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Before there was folk metal, there was Moonsorrow. Before the awesomeness, the jigs, the stringed instruments and the “humppa” rhythms, these medieval trouble-doers helped bring that forest-dwelling approach to black metal with that patented Finny flourish that seemed so out of the blue that it was damned difficult to not notice. And it’s a shame that, throughout their existence, they’ve always seemed to be a bridesmaid in the metallic wedding party, never really getting what comeuppance is so overdue them, as they’ve always seemed to possess more talent and overall ability than more than a few of their equally Finnish peers.
And with that, let’s see how they’ve fared all these years…
What I ended up procuring was an EP versus a real album, but dammit if it doesn’t FEEL like a real album. 5 tracks; three originals and two covers, clocking it at over an hour. Under those circumstances, I’d be less than intrigued to give it a whirl, as I’ve come across my fair share of bands that push the boundaries of good taste by doing so with ten minutes of material pushed into no man’s land, leading to bothersome listens. And in Moonsorrow’s case, there’s much to behold in just the first song alone. The multi-faced approach of “Tulimyrsky” flows with the fluidity of multiple tracks segued into one another, each movement showcasing a whole other set of emotions and cohesive ideas, where medieval-themed acoustic folk rhythms, epic progressive tandems, and bone-chilling black metal aggression stand together hand-in-hand to astonish and draw in admiration as only a band of this caliber can. This is some stirring material, legendary in its own right, and truly Finnish in absolute spirit the way the monstrous guitar/bass riffs, blistering drums, nature-dwelling keyboards/mouth harp/acoustics, raging screams and ‘round-the-campfire clean singing cascade like so much destructive ice off the fjord, seamlessly, and with such attention grabbing that the 29 minute duration zips by before you know it. Like I said…stirring.
When it comes to the rest of the EP, however… “For Whom the Bell Tolls” makes for a fantastic listen as the Moonsorrowers basically retool the song in their own image versus doing a direct-to-video cover that is essentially the same song but with different vocals (I’ve come across many of those…not good to say the least, if you ask me), and despite a rather dragging approach that pushes the song far longer than it originally was, the overall product is still a fine example of the group’s musicality, even in a cover. The 2008 retelling of “Taistelu Pohjolasta” and “Hvergelmir” give the a nice modern touch that really lets these tracks shine in all their melodic blackened glory, and the other cover is a pretty nifty piece of work as well, done in, essentially, the same folksy DIY approach that made “For Whom…” as groovy as it was.
All in all, this listener is again reminded of the necessary awesomeness of Moonsorrow and how, in this day and age, we should be thankful that groups like them continue to exist and ensure proper metallic leanings. I’m not a big sucker for EPs, but as far as this one goes, it’s well worth the purchase.