REVIEW: MOONSORROW – “Jumalten Aika”
I have an affinity for Finnish bands. Maybe it’s something about their melancholic undertones that surrounding the particular sound and style that has emanated from that part of the world, but it has always enraptured me. Moonsorrow however, is one of those bands that I have never quite been able to grasp as strongly as some of the others, but with the release of their upcoming album Jumalten Aika however, that perception could change.
Opening with the title track, which translates into ‘The Age of Gods’, the band opens with some of their black metal roots, but then surprisingly, lessens them down in order to favor their folky side, but this isn’t to say that those elements have been removed entirely from this song. As the lyrics kick in a slower, almost marching pace sets in with the guitars sitting layered over keys, before transforming into a more upbeat section later in the song. The song builds and at the nine minute mark hits something as melodic and atmospheric as the likes of Wintersun, but before embracing that for too long, strips it back into that same chugging beat that was played initially. This song is incredibly transformative and establishes a good platform for the remainder of the album.
Ruttolehto incl. Päivättömän päivän kansa for me was a real standout track, opening with a group chant which steadily builds for 45 seconds before the instruments come crashing down over it. To describe this song is extremely difficult because it could be categorized into many genres as it employs many different elements, each combining to make it a truly unique song. On one hand, you have the dark undertones and typical layered guitar work that is synonymous with the band opening the song, before it transitions into something that is so folky and calm that it would be at home in a ‘Lord of the Rings’ film. That’s not it though, because just as you are about to get settled, the song transitions again and merges the two sections into something which sounds monumental. This track is bold, which isn’t necessarily a deviation off course from the band, as their music has always been bold, but this is next level. It’s this versatility of the band which really highlights their growth in the five years since their previous release, and quite frankly, tracks like this I could listen to in any mood, and at any time.
Bringing it back to a more typical sound of theirs; Suden Tunti channels every element that the band is so well loved for by slowing down, while slowing down the pace built from the previous songs. The song has the darker, aggressive undertones that you would expect from Moonsorrow, but also diverges into some really interesting folky parts. It’s definitely the more ‘toned down’ song on the album, as all the songs use more of an enveloping orchestral arrangements that, for me anyway, make them sound more complete. It could be the black metal influences taking precedence over their less jivey Folk metal which is the reason why I haven’t been able to completely embrace Moonsorrow, because this song falls a bit short for me, but as a contrast on the album, it has its place and works quite well.
Mimisbrunn is a track where everything comes together, becoming that moment in time where the band have delivered something which transcends their normal storytelling mantra and proceeds into something so grandiose and melodic, that it almost seems like the entire album was based around this song. Soaring melodies, coupled with sections of delicacy and grace instantly whisk you away into a faraway place and involve you in the story that the band is delivering. If a mission statement for any band was to enrapture its audiences, then this is the perfect example of how to not only do it, but do it so well.
Bringing everything together to close with Ihmisen Aika (Kumarrus pimeyteen) the band could have quite easily structured this (and about every other song on the album) into three parts. Where this song shines in comparison to the others is its transitional nature between its different sections, often employing clean guitars to slow the passage down before re embarking on the aural onslaught. Closing with a passage which is sure to firmly imprint itself into each listener’s mind for some time to come is the perfect sendoff for the album.
What this album does do, and do well, is grow on subsequent listens. With five tracks and a 70 minute run time, this album is something which, these days, is a time investment, but is also something that delivers on its core goal. This isn’t In Extremo, it isn’t Eluveitie, and it certainly isn’t Finntroll, but if you are after something that channels that pagan/folk vibe. Coupled with the darker undertones, then this album is for you.
That being said, if you are looking for an album that is revolutionary, or expecting something that will show a divergence from the band’s previously traveled territory, then you will be sorely disappointed. This is an album that throughout its duration, plots a steady course through to its end goal, and what this album lacks in innovation, it makes up for in its consistency, particularly to the faithful fans that it is aimed towards. Will this be an album I reach for to continually listen to? Probably not, but it did it take me on a journey to a faraway land and engage me as a listener, which is arguably the goal of any musician or band so to deem it anything less than successful, would be doing the album and the band a disservice.