Tenhi
Valkama


4.5
superb

Review

by Atari STAFF
June 10th, 2023 | 86 replies


Release Date: 06/09/2023 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A refuge from your burdens

There’s no easy way to kick off a review for the legendary Tenhi after a twelve-year stretch since Saivo, so I’m just gonna go for it. Valkama is the product of stubborn patience. Not necessarily because of the time gap, but rather the structure and pace of the songs themselves. I don’t remember the last time I heard an album in less of a hurry than this; many of these moments seem to just exist as naturally as the grass grows in your back yard. There are some sweeping cinematic highs – storms and obstacles – but much of Valkama coasts on the minimalistic and dark folk stylings Tenhi have been experts at since the late ‘90s. There’s been a tweak to the dark aspect, but we’ll get to that.

The creative process behind Valkama is intriguing right off the bat, and it makes for the most personal Tenhi album to date. It started out as a tale about escaping a ravaged and blackened settlement – the only way forward through harsh waters which lead to an island of the dead. But Tenhi had to ask themselves a hard question during the writing process: what do you do when your fairy tale starts to mirror real world horrors around you? Several adjustments of their canoe later, Finland’s folk giants had their eyes set on a new destination – one with quite a bit more illumination to light their path. What was once a sorrowful and dreary journey was given new life and optimism. The album title translates to “shelter”, and this album is an audible timeline of the many years it took to reach that special place.

Tenhi’s 6th official LP exudes a sense of inner peace with its lush mixture of acoustic guitars, strings, flutes, and keys – sometimes topped off with hushed and yearning vocals. It’s still full of the eerie soundscapes the band have a knack for – chants and flutes intertwine for the more urgent, ritualistic strokes of “Rintamaan – but there’s no denying the air is warmer this time around. The band wrings as much emotion as possible from even their most naked branches. The sparse “Kesavihanta” is a medley of soft guitars that features a Tim Burton-esque choir. While “Rannankukka” makes a splash with a steady, tribal drum pattern. It’s all the glorious little things that make this album such a magnetic ride.

Throughout Valkama, the listener is constantly reminded of the power of the piano; intricate, weeping notes carry more weight than an instrumental assault ever could. The album is reflective throughout, but at its best, it’s simply revitalizing. “Hele” has a special glow to it as it signals one of the most majestic moments of the journey: that stretch past the halfway point where the crew are overwhelmed by the stars illuminating the vast sky. Each delicate note cuts through the fog with unmistakable clarity. It’s quite insane how vivid everything is here – every color of the horizon and ripple in the water. As tempted as I am to take the time to decipher every lyric, I don’t have to. With Tenhi, the emotive songwriting does the heavy lifting in that regard; you never have to second-guess your surroundings.

I love that Valkama seems to expand on the artwork of the band’s Folk Aeshetic compilation. A skeleton adorned with flowers is pretty much a flawless representation of the band’s sound: always finding the raw beauty in even the most melancholic or frightening moments. In many ways, this feels like the ultimate meditation album. In a world so obsessed and numbed by instant gratification, it seeks out the exact opposite. This makes it an escape that’s as demanding as it is powerful, but so very rewarding. “Aina sininen aina” is the moment you can finally see your destination, and it fittingly contains some bright guest vocals to go with its soothing and slow-building melody. The vibes of floating through the clouds are strong here, with layered choral singing over the most delicate swell of bass and raindrop piano effects. As a bookend, it provides a welcome contrast to the more melancholic and wistful “Saattue”, the most expansive track on Valkama.

If we’re being real, pointing out these specific songs seems like a cruel injustice in the face of a vast and poignant 70-minutes. Valkama is clearly meant to be digested in its entirety, with as few distractions as possible. It thrives by invoking a connection to nature, tapping into our spiritual side we sometimes forget even exists (or at least I do, I need to get out more). By the time you row into the shore of your destination, you’ll be exhausted, but in a good way. There’s no shortage of discovery or passion on to be found here. Even after such a long time since their last album, they’ve managed to create something as impactful and therapeutic as anything else in their career. You can legitimately feel the amount of dedication and love that was poured into every minute. What an experience. There’s little doubt Tenhi are still the holy grail of earthy and celestial folk music – this time with just a bit more light to navigate the shroud of darkness.



