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Dreary evening drives on freeways do have a brighter side because they provide an apt ambiance for some extreme metal and recently it was a Moonsorrow record that found its way into my rustic cd player. Verisäkeet has this bizarre ‘business as usual’ feel to it, so effortless and nonchalant that someone could imagine this being cranked out of a machine when it is fed with staples of folk, death, black, and progressive metal.
Compared to Kivenkantaja, this record is a quantum leap in terms of quality and complexity. In hindsight, V: Hävitetty was the next obvious step in the direction which transpired during the course of Verisäkeet. The most striking attribute of this record is its unrestrained tone. There are numerous instances where these guys spontaneously break into this folk instrumentation and still manage to have a streamlined flow. The whole seventy minute album is like one big song split into five and mandates a continuous listen. The mellow folk instruments or the choir hardly tarnishes the genuineness of the compositions. On the contrary, they just seem to add more value to the authenticity of this record. The Finns for sure had managed to steer clear of any cliches in composition and crafted a real honest, unpredictable sound that exhibits uniquely vibrant textures.
The first song, “Karhunkynsi”, does show some rare progressive death influences and might just deceive the listener about the real nature of the album. The distinct riffs played towards the second half of the song are quite uncanny for a black metal band, and it's needless to say that this small window of sanity is short lived and expires right when some frantic vocals lead us to an incessant black metal guitar picking. From this point on it is some real quality extreme metal as the vocals get harsher and the guitar breaks into a blaring speed which more than compensates for the slow build up.
Sections with the keyboard and the slow guitar strumming are reminiscent of the doom/death ambiance, but the vocals still hold onto its black metal roots. The fact that the choir and the keyboards never dominate the guitar and vocals means that the sound is mostly black metal. Moonsorrow got this aspect of mixing perfectly in sync with my taste. The abrupt mellow passages with folk instruments like the accordion are thrown in almost randomly and it is almost as if they are proving a point that being aesthetic hardly matters. The second half of “Pimeä” is a minefield of ceaseless tempo variations and high frequency switching of mellow and brash parts. It is pretty much about sifting and surfing across a myriad of extreme metal sounds that eventually culminate with another passage of serenity. The exhibition of this devil-may-care mindset only accentuates as the record progresses, and they might have just bulldozed their way through the opinions of a record producer and the label to create something this raw and ravaging.
This Moonsorrow experience is almost analogous to a train ride that manages to traverse a multitude of musical terrains with a signature speed and artistry. If we imagine each railway track as a different musical style, then their confidently flawless way of switching across them manages to sculpt a benchmark for gauging all the metal albums fusing multiple genres.
Darkness is a difficult thing to describe. In physics and the physical world, it's the absence of light, of course, but as an abstract, allegorical concept, it turns into a more challenging thing to define. But darkness is where Moonsorrow turned on Verisäkeet, and ever since they recorded this excellent album, their journey has taken them deeper into that allegory.
After Suden uni, Voimasta ja kunniasta, and Kivenkantaja, they made a departure from the folk metal with an epic tint and atmosphere that felt powerful enough to seep out of the speakers. There was a readjustment of the direction, and a sudden strengthening of the trends that had been, in hindsight, seeded already earlier. The ingredients they poured into the cauldron were black and dark, and they seasoned the stew with a heavy dash of their own songwriting methods that make the pieces of art explore the musical wilderness much, much further and wider than what would be necessary, were they happy with simple, short tunes.
The obvious changes start with the song lengths. Just one of the five tracks is less than 14 minutes long, and even if "Kaiku" seems like a quick blurt next to its brothers, it still clocks in an impressive length on over 8 minutes. While a quick glance would make the excessive durations seem like pretentiousness and feeble attempts at simply appealing to certain demographics infatuated with the superficial features of progressive metal, the songs are that long out of necessity: there is no filler, and the almost unnoticeable transitions between the different song parts are evidence of high skills in songwriting and conceptual integrity.
The subject matter, the most descriptive source of creative fuel on the earlier albums, has gone through very tangible changes, and the darkness is evident in the lyrics at least as much as in the music. While the sound has turned closer to black metal while shedding the folk metal trappings, and the scattered acoustic and other tranquil parts serve more as a source of heavy contrast against the rest of the music than any other purpose, the same pagan feel still underlies the whole. Moonsorrow sounds different, but it still sounds like Moonsorrow, just gloomier, and the melancholy and yearning to the earlier times on the earlier albums has been replaced with a more fundamental wrath and dark depression.
