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I have only previously reviewed one album which was worthy of a mighty 100% rating; the epic power metal masterpiece "Of Dragons And Elves" by German newcomers Evertale. In that case, the 100% was due to the sheer surprise of such quality being produced by an upcoming, unsigned band. However, with regards to "V: Hävitetty", the fifth long-player by Finnish heathens Moonsorrow, it was the result of long hours repeatedly and carefully listening - letting the darkness absorb into ones skin until finally being mercilessly engulfed.
After 3 full-length albums of heroic blackened folk metal, culminating in the symphonic glory of "Kivenkantaja" in 2003, the Sorvalis began to gradually darken their sound, as if performing a creative u-turn back towards the grim, frostbitten days of their "Metsä demo. 2005's "Verisäkeet" was a superb inclination in favour of that style. There were blast-beats, extended song lengths, and a remarkably bleak atmosphere. However, these qualities were raised to stratospheric levels on "Hävitetty", a truly stunning and beautiful work of art.
A hypnotic crackling fire signals the commencement of this mammoth journey - soon joined by a haunting guitar melody, which will become the 'bookend' theme. It only truly 'kicks in' after the 6-minute mark, but not a second feels wasted as the atmosphere is so perfectly constructed by this point. The folk influences have obviously been diluted, but not eliminated. They remain as melancholic interludes to the maelstrom of blackness that surrounds them. It is more sensible to look upon this two-track masterpiece as a symphonic composition, rather than a collection of metal songs. There are recurring themes, ideas which are developed progressively, and an overarching storytelling characteristic.
The production quality is top-notch. The drums are bombastic, especially the reverb-heavy snare which is wonderfully ominous. The bass is just edgy enough to pierce through the wall of droning guitars which seem to wail with anguish. The symphonics and folk instruments are lovingly sprinkled throughout the album; an important layer which creates another dimension to the music. But the star of the show, as is the case with every Moonsorrow release, is the brilliant Ville Sorvali. His vocal performance is never less than stellar - and on "Hävitetty" his range has increased to include both deep, monstrous growls and truly distressed shrieks, which are so emotionally-charged, they're irresistible. He is supported by a distant, but no less powerful, male choir which really are the last magic touch to the colossal wall of sound this album produces.
Throughout the two pieces, there are moments of build-up and climax which all feel triumphant and liberating. Just after the 18-minute mark is the first example of such a highlight - such an emotional pinnacle leaves one feeling satisfyingly exhausted; and there are many more moments like this to look forward to. Every time you listen, you will hear something new - another layer that you had previously failed to notice. It's what gives this album 100% replay value, and a special place in many metal fan's hearts. The ritualistic chanting at the beginning of "Tuleen Ajettu Maa" is eerie and captivating, the choir at the 8:30 mark is glorious, the furious blast-beat section at the 13:10 mark is sheer majesty in musical form, and, and, and...there's just too much. This album is overwhelming, and even thinking about particular moments is enough to move me to tears.
Although I absolutely adore Moonsorrow's following albums - "Hävitetty" feels like the climactic peak of a long career dedicated to the art of musical composition. Nothing will ever come close to this truly indescribable work of art - the Concorde of epic black metal. As I said back when I reviewed Evertale's "Of Dragons And Elves": This is what makes the ability to hear truly great.
Through the death of the sun
A new world is born.
A drop of water in the cold
To run on the hands of man.
Just looking at the lyrics shows how far from the days of Suden uni Moonsorrow had travelled, when they released V: Hävitetty. There are no stories, no heroism, no tales from unwritten history. No, the album is allegorical, poetic, and very, very dark. The lyrics make no real sense, except if read like poetry, and the same can be said of the music. The folk was already largely gone from the music, and the black metal they had abandoned after their demo period was making a comeback, but in a wholly different form.
Moonsorrow had been drifting towards this point of their career from a variety of directions. The fact that the progressive influence in their songs had been increasing ever since their first full-length probably resulted in this strange decision to create an album with just two enormously long and complex tracks. Their song lengths had been growing for a while, and on the preceding Verisäkeet, they were already close to 15 minutes. And while song lengths have nothing to do with "progressive music" by default, the fact that there is little repetition and the songs are composed of many parts that follow each other, interconnected and flowing like a forest stream, without awkward mechanical joints between them. Those collections of "songlets" work surprisingly seamlessly, and the songs truly progress from one form to another, effortlessly.