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user ratings (80)
3.8
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
Atari
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2023


27945 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Tenhi are BACK. Can only hope I did this wonderful album even a portion of the justice it deserves



https://tenhi.bandcamp.com/album/valkama



Willie
Moderator
June 10th 2023


20212 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I've never heard this band/artist before, but I'm listening to "Saattue" right now on their Bandcamp page and I like it. Putting into a context I can connect with, it's like a little bit of post rock, a little bit of Kveldssanger, a little bit of In the Nursery, and a thick emotive atmosphere that I can't really describe just yet.



Excellent review, by the way. Adding this album to my 2023 playlist.

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2023


5841 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Beautiful review Atari!



After a few listens, this is up there with Tenhi's best. It feels a little less "rustic" than their other works, which seems like it would be a bad thing, but really isn't. Just as dreamily meditative than ever, just from a different angle.

Elynna
June 10th 2023


1430 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Tenhi further solidifying their legendary status with this record.



Your review certainly did it justice!

TalonsOfFire
Emeritus
June 10th 2023


20969 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Great review! Had no idea these guys were back, I happened to just recently get into a listening resurgence of them and Kauan too. Glad to hear this might be one of their best.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2023


60252 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Nice, peeped Maaaet a couple of weeks ago and dug it enough to chew on it a little longer, but excited to read/hear this

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2023


10701 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Finland, folk, progressive rock? Instantly sold.



Folks should also check out compatriot outfit Malady, their entire line of albums.



Will read asap.

Willie
Moderator
June 10th 2023


20212 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

My original comparison based off the opening track turned out to be mostly wrong, but it didn't change how good this ended up being.

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2023


5841 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Shooting straight to best new music in no time!

paradoxical
June 10th 2023


17 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

One of the best reviews I have read in a while. The words evoke the imagery as a companion to the music.

Pho3nix
June 10th 2023


1586 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Awesome, I had totally forgotten about this release



Thanks for the rev! +1

Pho3nix
June 10th 2023


1586 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Also I love the album art

Atari
Staff Reviewer
June 10th 2023


27945 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

ooh, a rare Willie 4! I'd agree there are some similarities to Kveldssanger at least. glad you enjoyed it



@Sunny: cheers bud! that 4.2 is looking mighty fine and def helped land this beauty on bnm already ;)



@Elynna: hell yeah - I appreciate that! you have some of the best taste on the site for this style of music



@Talons: thanks! It's funny you mention Kauan because the first track on here actually reminds me of them a good deal. hopefully you enjoy this as much as the initial crowd has



@Johnny: aye, Maaaet rules! This is a lot more vast and less anxious than that album overall I'd say but hope you enjoy it. won't lie I'm slightly nervous it will get the Musk Ox treatment from you lmao



@Voivod: my man! You'll have to let me know what you think



@paradoxical: wow, thanks! you just made my day, I'm really glad to hear the review did it for you.



@Pho3nix: much love! yeah the album art is lovely. I actually had Folk Aesthetic as my avatar a few years ago and was very stoked it carries a similar vibe





Sowing
Moderator
June 10th 2023


43943 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Never heard of these guys before but now I'm excited to hear this. Nice work.

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2023


18256 Comments


Oh cool, this looks like it was made for my 2023 mandatory listens.

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
June 11th 2023


18244 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

album slaps. review, obviously, slaps.

DoofDoof
June 11th 2023


14975 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Need to check this

bnelso55
June 11th 2023


1445 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Excellent review! You definitely capture what is happening with this album, which is not an easy thing to do. This will be my album of the year. I doubt anything will top this one for me.

MarsKid
Emeritus
June 11th 2023


21030 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Must have been in a shite mood when I first found this band, revisited Maaaet and it was wonderful. This is on track to be similarly good.



Excellent review as well my friend.

snakesc
June 11th 2023


17 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I'm getting Kauan vibes



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