Gone are most of the heroic, epic choruses, and gone are most of the folkish sounds; both are there, but the darker metal parts have taken the front of the stage, and the earlier main ingredients are now more in support of the evolved vision than the main theme. The sound is more like a stony wall of a mountain range than an autumnal forest with lush undergrowth, and there is coldness and restrained aggression in the sound and atmosphere. Even the trademark mouth harp manages to sound distant and sad, and the yearning for the age of legends has turned to a pale, ghostly and somehow ethereal. The sound is still thick and layered, but some of the instruments and passages have an non-palpable feel of ghosts appearing in the mist above a frozen lake. In other words, the production is perfect, and captures the essence of the music as well as the compositions themselves.
Sometimes the guitars play hard-hitting riffs that could well be off a pure black metal album. The vocals have much fewer clean parts, and their character is angrier. They are also much harder to make out without written lyrics, but those lyrics are worth a look, and the band has been thoughtful enough to provide their own translations to English. Those surely conserve the original shades of the lyrical works better than any amateur doodling, and as far as poetry goes, manage to keep the feel of the originals almost perfectly.
Verisäkeet is a turning point, a reinvention of Moonsorrow, but it still keeps the essence of the band, and builds on it. It does not discard what was good and defining about the earlier works, but it uses the material for new creations. This is A Song of Fire and Ice to The Hobbit of the earlier albums, a more mature and serious work, and just like the comparison between the different brands of fantasies, whether or not the audience likes one or the other more is a matter of taste. But whatever the palate of the listener thinks, the shift to the new darker style was taken at the right time, and the band skillfully avoided turning stale and repeating themselves to eternity.
This is a more complicated, more demanding album than the earlier works of Moonsorrow, but still worth a lot of effort to understand. Verisäkeet shows a new side of the familiar band, and while the joyous, epic stories are gone, and the first spins of the album might leave a pale gray feeling and mild desperation in the mind, there is much to discover and understand. And it will provide food for thought. Oh, yes it will! If you have the album, and you haven't enjoyed it as much as the earlier works, give it another chance. Verisäkeet, like fresh blood, is not easy to digest, and takes a bit of effort, but it will reward you.
Verisäkeet lies within the branch of those albums which you cannot describe due to their magnificent appeal or simply to their epic, timeless compositions. It's a truly wonderful experience, but I have to admit that I had to listen to it a lot of times before being able to fully describe it. This is obviously due to the complex structures of the music and that every song you go through brings a whole new story to tell. You just cannot get tired of this album, as every new listen makes you travel to a world of pagan wonders and epic journeys.
The way Verisäkeet has been divided into songs is a really important part of the work. It only contains 5 tracks, but the album clocks in at over 70 minutes of stunning folk/pagan metal. Moonsorrow has always been known for their long, epic songs, and this album is no exception to this tendency. It also appears to me that Verisäkeet was meant to be listened to as a whole; right after you're done with the first track, the second track comes in with a similar atmosphere, thus the compositions seem tied to each other. Nevertheless, they still can be listened to individually.
The music itself is of an unspeakable beauty. "Karhunkynsi" (Bearclaw) introduces the masterpiece with some atmospheric sounds, soon to be followed by pounding riffs that you won't forget. The drumming is very present and adds the feeling of despair and loss to the sound. The melodies are unbelievably beautiful and catchy while being part of more complex structures. The vocals are also a major element of this album with black metal-like shrieks that combine with folk metal chants. Even considering its fourteen minutes length, this track is not going to bore you at all, for the music is indeed very progressive. "Haaska" (Carrion) starts with a rather simple but effective acoustic riff that sounds Bathory-inspired even though it is unique in its own way. The song structure is yet again progressive (another fourteen minutes track here) with epic riffs and unforgettable melodies. This track is a bit slower with a more present use of keyboards. Sometimes the sound is very black metal-like with blast beats and tremolo picking, but becomes right after a lot more folk-inspired (mouth harp, flute, acoustic guitars, and other folk instruments). This is the essence of Moonsorrow: a very progressive, atmospheric sound that implies a perfect blend of genres.
