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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.