Many old Moonsorrow fans have expressed disappointment at the fact that the band no longer plays folk metal. On the factual level, that is true. There is very little direct folk influence on V: Hävitetty, and the days of folk instruments are all but past. The mouth harp, accordion and several other items from the past do make an appearance or two on the album, but they are there to add to the atmosphere, as spices, not as the main course. On the other hand, this IS still Moonsorrow, and the evolution of their songwriting and style can be compared to the songs found on this album: they have evolved, and while hearing Suden uni and V: Hävitetty right next to each other, without earlier experience on the band, would make it seem that the albums were written by two completely different bands, there is still the essential Moonsorrow sound and a similar thematic foundation on the bottom of both of them. There is a continuum of musical evolution, with no discontinuities or gaps in that evolution, and comparing every album with the one that came after it makes it easy to see that path from folk metal to this.
But what is this album made of, then? The folk metal parts have been either discarded or moved to secondary roles, and more of the dark, blackish, atmospheric and almost "symphonic" metal has replaced most of the old catchy tunes. And that might be a good name for this: symphonic. There are no orchestras, operatic divas, or choirs, but the construction of the songs resembles the way the great historic composers worked on their symphonies: themes, varied, transformed to something else, repeated, mutilated and combined, build into greater works than the sums of their parts would be, and the whole forms a majestic hour of music to be enjoyed and explored. Of the overall trends of Moonsorrow's career discography, the gradual blackening takes a break on V: Hävitetty: it's not closer to black metal than Verisäkeet was, and the developments have taken place on other fronts.
The two gargantuan tracks make the album a relatively difficult thing to swallow in a few ways. First, the songs do not suit live performances very well, unless they get chopped up to smaller fragments, or, alternatively, if the band aims for and achieves a very intensive live performance and manages to hold the audience enthralled and mesmerized for half an hour at a time; it would certainly not be beyond their abilities, given a suitable audience in a perfect setting. Another issue is the need to focus on the tracks, and finding the mentioned half an hour to truly listen and concentrate on the works. Moonsorrow does work wonderfully as background music, especially this particular album, but using it as such is a disservice and insult to the compositions, and it simply deserves better. So, in that respect, the two song path they took was, in hindsight once again, a bold statement and an artistic choice of champions. If the listener has time to spare for the album, and the capability to really immerse into the musical journey, it was worth it, and the complaints are just pragmatics worth perhaps a quick glance and swift dismissal.
Musically, V: Hävitetty was a colossal and perhaps even slightly risky undertaking, but it did pay off. The album seems to be well liked around the world, and sometimes, there's value in just doing things differently to avoid turning stale and growing permanent roots into the comfort zone soil. But as a result, out of the band's whole discography, this album is the one that takes the greatest effort from the listener. It is not an easy task to let it grow on oneself, especially if impatience, in the way it often does today, counts as a virtue. This is a symphony, in two parts, and cannot be divided into smaller manageable chunks, so please spare some time and patience before you embark on this particular path. It will reward you, but fast food it is not.
Whether you are a fan of the music or not, it is difficult to argue that Moonsorrow are not masters of epic metal. Through a notably consistent and accomplished career, the band has crafted immense pieces of music that- more often than not- transcend the barriers of metal and go to lengths that few folk metal bands ever do. 'V: Hävitetty' is the fifth full-length album of Moonsorrow, and I could go to argue that it is their best. Throughout the course of an hour, Moonsorrow makes it clear that they are in an entirely different league than any of their Finnish compatriots, and one of the best at what they do. With only two tracks here to make up the hour of music that 'V: Hävitetty' offers, the catchy drinking tunes usually associated with folk metal are non-existent here, instead giving way to two compositions of metal that is epic in the truest sense of the word. 'V: Hävitetty' is a masterpiece of metal, to put it simply, and although long-winded at times, I would love to see a detractor of the genre still arguing their common points that it is merely a style of 'noise' or 'screaming' after hearing this.
As previously stated, 'V: Hävitetty' takes the form of two epic-length tracks, 'Jäästä syntynyt/Varjojen virta' and 'Tuleen ajettu maa'. Contrary to the majority of the bands that reach some level of international acclaim and fame, Moonsorrow choose to remain singing in their mother tongue of Finnish, and while it would often be difficult to make out what the singer was saying through all of the dense instrumentation and raspy cries that make up most of the vocal work here, it is still a testament to the band's unwillingness to compromise. Anyone who has heard something from Moonsorrow before will have some idea of what to expect right from the start; grand orchestrations from both metal and folk instruments, complex arrangements, drawn out compositions and a triumphant tone to everything they do. Here though, there is certainly a little more of a black metal feel when compared to music they had released in the past, although there are no profound stylistic changes to really mention.
