Review Summary: Kauan doing their thing with excellent results again
Kauan have delved deep to create this latest sonic journey, being inspired by a ‘90s letter posted in a Russian magazine requesting more information regarding a certain past geological expedition. In the 1930s, in an attempt to create new commercial routes around the Arctic Ocean, the village of Tiksi was born in Northern Russia. While blasting the permafrost there to create the docks, a ship carcass was found. The discovery was odd, especially since there were no towns anywhere near. Government officials were deployed to gather information and the captain’s log was confiscated first. Any of the people there who dared asking about it would be sent to other construction sites or worse, to gulag. Decades later, the grandson of a worker there, who also penned the above mentioned letter was looking for answers. The story’s narrative arc almost begs for a soundtrack from the quintet.
Of course, you don’t need to research the plot behind the songs on Ice Fleet
in order to enjoy it, but these details sure add to the surrounding excitement. Musically, we receive a thrilling summary of the band’s explorations over the years, with a stronger emphasis on Sorni Nai
. The trademark mix of mournful leads swaying over atmospheric synthesizers and melancholic piano touches once more creates the foundation of this 7-part epic. Slowly unfolding, ‘Enne’ feels akin to a gentle prelude to this cursed affair, leading into the soaring ‘Taistelu’. The powerful keyboard layers lead all instruments, until they give way to a sorrowful piano coda. Two songs in and you are barely scratching the surface of the record. The doom metal and hellish growls do make a return here, albeit in small doses. Following a lovely build-up, Anton delivers his uncanny vocals on ‘Maanpako’ wrapped in hazy reverb, alongside urgent guitar riff washes and celestial piano leads. I wish they included a larger amount of moments such as these, but the guys opted mostly for breezy, melodic segments instead.
As we move forward, centerpiece ‘Raivo’ is the most intense cut here, boasting rich guitars and wandering synths. The returning sonic motifs contribute to the cohesiveness of this massive epic, whereas the sharp change halfway through can easily be considered the climax of the story. I just love how huge the final minutes of the song ended up. The calm parts seamlessly intertwine with raging ones, reflecting the narrative ups and downs. Meanwhile, ‘Ote’ & ‘Hauta’ gradually signal the comedown, sharing a round of lovely clean vocals, as well as a couple of grandiose, pounding build-ups. Maintaining a rueful tone, this is the end, everyone on Ice Fleet
died. There is nothing beautiful about the way things went down and Kauan’s portrayal of the journey’s key moments is gorgeous. They keep it abstract enough so you are free to imagine the itinerary and aftermath. In similar fashion to previous records, it takes a number of listens to truly grasp it, but it’s definitely worth the patience. Unfortunately, nobody revealed any answers regarding the crew on the ship or its destination. However, it is speculated that members of the Russian Imperial Army and various aristocrats were fleeing their homes in the 1920s. Leaving Murmansk, they were probably bound for America via Vladivostok.