Review Summary: An embodiment of the Scandinavian winter
Just as the snowy winter annually arrives in the Northern Hemisphere, every year for the last decade Tuomas Saukkonen has dispatched a new collection of Nordic metal. 2013 is no different, as Tuomas’ newest (and currently only) project Wolfheart now has a debut album to boast. Filled to the brim with cold melancholy, Winterborn
is a logical next step for Saukkonen, who has continuously drifted towards darker and more wintry atmospheres throughout his career. An enchanting piece of melodic death/doom, Wolfheart’s debut works as both a summation of Saukkonen’s previous work and the intro to a new chapter. During the last seven or so years, mainly through his side-projects, Saukkonen has forged his very own sound to set himself apart from everyone else. That sound, made unique by the distinctly cold Scandinavian melodies and Saukkonen’s trademark harsh vocals, has finally been stretched to near perfection on Winterborn
. While Saukkonen’s older works have been great in their own right for the most part, Winterborn
features the best mix of the ingredients that have made his albums so endearing. The omission of clean vocals is made less noteworthy by how well the rest of the elements and instruments gel in these songs. A thick rhythm section is paired with vast melodies and occasional bursts of black metal, as Saukkonen’s emotive growls and supplemental instruments (violins, acoustic guitar, piano) take the mix to a whole new level from an emotional perspective. Winterborn
grabs the listener with two hands, pulls him along, and then deserts him in a desolate Finnish forest covered in a thick layer of snow, where howling wolves and majestic elk roam free under the clear winter sky. It’s then up to the listener to journey through this magical wilderness in order to find a way back home, or to just find a way.
Saukkonen is one of those great artists who seemingly possesses a magic touch – any record featuring him is at worst listenable and at best outstanding. While fleshing out his sound, he has produced a number of solid albums during the years (Dawn of Solace’s The Darkness
being a personal favorite of mine). Winterborn
and Wolfheart in general seem destined to bring an end to Saukkonen’s current, side-project heavy era though, and look ready to introduce us to a yet uncertain but undoubtedly promising future. It is most probable that Saukkonen will continue to churn out melodic death/doom records akin to this one – he is, after all, so very good at it – but what kind of twists will they exhibit is to be seen. With Saukkonen cancelling all of his other projects for good and focusing solely on Wolfheart there is a feeling that even grander things are coming. For now though, Winterborn
is the culmination of the sound that he has been trying to perfect since the inception of Black Sun Aeon in 2008, resulting in a stimulating record filled with towering melodies and harboring an inherent disposition to elicit many a replay. Gripping mental images of dark groves and snowy landscapes are bound to ensue when this album is playing and Saukkonen’s self-generated tag "winter metal" is indeed the best descriptor for Wolfheart. As gallant and soul-penetrating as a northern wolf staring back at you, Winterborn
is one of the best melodic metal records to come out this year and to miss this independent release from Finland is to miss out big.