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Mokoma is an interesting band from many aspects. They started out as an indie rock band, and turned to probably the best contemporary finnish thrash band on their now-legendary Kurimus album; Kurimus was very good, old-schoolish thrash, with a fun attitude. The follow-up, Tämän Maailman Ruhtinaan Hovi, was already a bit more complex album, and took a while to open up. Kuoleman Laulukunnaat takes a further step into still darker grounds, aptly described by its title, which roughly means "Death's Singing Grounds" in English. But the darkness is of a highly personal kind, and makes me uneasy.
Musically the band has moved to faster, harder and a bit more technical style. The songs are far more complex than those magnificient sing-along hits on Kurimus, and their style has moved from the easy-going old Exodus-Anthrax-Slayer mixture to somewhat more european or german aggression with traces of modern US thrash and a bit of something else. Angrier, darker, and definitely much more difficult to listen.
Marko Annala, the band's mastermind, uses less of his clean vocals than before, and his excellent angry screaming and shouting adds a further layer of gloom on the already dark ground laid by the band. On the surface the lyrics seem like a continuation of the TMRH thematics. There are deeper undercurrents, however. In some interviews at the time of the album's release, Annala confessed that he had had severe problems in a personal relationship when he wrote to album's lyrics, which has been widely interpreted as a divorce. He commented that sometimes, seeing the lyrics he had written on the previous day, he'd seen a darkness and wondered if it had really come from his own inside.
From the very first spin on the day the album was released until just a few days ago, I felt a strange uneasiness whenever the album was in the player. It's good, technically near perfect, and there are a few very catchy songs among the darker, more demanding majority. It took two live gigs, incidentally the first and the last ones of the album tour, to realize what the source of the uncomfortable feeling is.
In the end, the problem and the value of the album is in the darkness. Now, usually in metal, darkness, death, decay and related subjects can be considered defaults, and unless the lyrical ambition of the writer dictates otherwise, they can always be relied upon to fill the album booklet's pages. Not so here. No, Annala pours out a sorrowful darkness that doesn't stem from demons, serial killers or war and destruction. He has really squeezed out a new, bitter kind of darkness, of an angry an personal kind, and the gloom has spread it's tentacles to the instrumental parts of the album. This stuff, while innocently Kurimus-like on the surface, is a poetic outburst of personal sadness, frustration, bitterness and anger. I cannot quite put my finger on any specific point or verse, but it is there, underneath the surface.
There's loss, bleak hope, sorrow and desperation, written by a grown man in turmoil, and the unveiled soul is visible to anyone who wishes to take a look. So very personal, so honest. It makes me uneasy, and it should do so to anyone who can understand the lyrics and listen to the music with his brain and mind, not only the ears.
Is it good? Yes. Maybe, in ten years from now, Laulukunnaat will be remembered as the angry therapy album. Now, too soon after its release, it is just a technically brilliant album, and poetry works wonders in conjuring a dark grey leaden feeling. It is not a friendly beer-and-moshing thrash piece, but a serious work, and unless you're a completely insensitive and uncaring person, it's simply too personal for comfort.
Mokoma is one of the most acclaimed Finnish metalbands. Such an adorable group of funny men, speaking in enjoyable dialect, eating candies in their tourbus whilst other bands are getting loaded of alcohol. Suddenly, when it's time to record an album, this bunch of kindest human beings disappear 10 steps behind the shadows, as if charged by the Perkele himself. However, under the oath of Hell or not, the band still remains loyal to the traditional Finnish poetry-ish tune that make their lyrics, and their music, the Mokoma we know. It all sums up the context very well, and in spite of many copycats, the band manages to surprise.
In their new album, Kuoleman laulukunnaat (The Deathstates Of Death, to be a lame-ass translation), Mokoma doesn’t really create totally another, starnge outfit for themselves, and most definately they don’t significantly rock the cradle to the right or the left. However, the band ain’t getting worn up, and the chains have been oiled with new, harsh blood. This might be best for all our sakes, because being too ambitious reaching out for bigger and more unknown changes could’ve cut off the Kurimus-alike thrash metal line of Mokoma. It’s not yet time to do Load.
The riffs were brilliantly and professionally held tight already on Tämän Maailman Ruhtinaan Hovi, and although not every new riff will beat up the old ones here, it is inevitable to say that as a whole the songs seem to work a little bit better. The stuff is more mature, fresh and still the same, in a good way. The beautiful songs are amazingly, could say breathtakingly, beautiful, and there are not too many of them, nor has the band forgotten them. They make you breathe inside and out with intensity. I could compare the slow ones on this album to one of the band’s previous “ballads”, Sudet Ihmisten Vaatteissa. They have harshness and brutalness to the vocals, not to mention the actual topics Annala handles, and beautiful atmospheric stuff that has became nearly a trademark of the band for younger audience. The guys have created one of the most beautiful Mokoma-songs ever, to which even the most violent man would shed a tear or two. The curtains of sleep won’t be drawn together during the whole length of the album. There’s fast-paced metal songs coming to get you when you just thought you’d be ready to fall asleep and die peacefully. The soft ones are just gentle drop-ins (no, not droppings) here and there, and none of them will ease up the burden of overwhelming power that the faster songs carry. It will march over you!
Earlier I spoke about “Kurimus-alike thrash metal line of Mokoma”. Well, to get into the faster songs now, after writing a word or two about the slower ones, I must say that this album is not as thrash as the Kurimus-era songs. Songs like Takatalvi and Punainen Kukko, 100% thrash metal. Songs like Valapatto and Ärräpää from the new album, maybe 65-75% thrash metal. Now, this is not a bad thing, people, don’t pack your bags. Absolutely, don’t pack your bags. Mokoma has renewed some foundations of their large-engined riff-machinery. It’s not merely about change of scenes, as I’ve told in this very review, but the band has come up with new death metal kind of riffs as well as some riffs that could easily be compared to the cutting-edge library of Meshuggah. All this will be in a nice package with Annala’s versatile grunning behind the microphone and the production of the album, which is heavy, thick and just about the fucking knot that ties the perfection of sanity. However, yeat again, to be better than a crappy writer, I must seize my omnipotent aura onto the downsides of the album:
1. There’s not much of them
2. Some clean vocals got into my ear with a bit too well-this-had-to-have-a-goddamnd-clean-chorus-section-so-what-the-hell feeling
3. For people who don’t like dealing their messed up relationships, this might not be the best album of choice. Before you buy this, think twice whether you’re going to stand the apathy that lies in the ashes of the poetry that Marko Annala, the singer, has come up with.
If the last Mokoma-album was the toughest harvest ever, Kuoleman Laulukunnaat is the most mature and most advanced rumble ever. Kurimus could be described as a well-aimed kick to the groins with a bit of weltering man’s agony, that senses and knows the most vulnerable spots of a human body. This time, Mokoma reaches even the blind nerves and spots, serving their dose of metal in a plate, overdoing ‘emselves again. And all this, you know, without getting lost in their two big boots. All of us knew they were kind of big boots to fill, and it kind of needed a psycho-treatment, but no worries anymore. Mokoma knows where to push your Total Fucking Moshpit Headbanging button.