Review Summary: More Finnish death/doom spewed forth from the blackest of hearts.
Finnish death/doom quintet Kuolemanlaakso are not the first band to be invoking early 1900's poetry and folklore into their wide barrage of conceptual ideas. Many other bands have made it a crystal clear fact in recent years that concepts as abstract and secretive as the Occult in fact make up a large proportion of their respective influences and passions. These aforementioned bands seem to be just as secretive as they make out until a passing fan of extreme metal happens to come across them. Kuolemanlaakso have not been around for long, and the band's second album, entitled Tulijoutsen
, has been released a mere fifteen months after its predecessor. Like the band's debut album, Tulijoutsen
is enriched with dark Gothic atmosphere protruding from hellishly grim guitar tones and a background of orchestrated music made seemingly evil by the tinkling of a piano. That's not exactly worlds apart from, say, the latest My Dying Bride EP, sure, but this musical style does indeed make Kuolemanlaakso appear more ambitious than amateurish.
Throughout each of the record's seven songs, clean vocals intertwine with sometimes forced harsh vocals, and at times, it does sound like a bit of a mundane mess. There are unfortunate flaws to be found in songs such as the monotonous “Musta” or the unnecessarily death metal-influenced “Me Vaellame Yössä”, and the biggest flaws seem to be where the band can't decide if they want to stick to one genre or the other. The thing is, there are instances where the songs, including the aforementioned, succeed beautifully enough without harsh vocals or churning riffs, as in the softer sections of both opener “Aarnivalkea” or its stunning successor “Verihaaksi”, but the guitar tone invites itself too soon into the recording and you're left wondering whether it was well-advised to do so. Whilst this isn't particularly bad, it simply proves that the band are trying too hard.
That said, the band's ambitions prove to be more effective than simply flawed. If you've ever listened to any of A Forest of Stars' material, then you can probably form a clear-cut image of Kuolemanlaakso's music in your head before pressing play. This is because the band's usage of poetry largely reflects the way in which lyrics are spoken, sung or roared.The fact that all the lyrics are written entirely in Finnish justifies the band's own heritage, something which Kuolemanlaakso's peers also tend to stick to. Contributing to the overall Gothic effects of the band's sound, harmonizing female vocals loom in the background of songs such as “Musta” and the brilliant acoustic melody (dark-tinged folk music for the masses) that is “Glastonburyn Lehto” (Not to be confused with the British festival of the same name). Mournful riffs plague the likes of epic closer “Kuolemanlaakso: Tuonen tähtivyo”, and the rest of the rhythm section, though never as prominent, still manages to invoke a sense of Gothic power in its wake. The drums are known to be powerful in rare intervals, such as the raw and heavy intro of "Me Vaellem Yössä", before hitting hard with a thunderous death metal assault which seems to avoid any instance of funeral doom the band may take on at any time.
This is all typical of a band wanting to produce the most evil sounds found deep within the death/doom metal genre, and for that reason there are certain people who will love this record for what it is, and not what they expect it to be. Kuolemanlaakso continue to fly the Finnish flag along with their peers as far as extreme metal sub-genres go, and perhaps with the next record they can wipe out the flaws which hold Tulijoutsen
back from being even greater than it actually is.