Instead of changing up what they have grown up doing as a band, Moonsorrow instead chooses to refine and intensify their existing sound. Simplicity is rare, and even possibly non-existent in the vocabulary of 'V: Hävitetty'; quite commonly, multiple instruments of many different timbres will be playing at once, giving the semblance of a folk metal orchestra. As one might expect, all of the details within the music are impossible to all pick up from the first listen onwards, and it is this sense of exploration and engrossing nature of the album that makes it so good. Although the album is never too quick to develop or change its pace throughout each song's monstrous length, it is difficult to leave 'V: Hävitetty' on merely in the background, due to the fact that there is too much going on to go unnoticed. The production of the album can sound a little weak at times, but this is almost certainly due to the fact that Moonsorrow jammed so much sound into the mix that the competition between instruments makes things a little cloudy.
For an album that is so instantly enjoyable and emotive, 'V: Hävitetty' is surprisingly challenging. A masterpiece of the genre, and contrary to what some might argue, this is the way folk metal was meant to be done.
If you fancy drawn out long songs, compositions involving fusion of multiple genre influences and a sound which is melancholic and progressive then the mere mention of a thirty minute folk metal song having black metal textures can kick up a strange yearning to discover the band and their music. This is how i ran into Moonsorrow, it is herculean for any artist to concoct songs of this length and ensure the attention of the listener throughout its span and this is exactly what V Hävitetty accomplishes, it is plain fucking riveting and stimulating right from the moment you hear the crackling sound of the scorching wood which modestly kicks off the record.
"Jaasta Syntynyt , Varjojen Virta" starts off with a mellow guitar strumming which progressively advances to a death/doom like aggression right around the five minute mark. I thought that the sound of crackling fire was a masterstroke, it adds a lull winter like ambiance to the music, the same feeling is aggravated by the lyrical content too. The song speaks about a tormenting journey in the dark, seemingly solitary search for the light in a foreign land, the lyrics accentuate the despondency, randomness and lack of motivation with life. The song has a intense progressive death influenced part in the middle culminating in a folk instrument section which switches back to a heavy black metal influenced section fused with folk instrumentation. The song gets insanely better with each passing minute, the continuous guitar strumming, pure transcending black metal vocals and the melodic riffs keeps on building the momentum. It is ironic as to how the controlled flow of the song can inspire fervently hawkish tendencies. The music makes you feel very stifled and when mixed with some alcohol can result in a cocktail for agonizing mental torment. Once "Tuleen Ajettu Maa" starts off you realize that the record is shifting gears and the pattern shifts in the most perfectly complementing way to the first track.
The restrained calculated onslaught of the first track is totally replaced by blunt extreme metal sound, the song raucously explodes into heavy riffs right after the two minutes of eerie chanting and slow guitars. The track starts off with a progressive death sound having the mellow parts interleaved with the more heavier sound with abrupt transitions, something like Opeth but the difference being the vocals which is typical black metal. The second half of the song is the mostly black metal sound but the quintessential blast beat drums are missing. The last fifteen minutes of the record is mostly loud and heavy, the guitars are melodic and the folk instrumentation is very gracefully integrated to the overall structure of the song. To me the lyrics talked about end of days with the fire cast upon earth by the gods, it definitely was not a happy ending for sure.
The record is unique because it encompasses a lot of influences and at the same time keeps a consistent ambiance, there is no instance in the whole album where you find the folk instrumentation to be intruding to the overall song structure. The album has been conceived and executed in a exceptional way, first song perfectly engineers the environment and the method in which the two songs complement each other is very uncommon. In general the sound of the album gets progressively intense, the songs are kind of cliched in its structure of building up the climax in a lazy way and then slowly toning down towards the end. The interesting part of V Hävitetty is that the build up is so painfully slow that you tend to get more and more eager to discover how the music will burst out, this is exactly the stifled feeling which I had mentioned before. The grace of V Hävitetty lies in the way it shows how coherently folk influences can exist with extreme metal elements, how seamless transitions can be between the lighter and more intense parts, how musicianship can be analogical to a physiological thriller flick where you get insanely restless to discover what will transpire next, in short this is a definitive experience which every extreme metal fan should endure.
A 100% is the highest score that can be awarded. Theoretically, it signifies that no improvements can be made and that it is essentially flawless. However, this is not possible. Humans are flawed and will never create something that is perfect. Thus, I award the fabled 100% to albums that just... deserve it. There are not many of these. But some jump out at you immediately, grab you by the balls or ovaries, and shake you furiously. “Give me 100%!” You cannot disagree. When the last few minutes of this album wrap up, the feeling is indescribable – you can sit motionless for an hour, reminiscing how incredibly powerful what you just heard was. It is unjust to give anything but a 100% to this album.