Then comes "Pimeä" (Dark) which begins with a dark, atmospheric feeling and a very impressive scream by Ville Sorvali. This song is even more obscure than the prior compositions. The blend of folk instruments (mostly acoustic guitars and keyboards) with the heavily distorted guitars and bass is incredible. The despair and sorrow is brought perfectly by the screeching vocals and the guitars. The drums are also very nice here, bringing their share of the darkness sound. After going through this journey of fourteen minutes (again!) comes the best song of Verisäkeet, if you ask me. "Jotunheim" is an epic experience of blackened folk metal. Beginning with some bird sound (can't tell what it is), then going on with an incredibly beautiful acoustic riff, Jotunheim is the perfect match of folk instrumental music with black metal. It's the longest track here (a bit more than nineteen minutes), but this masterpiece cannot bore you at all. Again, it's very progressive with nice tempo and melody variations and the use of acoustic instruments in this song is completely amazing. Jotunheim is simply indescribable. Its catchy and melodic riffs along with more brutal aspects brings Moonsorrow to an absolutely new level of musical perfection.
"Kaiku" (Echo) is the last track here. To me, it sounds like an outro, simple as that. Some might find it boring because it's mostly animal sounds and atmospheric noises, but I think it deserves to be there. Of course it's not the most interesting song here, however I believe it's still worth listening to. It starts with a nice flute melody accompanied with acoustic guitars and some percussion which ends after about three minutes in a fade out. The remaining five minutes are basically noises of cracking fire and animals in the forest. Even with a lack of real instrumentation, Kaiku brings a nice closing atmosphere to the album. I, however, had to deduct some points here of course because five minutes of ambient noises sound a bit too long for me.
Verisäkeet is probably Moonsorrow's best release. It's an amazing blend of genres with melodic, folk, and more brutal aspects. While a bit different from their previous releases (a lot more black elements compared to the first release, which I find more folksy), Verisäkeet remains a completely fascinating experience. Fans of folk, pagan, black, or Viking metal should definitely get this.
Finnish epic metallers Moonsorrow have become one of my favourite bands as of late, and 'Verisäkeet' does not break the streak of awe and excellence the band has demonstrated with each past experience I've had with them. Moonsorrow have always been ones for drawn out folk metal epics and their heavy sense of ambition takes them great places here. A somewhat more raw and black metal-leaning album than what I have heard before from them, 'Verisäkeet' is yet another long album to get lost in. It may not be the most successful record they have churned out, but for its flaws and faults, 'Verisäkeet' comes through as a great album.
Unless you are a newcomer to the music of this band, track lengths often reaching the fifteen minute mark and beyond should not be any surprise from the band at this point. In that sense, they have not changed their style much. There are still lush orchestrations, extended and often detailed compositions, and a heavy folk element that puts Moonsorrow at the top of the pagan metal hierarchy. For the sake of 'Verisäkeet' though, there is more of a focus on raw black metal sounds than there are on other records, if even a bit. 'Verisäkeet' is far from being a simple record, but there are moments where it feels as if Moonsorrow are paying an homage to the black metal classics. The final minutes of the opener 'Karhunkynsi' even feature a close rendition of the Mayhem song 'De Mysteriis Dom Santhanas', which is always a bit of a shock to hear on an album that otherwise prides itself greatly on its grand scale and bombastic nature.
Although the folkier side of Moonsorrow's fanbase may find the darker, brooding sound of 'Verisäkeet' a bit offputting when compared to their other albums, it does work to bring a sadness in the band's voice that is just as emotionally stirring as their more triumphant approach. 'Verisäkeet's more to-the-point nature is not something I think works as well for Moonsorrow as when they decide to go all out with orchestrations, like with 'V: Havitetty'. Also, the album's cohesion becomes less of an issue when each song becomes so long, but the final track 'Kaiku' feels a tad unnecessary. Although it is a pleasant ballad, having a four minute acoustic piece (the final four minutes is left to tedious natural ambiance) trail such monstrous tracks beforehand feels somewhat underwhelming for a closer to what it otherwise an epic piece of music.
Despite the flaws that remain pronounced enough to clearly identify, Moonsorrow's fourth album remains a triumph. Moonsorrow have impressed me again.
