Review Summary: Rippikoulu abandon much of their death metal roots and embrace the doom.
With the popularisation of neo-OSDM during the latter half of the 2000s, perhaps it’s no surprise to see the very bands that inspired said movement once again picking up their axes in an attempt to recreate their now-revered efforts of yesteryear. The only problem, evidenced by recent flops from veteran acts such as Convulse, Purtenance and most recently Massacre, is that these nostalgia-trip records are almost never as good as their spiritual predecessors. This is why it’s refreshing to see an old-school metal act not just reemerging, but also reevaluating their musical priorities in the process. Rippikoulu’s Ulvaja
, to my delight, isn’t a Musta Seremonia
clone – perhaps the band were conscious of the fact that trying to rip themselves off would simply have resulted in colossal failure. Instead, Rippikoulu have almost entirely stripped back the death metal elements, save for the vocals, and produced an EP that could pass for straight doom, Finnish style.
As opposed to the bare bones production of Musta Seremonia
sounds lavish by comparison. A thick wall of sound is accentuated by omnipresent but tasteful synth lines, while vocalist Anssi Kartela joins forces with an unlisted female vocalist. The closer features an oddly harmonious duet between the two, as Anssi’s incredibly guttural mutterings are backed by deceptively soothing vocal melodies. The two longer tracks also make use of delicate piano work and even a handful of horns, strings and other pleasantries at various points throughout. Subtle layers and nuances continuously appear, disappear, overlap and coalesce to create a soundscape that toys with emotions and plays on your intuition. The opening title track – for most of its runtime – gives the impression of loss and sorrow, before the final passage evokes closure and relief. This contrasts rather dramatically with the closing track “Jää Hyvästi Kaunis Kesä”, as the mood of the EP gradually shifts from ominous to buoyant. Despite the EP’s inherently sinister aesthetic, the closer manages to instil feelings of optimism by virtue of its uplifting nature, relatively speaking.
Given the somewhat tight runtime, Ulvaja
is remarkably evocative, well executed and the ideas are fleshed out without any haste whatsoever. The only real blip comes in the form of the middle track “Loputon”, a speedier number that serves the purpose of separating the two doomy epics so as they could be as effective as possible. While “Loputon” is not a bad track, it simply pales in comparison to the songs that bookend it. Perhaps this was intentional on Rippikoulu’s part, because the EP’s menacing atmosphere is preserved well, however there is still little reason to revisit the track out of the context of the EP itself. Nevertheless, the whole experience feels like a very deliberate expansion of the band’s doomier side, complete with all the desirable modernisms while shirking the more objectionable elements that sometimes come with revival records like these. This is why Ulvaja
works as well as it does, because it showcases an older band reuniting and actually attempting to diversify from their original output.
is a fresh take on an esteemed band’s sound that will likely stand with its ancestor as opposed to fading into obscurity. Those who expected Rippikoulu
to release another Musta Seremonia
have likely had their prefrontal cortexes obliterated by it and are unaware such a work cannot be replicated. The band were mindful of this, knowing that to even try would be setting themselves up for disappointment. Ulvaja
unmistakably pays tribute to its origins, but at the same time is an entity of its own, and an excellent piece of work in its own right.