You're probably thinking, “wow, you must have a raging boner over this album, after all, your username is named after it!” Well, you're right. But hear me out. There are two songs on this album, totaling almost an hour of Pagan bliss. They are not eight minute songs stretched out and repeated to be thirty minutes long, nor are they a series of four minutes song awkwardly combined into a single thirty minute song. They are thirty minute songs. It was a natural progression for Moonsorrow. The songs flow, build up, release their energy, and all the riffs and melodies are related, extrapolated from each other. There is never a boring moment, never a riff that is repeated for too long. If you have the attention span, the sheer size of the content in this album is incredibly rewarding if you hear it out. And with such vivid, interesting songs, it's not too hard to pay attention.
The folkish elements, continuing along the path that Verisakeet started, are downplayed, woven deeper into the song structures and riffs, instead of in-your-face folk instruments and folkish melodies. Accordions, tin whistles, and the 12-string guitar still make appearances here, especially in the second song, but they are not the focal, slightly gimmicky aspect of the music. V: Havitetty is far more blackened than the albums preceding it, touching more upon Moonsorrow's roots, especially in the second song, where there are plenty of blast beats. Moonsorrow has matured, but not in a inoffensive, radio-friendly fashion. They masterfully weave folkish elements through their epic song structures, combining a staggering amount of sounds together, creating a sound so wholly satisfying and epic that few bands have emulated. The songs build up perfectly, climax several times, and send you through ups and downs. Yet they have gotten more inaccessible, more extreme, heavier, faster... They really care about the music, not the money.
Moonsorrow never really flaunts their instrumental abilities. The guitar work focuses on atmosphere, not technicality, and the drums focus more on providing a strong percussive backing to the music. Mitja can tremolo pick fast when he needs to, Marko can double-bass at blistering speeds when it is called for – but only if it is necessary. This creates a more cohesive, controlled atmosphere. The face that there is but one guitar solo on the album is a testament to this, and needless to say, there is nothing flashy about the guitar solo. A pleasant surprise in the instrumentation compared to past albums was the bass – it's louder, fatter, and adds a lot more to the music than previous efforts. Ville Sorvali really stepped up his game on the bass, and his vocals remain as powerful, interesting, emotional, and impressive as ever. The shrieks in the second song, in particular, are goosebump-inducing.
Really, what more can I write? If you really appreciate music, go check out this album. It may take a few listens, but it's an incredible, powerful journey that is wholly satisfying. By the time the last riff is fading away, you wish it could last forever...
First thing, even if you don't like extended tracks, this album is still worth a peek. It has a dark tone that makes you feel like you’re in a longboat sailing for battle. Let’s face it, the album is epic. Nearly an hour long with two epic tracks. But trust me, the music is epic too, not just the lengths. And it’s anything but repetitive.
The first track is the majority of the album; clocking in at over 30 minutes long. It is longer and better then the second song. The beginning sets the tone with sorrowful ambience and crackling fire. It gradually builds up, adding reverb from the amps then drums, up until it really gets going. Thankfully the music isn't repetitive at all and changes and flows well. The transitions are particularly good, allowing it to flow seamlessly.
This creates a stream of music that is easy to just lay back your head and listen to. The guitar is in the lead but not just pointless solo after pointless solo. It works with the other instruments (a rarity in the death and black metal genres). The bass is actually used, often in quieter moments of the album. The drums generally keep rhythm. The keyboards create ambience. And the vocals aren't just in there because they can. They help create rhythm. Plus the harsh vocals are performed well and don't just sound like sound.
At the end of Stream of Shadows (English), it leads right into Land Driven into the Fire, making the album one big song really. The above harmony is reproduced, but musically is a bit more repetitive. Though still really good, it doesn't quite measure up. It has deeper drumming and even blast beats at points. The guitar is distorted a little much and it ends a little weak for how epic the album is. It doesn't have the ambient feel of Stream of Shadows. Its tribal beginning is the only real dark part of the song. The rest being more straightforward black metal. That isn't a problem, in fact if you like the more straightforward sound it is an advantage. But for a 26 minute song, it should have a little more diversity.
Having said that, overall the sound does change and progress well. Diverse riffs, great bass, powerful drumming. This is also one of the few black metal albums with which I can actually clearly hear the bass at times. That in itself adds a unique dynamic to the sound. Another unique aspect to the music is the backing vocals. They differ from high pitched vocables, to deep tribal grunting. It puts the listener in an epic atmosphere that helps create the mood of the music.
