Bear with me for this is my first review in a very long time… When it comes to the realm of doom metal, there are many interpretations over many countries. A rich tradition of doom metal can be found in the obvious places but Finland doesn’t come to mind until now.
Kuolemanlaakso was founded in 2010 with the intent of bludgeoning the world with their style of death/doom. On their debut album (2012’s “Uljas uusi maailma”), an air of excitement and wild abandon ruled the recording by switching styles at an almost breakneck pace. On their latest album, “Tulijoutsen” (which translates to “The Fire Swan”), the band took a couple steps back, breathed deeply, and produced a sonic landscape with focus on the doom while still bringing in the experimental goodness of the first album.
Fans of the band might recognize a familiar name in the band. Mikko Kotamaki, who is also lead singer of Swallow The Sun, brings the same dark brooding vocals as STS but combines them with the guttural growls and clean episodes which lend itself for some great texturing. The voice sounds very similar to Laibach’s bleak vocalizations. The inspiration of the album came from the works of Finnish poet Aarni Kouta, who incorporated opposing elements of fire and water into his writing.
“Tulijoutsen” is a mirror reflection of the work, switching from venomous anger to subdued desolation, while bringing the two sides into a swirling maelstrom of doom. The guitar work is powerful and bludgeoning while the vocals balance the sounds with a pristine cleanliness. As a fan of the doom genre, the concept of the album would lead to epic riffing and sludginess but there are times the songs as a whole aren’t cohesive and can get monotonous. The first couple of songs slowly set the tone for the album but slightly lose the momentum. When track 3 hits, ‘Me Vaellamme Yossa’, the fury is then released upon the listener with a stellar groove. The musicianship is apparent with various elements brought into other tracks. ‘Arpeni’, track 4, incorporates various vocal styles which bring beauty with the bleakness. ‘Tuonen Tahtivyo’ brings in luscious female vocals not necessarily heard in doom metal. Finally, the best track on the album, ‘Glastonburyn Lehto’, provides clean singing, finger snaps, groove influenced bass lines, and baffling musicianship to round out the slightly schizophrenic vibe of the album.
If you are a Doom/Death fan, appreciate folk stories of contradiction, or just love the Finnish language, this is a great album to absorb and brood upon. If you’re new to the genre, this might be a little advanced with longer songs and out of the ordinary musicianship. All in all, a solid release from Kuolemanlaakso for a sophomore album.