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Waiting for this album I was pretty afraid of possible changes that may strike the band’s style. I wondered whether Pasi Koskinen cares about critique and if all those withering opinions about Kalmanto and Noitumaa moved him somehow. But now I’m relieved to see that they did not.
Yes, I’m saying that those severely criticized releases are of exactly the same quality as the previous ones. I’ve listened to each of their songs many times and I do not see (or rather I should say: hear) any difference of quality. To say Ajattara are doing the same stuff all the time is true. But it doesn’t mean stagnation (show me two songs which are hard to tell apart! Impossible; each is different, each is great or at least good), it means having their own style. Absolutely unique style. To change it would be to lose it (it frequently happens to bands who evolve). Moreover, when something is perfect already changing it would mean making it worse. And to me Ajattara is perfect.
What about Murhat then? It is way too short and that would be all about its faults. And music is as it has always been: very simple. Songs usually built around one main riff (Sokea Liha would be the best example) and drums… well, even I could become Malakis V, after some practice. And still – they are brilliant, damn heavy, hypnotic and strangely beautiful. I’d never say Ajattara’s music evokes aggression. Its tempo is too slow for this. It feels rather like being slapped in the face while stoned: you feel dazzled and weirdly pleased, not in pain.
The pleasure is even deeper thanks to Koskinen’s vocals. They’re amazing, a mixture of growling, hissing and whisper which sends shivers down your spine. I consider him the most skilled metal vocalist ever. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did those strange, sounding like coming from an abyss, vocals on Murheiden Kilta himself. His clean vocals are nice but its good he does not overuse them here (they appear in two songs only); at least it is not Amorphis. And of course one must mention the specific vomit-like sounds that appear in Ajattara’s songs from time to time; here in Ihmisen Luku. Very inspiring, really.
Although I like each song, there are three especially remarkable. These are Aura, Sokea Liha and Veljet. All are relatively vivid but each in a different way. Aura, my personal favourite here, has a very exotic, oriental feeling. Sokea Liha is a bit thrashy and hearing its beginning I’d never guess It’s Ajattara. And the chorus of Veljet with its repetitions of “ei” and “pois” just makes you feel like jumping.
Most of remarks above may be as well applied to any of their albums. I’m fine with that and don’t want anything new in this band. This is how I see Ajattara and how I want them to be.
Ajattara have been slacking off for years, first with the dispossessed 2007 album Kalmanto and then the folksier, mediocre inclinations of Noitumaa in 2009. With Murhat, they finally return to the form they all but abandoned after 2006's excellent but under appreciated Äpäre, and not a moment to soon. This is an effort full of the groove and bombast that made them such an incredible force through the dawning 21st century, by far the best project Pasi Koskinen (known here as Ruoja) has involved himself in since parting from Amorphis. It's not a complex formula, and that is why it works. Huge, churning guitars below Pasi's hostile native tongue barking, singing the woes of the world and igniting the very fires of hell behind the brows of both modern and ancient man.
The album title translates to 'Murders', and thought if fails to actually murder the listener, it certainly twists a few limbs off so that you'll need to pay a visit to the Emergency Room. The opener "Kunnes taivas meidät erottaa" should not be taken as representative for the album, for while it's not an atrocious song, and manifests a crass and bludgeoning atmosphere, the riffs are not all that interesting, though it's cool to hear Pasi bust out some of those old Amorphis clean vocals like he used on Elegy. After this track, the album picks up considerably, with the eerie "Ihmisen luku" and it's decrepit vocals, which hearken straight back to that delightfully demented 2001-2006 period where this band just shat blood and gold constantly. "H.A.I." is quite original, with a fucked choral intro and huge, dark tribal tones to the central, doomed groove, and then the bouncing mystique of "Aura" and ambient-gone-exotic-bruiser "Sokea liha" offer affirmation that Ajattara are right back where I want them.
It also holds together quite deep into the track list, with personal favorites arriving near the end like "Murheiden kilta" and its swaggering, simplistic brutality, or the driving, slow paced grind of "Apilas" which breaks out these melodic walls that cast titanic shadows over the bass and drums. The finale, "Veljet" uses repeated vocal phrasings to create a mug swinging pandemic in the listener, you want to ball your fist and crush and kill, much like the album title promised. A dark and focused Ajattara is really all I could hope for, and though Murhat isn't able to surpass some of its predecessors in the 32 minutes offered, it's towering production and underpinning evils will hopefully satisfy the band's long term fans who might have been disappointed these past few attempts.