The lyrics are sung in Finnish, but the sheet has the English. It tells a Viking tale as we would expect, but is written very well and is fun to read while you listen. I respect them for having such rhythm while singing in Finnish!
The production of the album is a little flawed. In the second song especially, the drums sound a little too deep. And everything sounds a bit "noisy". But all in all there’s nothing to really complain about with this album.
Its very good music. Its good black metal, with some epic flavoring that makes it more original. Worth a listen to all fans of the genre definitely. Progressive and epic fans would like it to. If you hate extended tracks, listen to it while you clean or something. It helps set the tone.
Rating- 84/100 or a 4 out of 5
Everyone’s favourite Finnish Vikings are back with their fifth album, and their first for new label Spikefarm. 2005’s Verisäkeet got a mixed reception, with some hailing it as a masterpiece and others finding it retrogressive and over-extended. Hävitetty (the title means ‘ravaged’) is likely to prove similarly divisive. This time around, the songs are even longer – Hävitetty contains just two tracks, clocking in at 30 and 26 minutes. If current trends continue, the next Moonsorrow album will consist of one enormous song (like Wyrd’s debut Heathen), and its successor will contain half a song!
Hävitetty’s opening track, though, is really two songs in one. ‘Jäästä Snytynyt’ (‘Born Of Ice’) begins with the ominous creaking of restless glaciers overlaid with a lonely repeated guitar melody, joined by subdued drums, keyboards, and with Ville Sorvali’s warm, rounded bass high in the mix. At this point, Moonsorrow sound like Finnish compatriots and fellow nature-worshippers Tenhi, but after six minutes, this gentle prelude segues into the impassioned, melancholic cri de Coeur of ‘Varjojen Virta’ (‘Stream Of Shadows’). Moonsorrow have made a rod for their own backs here – this song doesn’t let up for the next 25 minutes (barring a folksy passage of acoustic guitar and accordion around the 16-minute mark) and will be an absolute bastard to perform live.
Folk influences are also prominent on Hävitetty’s second and final track ‘Tuleen Ajettu Maa’ (‘A Land Driven Into The Fire’), which opens with shamanic percussion and incantation, acoustic guitar, accordion and mouth harp. Built around a thunderous rolling drumbeat, ‘Tuleen…’ is less immediately compelling than its predecessor, but rewards repeated listing. Thomas Väänänen of Swedish Viking metal warband Thyrfing contributes guest vocals to the album.
Not recommended for those with short attention spans, Hävitetty is a majestically overwhelming assertion of Moonsorrow’s pre-eminence in the current Nordic metal scene. If Valhalla’s house band is half as good as Moonsorrow, Allfather Odin must be well pleased. Hail!
Moonsorrow are a band that needs no introduction, especially to folk metal fans. And their most recent album (as of this writing, June 13th, 2008) is an oddball of sorts. The album contains two tracks, and truly makes me think. Truly.
The album begins with the sound of cracking fire, which then evolves into a weird acustic piece, and then electronic instruments are introduced. The whole first song is a really, really mixed bag. Some parts are very emotional like, some are just pure fury, and some just downright snore fests. Seriously, and clocking at 30 minutes and 10 seconds doesn’t really help the situation either. Its great if you have the patience for it, but honestly, its just to damn long, but a good thing is that it at least sounds like one song, not like 5 or 6 just mashed up into one track.
The second track is a whole lot more interesting than the first, and the highlight of the album. Its starts off with some shamanic like drums, and then evolves into some good ol’ folk/black metal. The track is nicely passed, has plenty of epic choruses, and some really interesting passages, and some parts that are a bit lackluster. The song sounds like something Bathory could’ve cooked up. It’s really epic and sounds more like a cohesive work of a composer or composers and the recording process of an actual band. The song just feels inspired somehow, but not quite fulfilled, it’s odd.
The lyrics are nice. While they are sung in Finnish, the band offers English translation on their website, which is great.
Overall, Moonsorrow’s V: Hävitetty is an ok album. Its main drawback is the first song, which really isn’t worth listening to a whole lot, save for a few parts. The second song is basically what saves this album from being absolute crap, and is basically worth getting the album for.
Moonsorrow has gained an incredibly strong fanbase as well as garnered thundrous ovations of praise, and for good reason. Their sound is very pure, their production is top-notch, their musical technique is masterfully tight and their concepts are mighty and epic.
