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Many great ideas here... But not quite enough. - 69%

Ilwhyan, March 28th, 2009

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.