Forget the premise of metal, or folk, or music and art as a whole for that matter - Verisäkeet is one of the most transcendent and divine products of all human creation. Now, I hate to be one of those assholes who only posts a handful of reviews that are all rated either 100%, 0% or a combination of both, but rarely am I inspired enough by an entire release to write in its name. For future reference, I am not fond of the general concept of objectivity. The way music sounds literally differs between each pair of ears. It is perception, both physical and mental. So, as such, I would only ever bother to review an album that I personally feel deserves more recognition, whether it has been generally well-received or not, and this review should serve as an insight into my opinion – if you don’t like my opinion(s), you may as well disregard this. I have found much good music by following internet-strangers’ opinions. Despite this album’s generally great receptance, I still feel inclined to reinforce its glory, as it is often lost out to the likes of much more shallow and superficial bands, coughkorpiklaanicough, and still is merely in the shadows of monumental releases as far as wide recognition is concerned. Though, I suppose the trend of “folk / viking metal” has been a rising one lately, and Moonsorrow are still fairly highly regarded by many for actually contributing something to the genre. Unlike, let’s say, Ensiferum. Regardless, Moonsorrow is, as stated by both the band and several fans including members of this site, not a viking metal band. I find the term somewhat ridiculous, but considering how many ludicrous, cheesy alternate brands of folk metal there are out there, there exists a corresponding amount of corny genre names to accompany. The Moonsorrow members themselves even join in on the unique genre descriptions, though at least they justify their reasoning for labeling themselves as “epic heathen metal” - epic atmosphere, heathen message, metal core…That came out wrong, the core of their music is metal - there is no metalcore association with this music whatsoever.
Verisäkeet is very important in Moonsorrow’s chronology as it marks their first full-length album with distinct black metal elements, similar to that of their demos. This is Moonsorrow’s blackest and best album, and may remain such for the rest of their career, though that is yet to be determined. Bear in mind we’re not being objective here – this review exists purely in the realm of my subjectivity. I will try to describe the aesthetics of the music itself in as objective a light as possible, but that’s as far as it goes.
The opening track, “Karhunkynsi” (also the most difficult title to remember), serves as a bridge of sorts. In chronological sequence, Moonsorrow has gone from predominately black to folk and now back to black – this opener is by far the most straightforward “folk metal” track on the album, but still has a sufficient flavour of their new sound. It would lose a few points for this, but the diversity it gives the album, plus the manner in which it smoothly bridges the gap between their old and new sound which is far from a bad idea, compensates for its inferiority. Not to mention it is still a magnificent specimen of black/folk metal. It feels very proper, and raises the fact that they are still the same band to the core – they are simply exploring darker and more depressive themes, both lyrically and musically. Clean-cutting distortion guitars slowly rise out of the folk melody being played, which sounds like that two-stringed Finnish violin, whatever its name is. The songs all have a repetitive structure to them, but Karhunkynsi seems to execute it in slightly less brilliance than the subsequent tracks – the subtle changes in the various repetitions aren’t quite as flowing, nor as distinct… even though they are attempting to be subtle with it, it should still provide a feeling of movement, progression, the same atmosphere with a different vibe… or vice versa. Don’t get me wrong though, Karhunkynsi is still a mindblowingly epic song, I am merely speaking in relativity to the majesty of Verisäkeet’s whole. The remaining four tracks execute this idea that is somewhat similar to minimalism in structure, at least as far as 14+ minute songs are concerned, much smoother and with more conviction. And on the topic of the repetitive structure – the arrangements are very hypnotically repetitive, yet no part is ever replicated identically. This corresponds with the lyrics, which explore similar themes while gently shuffling the phrasing around. And most impressively, in a light never before seen by Moonsorrow – This album marks a totally new stage in Moonsorrow’s career up until this point, combining the atmospheric icy demo tracks which sound similar to “On The Sortilage of Christianity” fused with “Lunar Poetry”, and the musical development and experience gained through their folk albums, creating the most distinct “Moonsorrow sound” that currently exists. The influences are still present and noticeable, but it seems for this album the band looked much deeper inside of themselves and their own inspirations rather than other artists’ and musicians’.
A prime example of this radiant uniqueness is the track in the dead centre of the five, titled “Pimeä. This is Moonsorrow’s darkest song, suitably titled “Dark”, as it utilizes some of the shrillest, most bleakly evocative guitar arpeggios that exist, nevertheless within Moonsorrow’s catalogue, and to top it off – Ville’s ultimate vocal performance, heard slightly beyond two minutes in. These shrieks put Nyktalgia’s overly-controlled vocals to shame, showcasing infinitely more conviction, as well as the whiny likes of Silencer who is really just a batshit-insane attention-starved moron more than an artist with integrity. I mean Jesus Christ, Moonsorrow are one of the furthest things from a DSBM outfit yet they outdo just about every single one vocal-wise, and in perfect modesty, only ever showcasing this level of shriek here. It gives Pimeä an extra sense of specialness for that, not that it wasn’t incredibly special already. Needlessly to say, Pimeä is one of, if not my favourite song of all time and creation. If there is one song on Verisäkeet to hear, this is it; though, depending on your taste, Jotunheim may take this cake, as it is another timelessly unique masterpiece.