With each album Moonsorrow continues to improve in all the aforementioned areas, with some extremely bold shifts especially in the area of concept. Their songs have been growing longer while still remaining attention-grabbing. This idea came to a head for their most recent release, "Viides Luku - Hävitetty", which translates "Chapter Five - Ravaged". There are only two songs on this album, but with a total playing time of over 56 minutes. This alone would make a first-time listener very skeptical. Understandably so, because whenever a move like this had been done in the past, the results were uniformly catastrophic, for example with the Yes double-album, "Tales From Topographic Oceans", which contained only four songs, each averaging nineteen minutes in length. The fans were widely disinterested!
While the previous Moonsorrow albums had a very folky, rollicking bombast to them, this recording takes on a much darker tone, using for its main themes the type of composing that would only be employed in short interludes in prior material.
The first track, "Jäästä Syntynyt / Varjojen Virta" once again utilizes the "crackling fire" ambience in the intro, but instead of giving a "campfire" feel, it somehow takes on the form of the ruins of a dead village. The song uses almost eight minutes of playing time to homogeneously build into the main theme of the piece. The use of interludes does assist in transitioning the listener from one theme to another, but again, in a homogeneous fashion that doesn't aurally shock one's senses. Take for instance the peacefully executed arpeggiating guitar chords around minute sixteen. It occurs amidst two themes that judge it as a very colorful natural bridge between them, the first being dark and bombastic, yet pensive, and the second being dark and bombastic, yet aggressive. The blastbeats that occur are not as extreme as in their early days
The second track, "Tuuleen Ajettu Maa", begins with a kind of shamanistic ritual chant backed by a tribal drum beat that leads into the kind of epic build you would normally expect from Moonsorrow, especially in the way of Voimasta Ja Kunniasta or Kivenkantaja, but by no means is this a turning back to something safe and familiar. The sound itself is in definite keeping with the dark theme of this album. The impact that this song carries can definitely be felt around the eight-minute mark, when they introduce a singable refrain and melody, and at the ten-minute spot, with a fat synthesizer sweep in a simple three-note array that sets the tone for the rest of the piece. The blastbeat attack occurs at the thirteen-minute mark, and slightly resembles the stop-and-go method employed on Verisäkeet. Also reminiscent of that album is the closing one minute which contains, to a much lesser degree, the forest ambience which winds down the dark tone of the work.
The high points on this album are definitely the increased sense of musical direction and theme, the stately advance towards longer compositions and the integrity of the guests, which include Thomas Väänänen of Thyrfing. One distraction may still be the lengthy compositions, for to enjoy this album requires at least a half-hour of listening commitment. Sure, if you want to be cheap, you can fast-forward to your most favorite parts, but you lose the entire feel of continuity in doing so. All in all, while this album may not be their absolute best, it gives absolutely every indication that the band is growing artistically.
Moonsorrow can easily be considered one of the most consistent bands out there. With the exception of their debut which is merely of reasonable quality, everything they've put out so far has been downright great stuff, and that has easily gained them a place among the top bands of the disputable viking metal genre (despite their music having very little to do with vikings). On their last album, Verisäkeet, they clearly began to shift towards a darker and more epic sound than previously, even drawing influence from old Norwegian black metal masters, which, while not yet alienating definitely disappointed a lot of their fans who probably wanted them to make another Kivenkantaja. Not me though, I'd love to hear more stuff like this and it looks like that's exactly what Moonsorrow have in mind. On this release they're continuing on the potentially treacherous road they stepped on with Verisäkeet, and they're doing it with pride and determination.
The first thing everyone will take note of when picking up this record is that it consists of just two tracks. While some may think this is overkill or tedious, it completely makes sense here. In fact, while listening to this album I wouldn't have minded at all if it was just one song, not because they are indistinguishable (far from it, which probably is the reason Jäästä Syntynyt/Varjojen Virta are together but Tuleen Ajettu Maa is separate from the first track) or anything like that but simply because this album flows so well there isn't a moment I feel like I need a break from listening like with some other bands that try this same thing but come out just plain repetitive. The strongest feature of the songs are in their constant evolution; every part, be it a flute interlude, a reappearance of a main riff or a barrage of mighty tormented screams from Ville Sorvali (how he still has any voice left with that singing style I may never know), leads to the next one seamlessly and unforced, slowly growing into something so huge it may leave you scratching your head at first, but later proving to actually be coherent and purposeful. Admittedly though, sometimes it may seem like there is too little to grab hold of, especially in the first track, if you're not paying attention.
There are far less folk moments or elements to be found here than previously. You'll find all the usual suspects here though, choirs, flutes and everyone's favourite, the mouth harp, they're just used a bit less and don't take up an important role, and some may even say they aren't as catchy this time around. The guitars, both acoustic and electric, rule the game and even they don't play as many folk melodies as they used to. Everything has been made so much less accessible some may denounce the album immediately. But then we get to the thing that really does shine on V: Hävitetty: the atmosphere. Cliché or not, this album will take you away to another time and place, and this is exactly what bands of this genre should be doing. We need less bands playing NWOBHM riffs while some drunken bozo plays the Nokia tune on an accordion over and over and more of this; pure, unrefined pagan romanticism. Korpiklaani may rest easy though. I'll let them live because they're so darned cute.
