Over the centuries people have tried to domesticate many wild animals. In some cases (for example horses or dogs) it has been successful, but in some the humans have failed. But even the so called domesticated animals are unpredictable and somewhat wild since they have a mind of their own and they are still in control of their lives. So while you may have a cute little doggy next to you on one second, make a wrong move, and at the next it shall bite your legs off. This album is overly similar to that description. While it is not as raw as Metsatoll's previous efforts and is somewhat mollified, it is still full of that natural, powerful energy that Metsatoll has, and behind a crafted sound there is a raging beast.
Metsatoll's previous work, titled Lahinguväljal näeme, raisk!, was a collection of their past works and was notable for its very raw guitar sound, very unmelodic vocals and a huge lack of bass. The guitar sound was even a bit monotone and while Markus' voice is very strong it seriously lacked melody. Lahinguväljal näeme, raisk! was released in 2006 and after that Metsatoll took a break from recording, started touring and just kicked back for a while. In 2008 they returned with their last-and-best-to-date record called Iivakivi. Iivakivi only has 10 songs on it, but at least most of them are well executed and have nice diversity, a trait what Metsatoll's previous albums lacked. From the opening track "Iivakivi" to the closing track "Äikesepoeg" this is an album that is constantly hanging in between "raw" and "domesticated" and since we are dealing with Metsatoll, a band composed of 4 native, fierce Estonian men it should not come as a surprise that at the end of the album it is clear that you can't domesticate this band, regardless how hard you try.
The opening track "Iivakivi" is a nice track but provides kind of a slow start for the album. With the slow guitar riffs, nice bass picking and sinister vocals it is a good track, but the bridge of this track is incredibly boring and the tempo of the song could be a lot faster or just better composed. Even the fierce drumming that is otherwise a treat on this album is overly protruding on "Iivakivi" and ruins the content of the song a bit too much. But a slow start doesn't right away mean that this album is going to be a disappointment. Already the second track titled "Merehunt" brings the essence of Metsatoll right to the table. The drumming on that track is a treat and features some great tom and cymbal work. The vocals of Markus are strong as always but his vocal capabilities have increased a lot since the last record. Now his singing is actually very enjoyable to listen to. Another thing that greatly adds to this track is the usage of bagpipes. They give the song a really nice atmosphere and are a vital part in the song's melody section. One thing that is seen right away on this track and is a vast improvement from all the other works of Metsatoll is the bass usage. Now it is much more audible and the great downtuned picking is a lot of fun to listen to. Being a vital part in the rhythm section, the improved bass greatly adds to the tracks found on Iivakivi and makes for a much better listen then Metsatoll's previous efforts.
This album also has two definite standout tracks that are very professional and have perfect musicianship. The first one is called "Hetk Enne Lahingut" that in translation means "A Moment Before Battle". It is a very patriotic song talking about Estonians fighting for their freedom while being severely outnumbered as it always was for them. Estonians always had to fight for their freedom and existence, but it was hard due to the fact that about 50% of them were no warriors, just usual farmers, peasants and workmen. It once again features great drumming which always has a nice tempo, good basslines, and as special instruments, folk-kannel and bagpipes are used. The lyrics are pretty deep and meaningful and the powerful, sad vocals provided by Markus are so high-powered that while listening to the song, you can find yourself in the epic battle at one moment.
The other standout song is titled "Va Lendva" ( in translation it is called "Witching Arrow") and it strucks the listener with fast paced ferocious folk metal. Angry voice of Markus, the fast, double bass driven drumming, groovy basslines and nice guitar plucking/riffing which are all done in very high speeds are a pleasure to listen to. Lyrics filled with anger and rage only add to this song ( if you can understand them of course) and make it even better. The bridge featuring nice bass plucking and whistles, slows the tempo down for a moment and then leads to the final part of the song which features some nice heavy riffing and ends the song with great energy and power.
So it all seems to be good right? About 7-8 of the songs are all worth a listen. So what are the minuses of this album? For first there is the fact that while the bass playing has gone way uphill, the guitars in general could throw a bit more punch into the songs. Some part's in songs found in here just cry out for some nice heavy riffage. While the drumming and bass playing are very nice and always present, the guitars could be turned up a bit. The second flaw is that while the lyrics are nice and deep and sometimes even poetic, most of the listeners will have no idea of what Markus is singing about since all the lyrics are in Metsatoll's native language, Estonian. And that's a shame since the lyrics really are good in this one. Thirdly, some of the songs are a bit overdone. Songs like "Veelind" and "Isa Süda" could have been cut shorter since now they seem too overdone. The final flaw is that sometimes the guitar lines and heavy riffage parts should be a bit more complex. The basslines start to get a bit tedious at the end of the album and this album could have a bit more variation in riff structures. While, like said above, the song structures are pretty variable, the riffing is still a bit cyclic.
All in all though, this is a fine folk metal album. Covering the roots of Estonians and talking about fertility stones, epic battles for freedom, Estonian forebears and meanings of life. Mix all these topics with the rawish sound of Metsatoll and the result is Iivakivi, which should make every single metalhead, who likes folk metal, bang their head and sing along with Metsatoll.