Review Summary: Grab your longsword, we're going barbarian hunting.
As much as I love 2015’s Havulinnaan
, there is admittedly a case for it falling foul of a certain degree of homogeneity. With obvious influence from Immortal and Bathory, the Finns created a satisfying chunk of epic riffy black metal, evoking imagery of long-past battles in the snow; however, they certainly developed a formula and stuck with it, and so picking highlights out was (and remains) undeniably tricky. Kelle Surut Soi
’s immediate introduction, however, hints that they might have made some changes, as gutsy acoustic fingerpicking adds a stunning (if, as it conspires, sparingly used) new weapon to Havukruunu’s songwriting arsenal. Overall though, opener ‘Jo Näkyvi Pohjan Portit’ more-or-less continues where Havulinnaan
left off, and furthermore offers a reasonable insight into the way much of its runtime plays out. Beyond its neo-folk beginnings, the more familiar hail of bass drum blasts, tremolo-picked leads and unmistakeably Viking-influenced chorus come forth, eventually accompanied by Stefan’s sickening rasp (using the coarseness of the Finnish language to maximum effect). The duo seem content to play around with these components to create a distinctly pagan aesthetic throughout, developing an atmosphere as haunting as its forefather. Galloping riffs, moments of apoplexy and stern Norse chants all commingle as par for the course, on basically every track; consequentially, definite similarities emerge from track to track.
However, more than a cursory listen reveals it’s harsh to see Kelle Surut Soi
as just the same song recycled eight times over. The vocals on ‘Vainajain Valot’ stand out, closer to howls than any other performance on the album; after the first three tracks of Stefan’s thick, confident delivery the switch to a faltering shriek makes for a particularly harrowing highlight. In a bid to break up its pacing, the more deliberate ‘Vaeltaja’ sits between ‘Vainajain Valot’ and the equally furious ‘Myrskynkutsuja’ (which, as an aside, has a stupendous lead section), and the omission of harsh vocals during most of the self-titled closer works well with its slower pacing, adding a fitting sense of sobriety as the journey approaches its end.
Kelle Surut Soi
is epic, but not in the way that tales of glistening dragonslayers are; as opposed to the shining knights of old, this one’s weather-bitten, dresses in matted furs and has almost certainly bitten another man’s throat out at least once. While criticisms regarding homogeneity can be levelled, as towards predecessor Havulinnaan
, Kelle Surut Soi
is above all monstrously good fun - managing to successfully do away with my concept of time in the process. For (apparently) a little over 50 minutes, there’s a genuine sensation of transportation as I feel as though I’m part of, even as a bystander, Havukruunu’s unforgiving yet magnificent world.