What I am still not quite sure about is how this album seems like it is somehow removed from nature, even if Tuleen Ajettu Maa still makes an attempt with its shamanic chants and such. I feel this album deals much more in matters of destruction and war; the inevitable passing of all things. I guess this shouldn't be a surprise as the title translates to ”Destroyed”, but I did not expect a band so blatantly pagan to stray too far from nature. It's not in the production either, as it's really the same clear-cut style we've been hearing from this band on every other release before Hävitetty. Maybe it's just me, I admit that this reasoning sounds a bit deranged to even myself. Be that as it may, that certain coldness provides a nice, though subtle, contrast to otherwise quite similar Verisäkeet, an album which had enough sounds of nature to last most viking bands a career. Whether it was intended or not I've no idea, but it makes the album a little harsher, which really is a good thing for the direction they've chosen for it.
Both of the tracks are the standard mid-paced Moonsorrow we all know and love. The better of the two tracks is Jäästä Syntynyt/Varjojen Virta. It starts off slowly with a lengthy semi-acoustic intro and some clean vocals, seemingly echoing from a distance before really getting a proper kickoff with one of Ville's patent screams at six minutes in. Yes, count it, six minutes. And it doesn't even get annoying. This song really takes its time to do what it aims to do, consisting of lots of build-ups and releases, getting a little bit closer to the goal each time, making the listener wait. The recurring themes make sure that it never feels like you're listening to many songs, disjointedly slapped together. This song right here is the definition of epic, and even though there aren't as many really memorable parts as some other long songs they have done, as for example in Jotunheim, the mood will totally envelop the listener, keeping him or her captivated until the very end. There is simply no way to listen to this song but all the way through. Try skipping to your favourite parts and only get a fraction of the effect. Luckily, there's no point in doing so as the song kicks ass all the way through, truly a masterful composition by the Moonsorrow guys.
Moonsorrow danced on the wire with this one, even if there weren't any major changes, the changes in their music can and probably did cost them some fans who'd rather hear an album of Pakanajuhla's instead, but to me the transformation they are making for the less cheerfull is so far going great. I even found myself enjoying the less digestable track more than Tuleen Ajettu Maa, the one with more hooks, which is great in its own right. I can only commend how they managed to keep both long tracks in check. It is clear that they didn't start making this album and say ”Hey let's make two really long tracks to piss people off”, the songs are clearly both works that formed the way they are naturally. Extraordinary work, and no real Moonsorrow fan should dismiss this record. Because they'll be wrong.
I have loved all of Moonsorrow’s albums so far, so I was waiting for this album with great anticipation. I knew Moonsorrow would not disappoint me and indeed they have not. This is one of the most complicated, epic, and best metal albums ever composed. And I do not give out that compliment lightly.
To many, this album does not seem too great, many complaints I have heard is that the songs are just too long and that Moonsorrow seems to have lost a lot of their folk influence. Ok, so the songs are extremely long, HOWEVER, this is EPIC metal, and epic metal does take patience to listen to. You can’t always listen to a lengthy song and expect to love it. The songs are very deep and many times it takes several listens to uncover all their beauty. If you still don’t love it, then epic metal is just not for you, because the songs here are great. As for the loss of some folk influence, if you loved it, then yes you will be disappointed because there is not much here, however at least Moonsorrow is changing. I will say however though, that towards the end of the first song, there is a riff that IS folky, and sounds almost like something from Kivenkantaja, however it is not too long lasting.
Ok, now getting towards the music. It is as already stated epic. The songs are very long, however they change quite a bit throughout their duration, so it is not the exact same riff being played over and over. The first song, “Jäästä Syntynyt/Varjojen Virta” has a several minute long intro which is mostly acoustic. Let me say that this is probably the first time I have enjoyed a mainly acoustic intro that lasted over 3-4 minutes. The intro sounds sad, but it is very calm, and there is even some chanting. I love how the intro slowly builds up, gains more of an evil sound, and just builds up into a great few verses. The musicianship is awesome here, all the elements and instruments are blended very well, and the sounds are very creative, you even have the sound of snowflakes falling in the intro to the first song. The vocals, they are just simply incredible. They sound a little like on “Verisäkeet”, but even better. Basically, the lyrics are not too loud in the mix, and they are very harsh, which makes Ville sound very angry, and in great anguish and pain. It creates for a great effect. The atmosphere, as we have come to expect from Moonsorrow is terrific. The instruments and sounds in the background create beautiful images. You get the feeling of a dark, snowy, wintry night in a forest, and if you really concentrate to the music, you almost expect something evil to occur due to the doomy riffs in the transition from the intro to the bulk of the song. All of these elements come together beautifully and create very emotional and sad, but beautiful music. I can say that I actually had tears in my eyes during parts of the first song. And this has only happened a few times before.