Now, for some emphasis on the actual instrumentation: the drums are fantastic – Marko is very candid in regards to his competence in melodic instruments, seen through his incredibly melodic fills and his role as the 12-string acoustic guitarist. He is a master of rhythm, as well, providing consistent yet varied rhythms that carry the songs through their epic lengths without ever becoming boring. The bass is actually present - most prominent during the quieter portions of the music, though this has been true for just about all of Moonsorrow’s work. Henri and Mitja are a fantastic guitar duo, bringing elements to the table that neither fully possesses on their own, creating a wonderful synergy. I have a hunch that the majority of the solos can be credited to Mitja, whereas the overall guitar composition is credited to Henri. This holds true for Moonsorrow as a whole, as they are not abusers of the solo, very seldom implementing them into songs, and as such, to much greater magnitude and effect; when the solo in Pimeä begins winding up, you know you’re in for an alluring treat, adding yet another unique element to a masterpiece that has already thrown more than anyone could expect at you. 6/8 (or12/8, depending on the context) are, to no surprise, the most common time signatures present, as this is a folk-themed album, but there still are some riffs executed in 4/4. As far as my memory serves, there are no odd signatures such as 5/8 that can be heard on V: Havitetty. Overall stellar musicianship, and more importantly, implemented through majestic taste.
This music contains something that is very uncommon in much modern metal, even within the supposedly innovative and diverse genre that is black metal, which comes down to pure conviction and passion. To read the lyrics (translations, of course, which are done excellently) while listening the music is to know that these guys are dead fucking serious, pouring their all into the creation and execution of these songs. Pimeä seems to serve as a sort of single-concentrated outlet for all of the total inner and outer darkness that exists - instead of stooping to the level of your average DSBM band, which is lucky to have one track not on the topic of suicide and other whiny bullshit… and these are usually instrumentals. Pimeä is not so saturated in its own ideas – it is an incredibly dark, bleak song, yet it does not wallow in itself forever – it also provides a vibe of triumph, buried amidst the frantic chaos and fear, which I guess you’re not really looking for if you dig the mindless self-pitying/hatred with no possible potential for salvation that your average DSBM would have, nor the mindlessly upbeat concepts present in your average folk/metal hybrid band, on that subject. But it comes down to a matter of affinity – this particular concoction of traditional folk combined with black metal in as tasteful and mature a manner as possible does not necessarily strike a chord with everyone – some people do not care much for nature either, which is a dominant theme throughout the entire album, portrayed through several minutes of nature-ambiance, which in itself manages to stay surprisingly varied and offers a very soothing rest to the aggressive side of the music. Alongside the various clean and folk instrument intros, interludes, closings etc., Verisäkeet provides a perfect balance of beautifully clean music and aggressive, more abrasive sonic fury and passion. This is a balance I think many types and forms of metalheads strive for, yet is so uncommon in the wake of the totally-abrasive 100% pure metal assaults or on the other side of the spectrum, an unimaginable structure of “harsh scream verse” -> “clean chorus… maybe with some harsh vocals obnoxiously repeating the words or making it impossible to decipher what is actually being said when”, back to “harsh scream verse, except this time maybe reverse the structure of the chorus and have the clean vocals layering or combined with the harsh”, that is so common in everything from generic metalcore to newer Anaal Nathrakh. Where is the subtlety? Where is the taste (also an incredibly subjective term)?
