Uinuos Syömein Sota (“languish, thou war of my heart”) is a dour yet somehow uplifting experience. Both poetic and royal while also managing to feel like the frost blowing in on the end of a summer breeze. Havukruunu, which stands for “coniferous crown”, is a Finnish band that I have enjoyed listening to for some time and although I would not say the new album is breaking many boundaries when it comes to style, the execution of said style is impressive, alluring and not least exciting.
Musically the album is a mixture of folk-infused black metal and even when the drums are blasting by at 220 BPM the album still manages to maintain a palatable texture. Many of the sounds of the album I find to be not too unsimilar to some of my favourite power metal bands albeit with more screaming and with fewer frills (in some regards). Along with the slight power metal aesthetic the band also features some musical elements I can only describe as speed metal or maybe more generally, eighties heavy metal.
The album is littered with chant, and tremolo picking. The riffs shred so hard they fall to the floor as some shiny powdery substance. Some strange haunting, whispered layers can be heard from time to time although I do not see a keyboard listed on the lineup. One of the sounds is similar to a bow being drawn on violin strings, another is very clearly some sort of bird but others are bit more subtle. I can only assume that some of these sounds are produced with reverb and potentially subtle vocal or string layers. That or I am finally going mad.
One of the best parts of the albums has to be the virtuosic and incredibly lyrical lead playing. Much of the music functions similarly to a concerto – that is a form of classical music which involves an ensemble and a soloist. This form of music sees an ensemble playing together followed by extensive solo sections which is essentially this album in a nutshell. Anyone who has read my reviews previously will know I am a sucker for guitar solos and this album hits every button when it comes to technical prowess. Although the album might not win any awards for originality it has some of the best lead work I have heard on a metal album of late.
Variety is not really the name of the game of this album and that is fine. The album itself is refined and a great listen from start to finish. If folky black metal, 80’s aesthetics and leads are your thing then look no further though I understand that is not everyones cup of tea. The tracks on this album seem to blur into each other due to the homogenous aesthetic. The album is a one-trick pony and I for one could ride this pony all day however if you are looking for something a bit darker, and with a few more teeth, this might not be for you. If you like your albums to have the word ‘night’ or ‘shadow’ in almost every song then this will definitely be for you.
To touch on a few standout moments of the record: I love how the album opens, the anthemic and almost warlike chants that provide much of the music’s character. Track two ‘Kunnes Varjot Saa’ (‘Until The Shadows Take Us’) has a riff that is instantly singable and I can already hear the crowd chanting along. Another incredible moment is the acoustic lul and subsequent solo section of ‘Ja viimein on yö’ (‘Finally It’s Night’) though I probably should stop picking out my favourite lead sections on this album or this review will go on forever.
OK last one…the solo on track four ‘Pohjolan Tytär’ starts note for note the same as the Adrian Smith solo from the Iron Maiden track, ‘Paschendale’ and it gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. The track itself might be one of the best on the album though I would be hard pressed to make a definitive stance on that since all the tracks on the album are of similarly high quality. The title of the song is also interesting as it relates to Finnish folklore and recounts a story of an old man who catches sight of a beautiful young woman seated on a rainbow and weaving a cloth of gold. The man asks her to accompany him and she sets him a series of impossible challenges that he fails at before continuing on his journey alone. This poem is most famously set to music by the late-romantic composer, Jean Sibelius who is often credited with helping Finland to develop national identity during its struggle for independence from Russia.
Track six, ‘Jumalten Hämär’ is another worth mentioning. A bewitching mixture of voice and acoustic instruments, that summons up images of rituals taking place deep within the forest. The title of this track translates the ‘Twilight of the Gods’ which is also the title of one of Wagner’s operas in the Ring cycle. I particularly love how this album gives nods to some really seminal classical music works that also delved deeply into folklore and mythology.
A final mention goes to track eight,’Tähti-yö Ja Hevoiset’ (‘Starry Night and Horses’), which ends with a fantastic psychedelic section that is the only one we hear on the album. This is where the mushrooms you took during track six’s forest festival really start to take hold. Quite the book-end for this mythical quest.
I loved this album and although I do not think this will win album of the year it is one of the best albums of it’s type to come out this year and is a must listen for any of you nerds who love to mix your folklore and your metal.
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