On to some of the highlights of the album. The intro to the first song is beautiful, it sets the mood and atmosphere extremely well for the whole album. The transition from the intro to the meat of the song is VERY evil, and this is one of the few times Moonsorrow has actually managed to give me an evil feeling. Whenever this part comes up, I get images in my mind from some really sad moments in life, and this really creates a lot of emotion, and it almost makes you reflect on life, this is beautiful and incredible, despite sounding evil and bad. The first few verses of the first track are also incredible. I know I keep using the same adjectives over and over but this album really deserves it. Before the verses you get several desperate screams from Ville and then when the vocals come in, they aren’t heard very loud but go excellently with the riff which does sound a bit evil, but is a bit more melodic than most of the album. The solo towards the end of this album is short but sweet. It is melodic, but a bit heavy so it almost feels a bit out of place on a Viking metal album. And for those interested the Kivenkantaja-like riff comes in around 23:10.
The second song also has some highlights. There is another fairly nice acoustic riff that sounds sad, but is a bit more melodic, and it also builds up slowly until the song explodes with a rather heavy, non-melodic riff this time. You will notice that this song while heavy and non-melodic at times has some folk influences as well. Shows you that even though the song is very lengthy, it contains a lot of variety. It also contains some chanting which is not the best aspect of the album, but is interesting.
This album really exceeded my already great expectations since Moonsorrow was already my favorite band. I have been grading Moonsorrow albums harder than most others simply because I know what Moonsorrow is capable of, but here I have no choice but to give them a full 100, because this album truly is incredible. Looks like I will have to rewrite my Kreator “Pleasure to Kill” review, because this one truly is in another league.
And for those of you that did not exactly fall in love with the album, give it another chance. Let it sink in. I think a lot of people want to love it right away, but you have to be patient with this album. This album is the one to beat in terms of Viking Metal. I am a bit afraid I won’t like the next Moonsorrow album as much as this one simply because of how hard it will be to create another masterpiece as good as this, but Moonsorrow is a very talented band. They said this album would be unlike anything they have ever done before, and they have stayed true to their word. This is a terrific album, one of the best ever produced, but if you are looking to get into Moonsorrow you should start with some of the earlier albums first. Moonsorrow did an awesome job on this album!
What happened to the Folk?
The only thing folk about this album may be the lyrics. And this is a great disappoint me, because I am an avid Moonsorrow fan. Unfortunately, the score for my first Moonsorrow review have to be under a 90% -- something I really thought not possible about a few weeks ago.
I don't understand where or how they could have gone this wrong with such a greatly anticipated album (by my aspects, at least), but after digging farther back into their past, I now see signs of this future as far back as Kivenkantaja, the first true example of where we see Moonsorrow's growing tendency to make 8+ minute long songs. Even still, that album was pure beauty. Then came Verisäkeet, which wasn't bad at all, aside for the 14+ minute songs that also began to lack Folk Elements in their music (and LYRICS!!).
However, though, I had never expected them to seemingly completely drop their (or at least have an abscense thereof) folk elements all together...
Hävitetty seems to have confirmed the opposite. Moonsorrow makes atmospheric metal here. Not the lovely Finnish Folk themed metal we're all in love with. Now, don't get me wrong. I love Moonsorrow, and I love this album, it's great, but it deeply lacks purpose. This might as well have been a Drudkh album with clean vocals and heavier tones.
"Jäästä Syntynyt/Varjojen Virta" is probably where most of the disappointment comes in. It's beautiful! It's a Raunioilla for 2007, but it completely lacks ANY of the folk element that the true Raunioilla did. The other song, titled "Tuleen Ajettu Maa" is not so different, but no so much better. The guitars are performed well, the bass is distant but present, the drums are pushed back into the mix (just like on Verisäkeet) as are the vocals, and the keyboards are dissonant (also like on Verisäkeet).
This album was a love/hate relationship for me. It was really good, but it deeply lacked definition.
70% for their efforts. 10% taken away for the lack of Folk elements, 20% taken away for the ridiculously long track lengths.