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Kuolemanlaakso is a five piece Finnish death doom act that was formed in 2010. They released their debut full length, Uljas Ussi Maailma, through Svart Records in late 2012, which featured forty-seven minutes of stripped down death doom with accessible, yet heavy as hell, grooves. Once again through Svart Records, the band’s second release is an EP titled Musta Aurinko Nousee, featuring twenty-two minutes over four tracks (which were left over from their debut recording). Fitting alongside nicely with their debut release, this EP further showcases the band’s somewhat barebones style of death doom. Translated as “Black Sun Rising”, this EP shows Kuolemanlaakso as an act to watch out for.
The base of Kuolemanlaakso’s music is a form of death doom that is very minimalistic and primal. For the most part the drums and bass lines seem to plod along at a snail's pace, but they stay powerful and heavy hitting. Without a doubt the focus is on the strong guitar work, which features heavy, dragging grooves and melodic segues. The opening track, “Me Vaellamme Yössä”, showcases how the band maintains catchy riffs with a slow-paced approach, which is extremely reminiscent of later era Moonspell (sans Gothic elements) or Ajatarra (sans black metal elements). While the entire album plods along, with slow to mid-paced dirges, the band is able to keep it interesting through the entire offering. “Tulenväki” shows this, as the band speeds up with a rollicking double kick drum pattern and trem picked guitars, before throwing on the brakes and slamming your head against the windshield, by slowing things back down to a slow paced groove and “Kalmoskooppi” pulls out some airy keyboard accoutrements, giving a spacey, cosmic feel to the track. The vocals, courtesy of Kotamäki (Swallow the Sun, ex-Alghazanth), are a strong mix of death metal styled growls and raspy, black metal vocals, all performed in their native Finnish language. They're not afraid to throw you for a loop, with their occasional bursts of speed or sporadic melodic segues.
While Kuolemanlaakso's music is usually a slow type of groove, it's remarkably heavy. I contribute the heaviness to the sheer power and force of the drums and bass, as every cymbal strike and snare hit is hard and forceful, and the bass is thick, showcasing a constant rolling. The music is rather stripped down and bare bones, but it's superbly crafted. Granted, this EP is only a little over twenty minutes long, there are no moments that feel haphazardly thrown together or out of place. Perhaps the album's strongest song is their cover of “Musta Aurinko Nousee”, which was originally performed by Finnish legend Juice Leskinen. The band's style is still present, but it's more melodic and melancholy, aided by crooning, deep vocals which, again, call to mind the likes of Moonspell. It's an excellent track that shows the band's versatility (if this EP didn't show enough of that already) and suffices as a fitting end to a great EP.
This is not much different than the band's debut full length, so if you've heard that and liked it, you will, no doubt like this as well. Musta Aurinko Nousee is a solid addition to this up and coming band's discography. This is a more forceful take on the death doom of My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost without all the “Woe is me...” theatrics combined with the extreme nature of Moonspell and the darkened, yet heavy grooves of Ajattara. Kuolemanlaakso is one of the brightest newcomers to this dusty genre in some time, so give this this the time that it deserves.
Written for The Metal Observer: