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Though Ajattara is notorious for being such a huge one-trick pony, their earlier efforts show some great ideas, innovation, and manage to provide great listening experiences time after time. The music is extremely dark, evil and sinister, but very simple and pretty one-dimensional in the end. Ajattara seems to use the same mould to create their songs, which is a method known for sometimes creating great hits, but as usual, the majority of what Ajattara manages to put out fits the category of miss much more aptly.
However, it seems that when it comes to ”Kuolema”, they almost nailed it. ”Kuolema” not only features their best songs to date, but also manages to be by far more consistent and enjoyable as a whole than any of their other releases. Classics like the album opener ”Antakaa Elää” are breathtaking on the first listen, and manage to keep their appeal almost infinitely. Extremely sinister but not without beauty, however eerie, the song's doomy nature and the atmospheric chorus create a dark and evil mood unlike anything Ajattara has written. More brutal songs like ”Surman Henki” and ”Haureus” rely greatly on heavy, doomy guitar riffing, succeeding in giving an extremely malevolent and violently evil vibe, although the keyboards sometimes seem a little over the top, not unlike the extremely grotesque lyrics. Put into basics, ”Kuolema” mostly features very riff-based, black metal-esque heavy music with groovy overtones and great emphasis on mood and atmosphere, and in particular trying to sound evil and dark.
At a quick glance, the most notable aspect of Ajattara's music is Pasi Koskinen's vocals. His tortured, despair-ridden screams, are capable of both expressing very dark emotion and creating a very murky atmosphere. His style of black metal vocals is very unique to the point that it's hard to tell what kind of a singing technique he is using to produce such a violent and evil sound. The guitar riffs are fairly simple, and clearly have only one purpose: to sound evil. Not that it doesn't succeed, but the downtuned, doomy riffs all played from the low end of the fretboard are not something to keep a fan of black metal interested for the entire duration of the album, even if there are some great riffs, like in ”Huoran Alla”. This is probably the reason Ajattara has keyboards. Indeed, keyboards is the lead instrument here, an although the sounds are sometimes almost ridiculous and the melodies rather over the top in how evil they attempt to sound, this arrangement actually works for some time at least. However, it's still a fact that Ajattara's music gets old rather quickly.
Even if ”Kuolema” definitely features many of the best ideas by the band to date, and also comes off as the most consistent of their releases, there isn't enough here. There is simply too much plodding along and reusing the same old formula for this album to be good, especially when many of the elements frequently heard here are outdated as they are, or simply not worth using in the first place. There is too little inspiration altogether – it's not just the guitar riffs, but everything about ”Kuolema” and Ajattara in general that only tries to come off as evil as possible. It's a worn-out and old gimmick. But all things considered, Ajattara has managed to create some surprisingly good music. In particular, some of the hits off ”Kuolema” are great songs in most ways, like the incredible opener, as well as the closing track ”Rauhassa”, with its very melancholic, partially cleanly sung, chorus and great atmosphere. The better songs here truly last and maintain their appeal, for which Ajattara truly deserves praise, but sadly, a fair share of the album has none to begin with. There's only so much a songwriter can achieve by using the same formula over and over, no matter how unique.
The more I listen to this album, the better it gets.
It took them a little time, but they actually recorded one of the best melodic black metal albums of 2003. I didn’t like the previous album (Itse), I actually couldn’t stand hearing it. Something made me listen to this several times though.
I think one of the most apparent changes between their debut and this album is the natural feeling they spread on Kuolema. Chilling cold riffs & vicious vocals drive this album forward quite nicely. The spattered-out style vocals (best heard in the chorus of “Surman Henki”) are new, and they completely blow me away. Sometimes, they tend to repeat themselves, but that’s just because near every song has the same tempo. But this type of slow black metal is hard to get bored to, especially if it hooks you from the start. They’ve reused an old demo track. “Helvetissä on Syntinen Taivas” (In hell there’s a sinners heaven) wasn’t featured on Itse, which is strange, because it’s from their first demo (which carries the same name). Anyhow, it probably turned out for the better, because it’s one of the best tracks here.
If they would’ve varied more from track to track, this would’ve been a solid album. Standout tracks include “Antakaa Elää” for it’s simple, yet forceful addictiveness and for being one of the catchiest songs here, “Surman Henki” for it’s undisputable chorus, “Helvetissä on Syntinen Taivas” because it’s just an awesome track, and finally “Rauhassa” which is a perfect way to end the cd. “Rauhassa” also features a little bit of clean vocals with harmonies. It sounds pretty great, it does!
If you seek slow black metal music, this is a perfect example.
Ajattara is Pasi Koskinen's(aka Rouja) new side project and ultimately the reason I decided to even give this band a try. I must say I was pleasantly surprised although Rouja has failed to disappoint before. Not instantly categorizable, I would best describe it as dark/haunting metal with extreme vocal elements. The best way I can describe the vocals are a cryptic mixture of black scream/death growl with very few clean vocal passages(mostly on last track). What is most shocking is that the guitars on this album are surprisingly slow-mid tempo which eliminates any death/black comparison but ultimately its the haunting keyboards and Rouja's unique vocals that define the bands sound on this album.
A few complaints I have include song lengths, simplicity and repetition within each song. I suppose simplicity is somewhat essential for this sound but they could have made the tracks a bit longer than 3 minutes a piece. The keyboards add a darker, more ethereal atmosphere but if you remove them guitar riffs could range from doom, to mid tempo metal to what could possibly be considered the occasional standard nu metal riffage. Through all this, I find the music to be surprisingly catchy and certainly an enjoyable listen. Ajattara have went their own way and not tried to create a traditional imitator extreme band and that I commend them for. Rouja's new side project has certainly created a niche because there are no immediate comparable bands so if you are looking for almost a dark and spooky type metal that makes Coal Chamber look like boy(girl) scouts, give this a try. Recommendations : Antaka Elaa, Ikiyossa and Rauhassa. Encourage doom fans in particular to check out Helvetissa on Syntisen Taivas.
The follow up of Ajattara's Itse, is outstanding. This new release kicks off where the last album left off, still playing the black/death/doom, enhanced with ethereal keyboards. The music is a bit more slow moving than that of Itse, but still sometimes very groovy. However, this album doesnt seem to have as strong of a sence of atmosphere as Itse. It is almost a repetition of the last album, rather than a progression, but fear not, if you liked the first you will like the second, nothing wrong with finding a formula that works, and sticking to it. Ajattara are definitally a formula that works