Check out HOME OF THE WIND, the forthcoming documentary about Moonsorrow's first 20 years of history, based on this biography. Crowdfunding campaign starting in May!

15 March 2016

Moonsorrow - Jumalten aika review



ORIGINAL EN ESPAÑOL DISPONIBLE AQUÍ

In every Moonsorrow album there's always something new. I suppose achieving that gets harder with time, and maybe that's the reason why it took them so long to finish Jumalten aika (they stated in several interviews that they had to start from scratch a couple of times), but eventually they did it: they added a never-before-heard primitive-shamanic feel to their music. Swampy, even. The concept is also a bit unexpected—after this many years trying to distance themselves from the whole “Viking” stuff, who would have thought they'd delve into Nordic mythology? However, it is worth noting that they're not dealing with battles, but they chose a philosophical approach instead. The title of the first song means “The Age of the Gods” and the last is “The Age of Men;” the other three are “Plague Grove,” “The Hour of the Wolf” and “Mimisbrunn,” the latter referring to the well where Odin threw his eye to obtain his wisdom. What they did warn for a long time is that the black metal component would be very relevant in this album. Well, I don't really agree: I don't think there's more black metal here than in “Karhunkynsi” (2005) or “Kuolleiden maa” (2011). The production may be colder, but the songwriting is too Moonsorrowical to be very black. And I'm saying this as a black metal lover myself.

Let's take a closer look on the album. The beginning is what everyone has already heard by now in the first teaser: a primitive-shamanic choir (you see?), followed by the whole band suddenly joining in with a strongly marked pace. Opener “Jumalten aika” is very direct, and despite its 13 minutes, it isn't as complex as one would expect; instead, it develops in a rather linear way without big contrasts. But never becoming repetitive—these guys know a bit about song development. This track is totally concert-oriented: I could bet an elbow that it will open all or almost all concerts in the next months or years. With this song I already realized there wouldn't be so much black metal. There are lots of classic Moonsorrow melodic elements here, and it even sounds cheerful at times, although there's also some room for occasional aggression.

By a transition I couldn't hear (damn digital promos), we get to “Ruttolehto,” the song that caught my attention the most in the first listens, and whose main riff was the germ from which the whole album sprouted. In its beginning it continues the mood of its predecessor, but it soon starts to drift away, different parts come in and it plunges into the complexity that was already taking too long to arrive. I wonder if they will play this one live. If they do, they'll have to change some arrangements, because there are two pretty long fragments that are very atmospheric—the ones containing shamanic voice parts, by Jonne Järvelä of Korpiklaani fame. Accompanied by wonderful choirs, by the way. Actually, there are wonderful choirs all over the album, but these are cooler than the rest. I admit I am a fanboy of choirs anyway: no matter what band you are, add choirs and you'll have my attention.


I think this new Moonsorrow effort can be divided into two parts. The first one consists of the first two songs, rather straightforward ones and having that shamanic touch we mentioned several times. Then, working as a 7-minute-long dividing interlude, there's “Suden tunti,” a rather weird track: the first half is reminiscent of “Karhunkynsi,” with a strong, almost martial rhythm, but then it turns atmospheric and dragging. Do you know the Swamp Thing comics? If they had a soundtrack, it would be something similar. A bit ugly, if you ask me; it doesn't really convince me. They made a videoclip for this track which I'm pretty curious to see. The most obvious choice for a videoclip, musically speaking, would have been the title track, but who expects Moonsorrow to pick obvious choices?

The second half of the album is what I would call “the little Hävitetty.” It's two 16-minute songs that fit very well together, have a more similar atmosphere to each other than to the rest of the album (although they in no way feel misplaced), and I would even say they reach some complexity and development levels comparable to those of the 2007 album. Absolute beauty, a real wonder, especially the last one, and especially especially, the final melody and choir. This is going to be freaking apotheosis live—I don't know whether it will take over “Sankaritarina,” but I'm pretty sure it will reach a similar level. I mentioned Hävitetty, though, because of the complexity, but otherwise they aren't so similar: these two new songs aren't so atmospheric, but a bit more aggressive, a certain heavy part even reminding of “Tähdetön” from the previous album. If I had to complain, I would only say that a couple of blastbeats feel a bit forced/misplaced; and that the closing voice spoils the mood a bit, I think a fade out would be perfect here. These guys should learn some songwriting from me, seriously. On the other hand, I understand that it's not meant as the end of the song, but of the album. But still...

In short, we have an album that's as dark as the three preceding ones, no more, no less; the first half being relatively straightforward and easy to like, while the second half is more complex, more difficult to listen to, but once you feel at ease with it after a few listens, it has a lot to savour, is full of details and brings many different sensations. In other words: if you like last 12 years' Moonsorrow, you better preorder it now. What I wonder now is what they will come up with next time. Up to Hävitetty, each album was a surprise, for one reason or another; but time after time, surprising becomes harder, and I don't think we will see a style change again like that from Voimasta ja kunniasta to Kivenkantaja, let alone that from the latter and Verisäkeet. On the other hand, is that necessary? By now it seems they found a path they feel comfortable in, and even if they don't do crazy style changes any more, they never fail to bring new ideas into their music. The shamanic/swampy elements are not omnipresent, but they don't go unnoticed and they didn't exist before. So my question is still in the air: what's next? I hope we find out in less than five years.

Oh, and one more thing: I won't say where in the album the bells are, but they're the winnest win in the history of Finnish music. Really. Awesomazing moment.

Henri said those aren't bells, but ride cymbal and acoustic guitar combined. Whatever. A Matrix failure. They sound like bells. What the hell does he know anyway, he didn't even get a promo.




Check out HOME OF THE WIND, the forthcoming documentary about Moonsorrow's first 20 years of history, based on this biography. Crowdfunding campaign starting in May!