Another incredibly vital element to Verisäkeet’s grandeur is the implementation of the various folk instruments. Seldom are musicians able to combine two genres such as Folk or Celtic with Metal without sounding completely contrived and pointless. In the forefront of the genre, Moonsorrow, Falkenbach and Primordial are just about the only ones legitimately deserving of bearing the adjective “epic”. Such a description is thrown around so loosely nowadays – any DnD geek or Tolkien-freak can write songs based on battles and ancient customs, but there is nothing real in it, only pallid power-metal riffs lacking any genuine inspiration. At least, the light they try to portray these epic circumstances in barely aligns in my mind with the feelings behind the actual events. It takes the sterile role of a generic history teacher, rather than a vivid reliving of the emotions and sensations of standing in a battlefield, surrounded by death and utter chaos in every direction – a specific vibe I feel much more convincingly in Weakling than I do in any Ensiferum or Turisas. Overall dynamic and emotion are severely lacking in this “oncoming trend” that is folk/viking/sorceress of the night metal. Verisäkeet manages to focus on a separate theme in every single track, yet each one embodies an unfathomable and epic feeling and concept, and all fall under the same umbrella, giving the album a feel of cohesion. They sing of mostly humourless ideas such as death, time, and some sort of patriotism – never too mindlessly serious and monotonous as most DSBM, nor light-humored and shallow as the more casual folk metal bands. Henri Sorvali clearly outlets all of his whacked out humppa-humour through Finntroll, leaving his full undivided attention focusing strictly on the serious, mature side of music within him for Moonsorrow… Although they did joke before its release that Verisäkeet was to be titled the Finnish equivalent of “Gay Pig”, but hey – one should always maintain somewhat of a sense of humour, or else they are doomed – this particular joke has no bearing whatsoever on the album’s content itself. Never take yourself too seriously or too lightly. Balance!
Although my description of Verisäkeet’s sound is rather abstract, that’s all that any review can really provide in most cases. If you’re familiar with the folk metal genre or Moonsorrow’s other material, it will still be nearly impossible to grasp an understanding of Verisäkeet’s sound before having heard it. It is also Moonsorrow’s most diverse album, the two tracks sounding the most similar being Pimeä and Haaska, which still have entirely distinguishable themes, they are merely both heavy in Moonsorrow’s somewhat-new style of clean and distorted arpeggios. Aside from that, Jotunheim contains some mindblowing melodies and arrangements, clocking in as the longest track on the album at a length past 19 minutes. It speaks more of a profound pride and respect for their homeland, Finland, and this is solidly represented through the sound. The frantic urgency of Pimeä is replaced with a calmer feel, portraying the image that it is significantly more controlled, in spite of the manic tightness experienced only minutes ago through Pimeä’s; but that is what they were trying to achieve. “No man can ever own this land”, the final lyric of the 19-minute epic, is a perfect final summary for the monster song that spends a third of an hour dragging you through the mind of a sincere and passionate artist. It is no wonder Moonsorrow pays such homage to seemingly “uptight” or excessively serious themes, considering their homeland – 75% trees containing something over 170,000 separate islands. Black metal is the naturally ideal outlet for these sentiments – an unconditional love and respect for something as sacred, serene and timeless as the Earth’s natural phenomena – this is without venturing into Nazi territory, also, for the record. The layered lead melody has a profoundly suiting melancholic yet patriotic feel, connecting directly with the song’s concept. I could tell Jotunheim was about nature and landscapes before I read the lyrics. From slightly upbeat, to grim and primordial bloodshed, to complete utter inner and outer darkness, to a passionate epic suited for an epic land, finally to the calm, resolved closing, Verisäkeet offers it all, and does so flawlessly. “Kaiku”, meaning “Echo”, is said closing, and is very fitting at that. The crackling sounds of flames, the band members sitting in a circle surrounding it singing their choir vocals alongside their woodwind instrumentation. There is an undeniable sense of closure, slowly winding the listener down from the gale-storm of sonic art they just absorbed.
Verisäkeet is a musical masterpiece with infinite replay value – rarely can so much conviction and passion be heard throughout an entire full-length offering; nothing reminiscent of “filler” is anywhere to be found in this album. It is unpredictable with shocking turns, yet maintains an incredibly fluent flow, giving the epic tracks the image that they are classic traditional songs of the same nature as those they were inspired by. I have a hunch that in centuries to come, Verisäkeet will be looked back upon as one of the musical landmarks of our generation. I could rant on this album’s grandeur for twice the length I already have, but I fear nobody would have the patience to read this review if I did. Every listen will reveal something new to the listener, no matter how many spins the CD has received, whether it be the underlying vocal harmonies between harsh and clean, the discrete varying keyboard tones, or simply the brilliant subtlety of the compositions and arrangements themselves. If you have even a drop of affinity with metal, folk or genuinely good music and art, this album will become a timeless treasure to your ears and mind.
