We always hear about how metal is dead. The future of metal is doomed. Metal will forever toil in mediocrity. Well sure, that might be true if you're only paying attention to bands like Trivium and don't open your eyes and look to the underground. Metal is far from dead, and is actually quite alive. Bands like Children of Bodom, DragonForce, and Sonata Arctica have risen up and have been doing great things for years now. Back in the underground they've been replaced by younger bands like Thunderstone, Cellador and Kiuas. Maybe I'm not seeing the bigger picture, but personally, I couldn't be happier with some of the younger bands I've discovered. Kiuas in particular have been one of the new bands I've been impressed with the most. The Finnish quintet formed in 2000, though it wasn't until 2005 that they were able to release their first album, The Spirit of Ukko. But damn, it's one hell of an album.
Right from the opening seconds of the epic title track, it's clear that this band can play. And they're not content with just letting listeners know that once, no they come back and prove their case again and again. There is not a wasted moment on the album, as the band reaches out for new listeners with their unique brand of power metal (hey…you don't hear that everyday). At times it seems as if the young Finnish band incorporates elements from every sub-genre of metal, as you can here a definite influence from thrash, death, and black metal to go along with their power metal dominance. These influences are especially clear on tracks such as The Spirit of Ukko and On the Wings of Death We Ride. They add quite the variety into Kiuas's music, and makes their debut even more enjoyable. Well placed keyboard and guitar solos help spice up the music, which for the most part is dominated by energetic riffing from guitarist Mikko Salovaara. Musically, The Spirit of Ukko is definitely superb, something impressive for a debut album.
Another impressive aspect of the album is vocalist Ilja Jalkanen. Throughout the album he shows off his vocal talents by employing several singing styles. His most prominent styles are both the familiar high pitched power metal technique that should be expected on this kind of album, and a raspier, almost shout like style. Unsurprisingly, I enjoyed the cleaner vocals more than his raspier efforts, but I do think he did excellently on both counts. But Jalkanen's vocal versatility doesn't stop there. In many of the songs, Kiuas' vocalist also employs a death metal growl. While perhaps not the greatest at the harsh vocals, he definitely does a solid job when he chips some growls in, as they are very effective.
There are but two elements in The Spirit of Ukko which are not as up to snuff as the rest of the album. The first is the production. While not as terrible, the production on this album is a mixed bag. At times, like during Until We Reach the Shore, the production is razor sharp. But in other tracks, like the title track for example, the distortion is fairly fuzzy. Though not bad enough to take away from the music, it could certainly be better. The other complaint has to do with the pretty generic lyrics. Kiuas sings about Finnish mythology. Though I don't keep tabs on how many band's sing about the Finnish variety of folklore, lines such as "Let's bring back the good old times/When the true gods used to reign the northern skies" got old quite awhile ago. I can't really say I like the lyrics, but that's power metal for you.
Kiuas' debut album, The Spirit of Ukko, has easily been one of the best debut album's I have ever listened to. The music is incredibly consistent, and the band never stumbles in the middle of a song. Definitely a big surprise, as Kiuas makes a great impression on listeners, and look to have a very promising career on the horizon. With bands like Kiuas, Thunderstone, and Cellador, in addition to the already established younger bands, the genre's future looks bright, and I am definitely looking forward to see what they come up with next. Get this album as soon as possible.
The Spirit of Ukko
On the Wings of Death We Ride
Until We Reach the Shore