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Moonsorrow tries a much darker tone - 95%

SvalbardDave, January 18th, 2008

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.