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Goatmoon this year releases their third album, Varjot, 4 years after their previous full length album, Finnish Steel Storm. While Goatmoon's debut album, Death Before Dishonour failed to really capture my attention due to the extremely raw style, Finnish Steel Storm presented more polished performance, hence giving me certain high hopes for Varjot.
The acoustic guitar instrumental intro on Storming Through White Light lets listeners and fans of Goatmoon know what to expect, with the roar of thunder in the background and the folk-metal like chord-progression, and this is instantly proven to be so once the album begins proper, as folk metal references are present throughout the album, continuing on the path that was already set with Finnish Steel Storm both in terms of musical direction and the musicianship of mastermind BlackGoat Gravedesecrator on the album.
One of the first thing that one notices is the prominent improvement in the performance of the individual instruments, in particular the drumming on the album. While drumming on the band's debut album Death Before Dishonour was primitive and almost-amateurish and those on Finnish Steel Storm showed much improvement, it is on Varjot where it really shines, with not only quick and constant footwork, but one can tell that every roll that is executed is well-thought out and helps in further bringing out the enjoyment of the album. Awkward moments are also few, such as on the track Noidan verestä männikkö herää, where the snare-drum goes almost out-of-sync with the rest of the instruments.
As already mentioned, the folk influences are very clear and right from the opening track, Storming Through White Light, this is obvious as the guitar takes a backseat, taking the role of a rhythmic instrument, with a lead folk-inspired line being played above the chaos beneath instead. However, this is not to say that the guitars are neglected as, unlike previous releases, BlackGoat has focussed more on the individual instruments this time. For example, there are guitar-solos that display the capabilities of BlackGoat towards the end tracks like Storming Through White Light and Noidan verestä männikkö herää, worthy enough to be on neo-classical albums instead of a black metal album with the shred-friendly progression and fast tapping. Instruments such as the piano and the wind instrument such as on Abomination of Winter are also present, and they help to provide a unique and somewhat soothing touch to the cold and bleak music.
Although the folk metal influences are particularly strong on the album, there are still moments where it is pure, unadulterated Finnish-styled black metal, with many moments that remind the listener of fellow Finnish such as Satanic Warmaster and Horna, with the cold and somewhat desolate atmosphere in the music, such as on Quest for the Goat, sounding like it could come off an album like Satanic Warmaster's Nachzehrer album. Furthermore, the bass on the album at times provide an almost rock 'n' roll touch, such as on the moment when the guitars go quiet on Quest for the Goat and the bass becomes clearly audible. There are also times on the album where non-extreme metal references are brought to mind, such as the starting riffs of Varjo Valolta Suojelee, sounding like it came off Dream Theater's This Dying Soul, only executed in a folk metal style.
BlackGoat displays his versatility on his vocals as well throughout the album, mostly sounding like a cross between Sargeist's Hoath and Satanic Tyrant Werewolf, but on tracks like Varjo Valolta Suojelee, there are shouts that put a certain heroic feel into the music. In addition, clean vocals are also present on Valley of Shadows. Though black metal and clean vocals usually don't go well (especially on such raw styles of black metal), on Valley of Shadows the clean vocals are what brings out and further enforces the folk metal feel of the song.
Varjot is an extremely polished effort (in terms of musicianship and songwriting) by Goatmoon, and this album is certainly representative Finnish black metal and is recommended for fans of other Finnish bands such as the aforementioned Satanic Warmaster, Horna and the likes who are looking for Finnish-styled black metal with a touch of folk and pagan.