalten Aika
In light of the recent popularity of well-produced, serial fantasy/action/adventure/dramas like Game of Thrones, Vikings and Black Sails and how many of us obsessively binge watch these fur-lined epics on television screens competing for size supremacy with the girth of America’s average waistline – there’s probably a reason you can’t find a TV smaller than 42 inches these days and it might have something to do with the rest of your family being unable to see around Cousin Charlie’s lardy assitude – now is the time for Finland’s Moonsorrow to strike while the iron is hot. As the public can’t seem to get enough of lush, period pieces making use of elaborate costumes, fantastical story lines and dialogue that plays with historical accuracy delivered via eyeball-assaulting HD and ear-punishing audio, these Finns and Century Media should be hooking a bandwagon up to their “epic heathen metal” while interest in gussied up modern expositions of historical ages is at an unprecedented high. And while the Helsinki-based band has always had a North American cult following, the entertainment world's present focus is much more open and friendly to the sort of primitivity this quintet has been cranking out since 1995. They could be set for a surprising uptick in popularity as America has demonstrated its enjoyment of the sight of blood-splattered Europeans holding instruments of destruction – whether it be in their living rooms or on stage at your typical Moonsorrow gig.
Or I could totally be talking about of my ass. Trying to replicate even an iota of the popularity experienced via television’s visual medium with not only underground metal, but underground metal delivered in one of the most complex languages of the western world via super-lengthy songs? Well, did you just feel the introductory thoughts of the preceding paragraph come to a screeching halt and skid smack dab and head first into the brick wall dead end of reality? Because I did.
What can be said with faithful finality is that listening to Moonsorrow is a cinematic experience. Their brand of monolithic and aristocratic blackened pagan metal is suitable for lots of things, none the least of which includes depictions of bloody battles in which primitive weapon technology pierces wind-weathered skin, endless treks through snow-capped vistas and pagan ritual observers having to distract themselves from their homages to spirit elders in order to fend off village sanctuary from religious crusaders and/or rabid wolves. This, before capping the night off on the lakka-influenced piss. Over the course of seven albums, the Sorvali cousins (guitarist/vocalist Henri and bassist Ville) and their mates have excelled at remaining beholden to their cultural roots and signposts – there’s no sign they’re going to cross that line of no return and start singing in godforsaken English any time soon – and have increasingly improved attaching a visual component to their music. The flamboyant sound provided by massive stacks of spacious and stacked power chords, bombastic drums locked into heavy artillery rhythmic patterns, immaculately immense melodies, additional instrumentation and Henri’s crinkly-forehead vocals makes for an experience that sparks not just the aural pathways, informing you that you’re being crushed by some of the most superior metal Scandinavia has on hand, but also lights a creative fire under your mind’s eye.
Previous album, Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa was a crowning achievement in a discography with many crown jewels as its filmic extravagance was nudged along by a tableaux of progressive rock and heritage storytelling, a trait that continues on Jumalten Aika. The most encouraging aspect though – especially for miserable grunts steadfast in their belief that any band’s best material is its early material – is that even as Moonsorrow has grown and matured, this album presents as a ferociously ripping piece of work with an air of violence that could be construed as youthful, if not sophomoric. The title track demonstrates a remarkable balance of different strains of black metal, from the more melodic driven illustriousness to proggy stuff like Emperor all the way down to the second wave’s harsh hypnosis with transcendentally choral vocals and keyboard patterns contributing to a tremendous wall of sound. And when velvety smooth note combinations seamlessly lock into a mother tongue call-and-response chants over stripped down ancient references before rising from the subdued space with wind instruments, guitar bends, blast beats and early 90s Norwegian vocals during “Ruttolehto Incl. Päivättömän Päivän Kansa,” it becomes clear that Moonsorrow has discovered additional strengths as they pertain to sonic synthesis and harmonious flow. Despite the songs averaging in the eleven-minute range, nothing ever seems bogged down or laborious. In fact, the album’s tracks, when connected by ritualistic mood music and instruments straight from Uncle Teemu (who's waistline was probably in the low 30s)’s collection of flutes, fiddles, jouhikkos and jew’s harps, make near-perfect sense in their back-to-back-to-back presentation. Listening to Jumalten Aika uninterrupted from start to finish becomes an experience worth striving for.
Lock the door boys and girls; you and your significant other can cram in a few episodes of your favourite boob tube extravagance after you submit yourself to the waltz-like cadence powering the silky elegance of the melodic “Sudden Tunti." On Demand services aren't going anywhere, so why not experience the dichotomy in “Mimisbrunnr” that butts heads-down blasting, mid-paced marching riffs and a proud embrace of the DNA strands of Finnish folk? And try and tell us the epic guitar and keyboard-speckled dual during the denouement in “Ihmisen Aika (Kumarrus Pimeyteen)” doesn't bring this latest album to a stunning panoramic conclusion.