Review Summary: Highly atmospheric black metal that will appeal equally to traditional and non black metal fans with its strong epic and mystic flavor.
Misty mountain tops, foggy forests, treacherous shores and deep dark seas; oh and snow, lots of it, with blizzard beasts hiding in the background. This is how Havulinnaan
feels. Havukruunu describe their music as pagan black metal and that definition is fairly accurate as their debut lies somewhere between Viking and folk metal.
After putting out a number of demos and EPs, Finnish duo’s first full release sees them developing their brand of black metal even further. As mentioned earlier, there certainly are elements from the Viking era of Bathory scattered throughout the album and folk passages bringing to mind bands such as Wolfchant or a rawer and faster version of Ensiferum on tracks such as “Aavevalo”. Moreover, after listening to Havukruunu’s debut, one will probably spot the various similarities to Immortal and the classic metal influences on the guitar playing. As stated by the band, Manowar is one of their main influences (along with Bathory) and that shows on various moments, as what characterizes the whole album is a sense of melody.
There are classic heavy metal leads and riffs to be found, which is what makes Havulinnaan
an accessible listen for non-traditional black metal fans. In addition, the few acoustic passages on tracks such as “Rautalintu” and the title track enhance the sense of melody and help augment the contrast that is created throughout the album. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that one cannot find typical black metal elements – on “Tuuletar”, for example – such as blast beats, increased tempos and the tortured vocals. For that matter, the vocals are one of the highlights of the album, apart from the guitar playing which is phenomenal. The variety of vocals ranges from clean, to raspy and passionate screams. And even though they might sound a bit raw to some, they really add to the epic nature of the songs.
Havukruunu surely have not broken new ground with their debut, but by combining traditional elements, they have managed to provide a diverse album full of contrasting moments and a strong epic and mystic sense. As a result, the outcome of all the above, combined with cover art, make up for a highly atmospheric listen that works perfectly this time of the year.