There's a lot of talk as to what Moonsorrow is and what they're all about. According to their own website, Moonsorrow is NOT a Viking metal band. They are not conquering warlords, nor do they sing about conquering warlords. They would much more aptly be categorized as pagan metal, as they themselves would say. Their lyrics are indeed indicative of their spiritual inclinations toward the natural world and man's personal connection thereunto.
While on that subject, the lyrics are magnificently arraged, conveying the themes of brutal violence and the imminent submission to the power of the land and of nature itself. The name of the album, Verisäkeet, means "Bloodverses". A particularly violent story, "Bloodverses" tells of different kinds of violence: the warlike violence of man, the violence of beast as it does what it was created to do, violence of the harsh terrain. The first track, "Karhunkynsi" translates to "Bear Claw". No, it is not speaking of the delectable American pastry, but of the claws of a bear. The theme begins here but is continued throughout the album. At start, you don't really know who is the true subject of the song, the bear with his claws or the warlike tribe that rents in twain all in its path. Later, the theme transmogrifies to portray man's attempt to subdue the natural power of the beasts of the land and eventually the land itself. In a dramatic resolution, man is ultimately defeated by the blistering cold, icy winds and torrential snowfall. The lyrics are poignantly rendered in one of these final verses of "Jotunheim":
"Thus curse the giants of stone and of ice
From here none shall pass"
"No man can ever own this land"
Though the times have for the most part changed, and shows that mankind does indeed "own" the land, these verses prove that such a viewpoint is undeniably a passionately spiritual and romantic one, unswayed by time or tide in man's "civilized" endeavors. This is one of the many pagan world views.
One other aspect of their assertion of this pagan world view comes from what I'd simply call "nature ambience". It is extremely prominent on this album, embodying several of the song-to-song transitions and accounting for a significant portion of the total playing time on this recording. For instance, the nature ambience between tracks two and three lasts longer than a minute. Though it pales in broad-view comparison to the fourteen-minute length of the tracks themselves, real-time listening paints a much different portrait of its significance. Once again, between tracks three and four, the ambience lasts a full thirty seconds. In track four, however, it is no longer a "transition", but a full-blown segment of the song. Lasting about two-and-a-half minutes, the real-time experience treats it as an entirely different song. Finally, the last track, which is listed as being over eight minutes, actually contains less than four minutes of music, while more than fifty percent of the track is nature ambience.
In all, this makes the case that the real power in their idealogy comes from the power of nature over man. It is a spiritual statement above all else.
The music overall is every bit as good as on any other album. Some people say, "Where's the folk?" They're looking for certain types of melodies played on certain instruments. This time Moonsorrow has not boxed in their implementation of folk music within certain instruments. They have built it into the metal. Writing melody-rich, complex and intricate riffs, each metal song on this album (the last track is an acoustic number) contains fantastic passages loaded with epic power and beauty.
Forget for a moment that the album opener, "Karhunkynsi", starts out with a fiddle introduction. Past that, the next few minutes are dedicated to no less than three different full-bar riffs, two of which are folk-laden testimonials to the fact that Moonsorrow knows very well how to write music. Over the course of the fourteen-minute song, musical themes change a significant number of times enough to ensure the listener maintains his attention. At the six-minute spot, there's a very ethereal clean-guitar arpeggiation that stands against a backdrop of a short recitation of spoken word and a slow metal strum riff. This song also includes a return to the blastbeat not heard on their previous masterpiece, Kivenkantaja.
The second song incorporates another type of theme that they would develop more strongly on their next work, V: Hävitetty, that of a kind of arpeggiating chord that conveys a sense of impending doom. A very dark chord style opens into the song and transitions into an alternating minor-to-major chord riff played in black metal style. The "impending doom" theme returns a number of times in this fourteen-minute epic. Another element found in this song as on Kivenkantaja is the clean unison choir, which serves not so much to convey beauty but of sternness, a very strong link to the "impending doom" chords. It's times like these that serve only to impress me, a veteran of music theory, thinking only that "they had to know what they were doing." Once again, here's a folkish melody that comes in for a too-brief moment on the synthesizer in a mellotronish tone.
The third track, "Pimeä", is a very unique one for lots of reasons, not the least of which being that death vocalist Ville Sorvali issues some extremely hellish shrieks not heard on any other of their songs! The transition from second track to third is the first prominent use of the aforementioned "nature ambience", lasting more than a whole minute. The opening metal riff is a full-bar richly melodic, tightly-constructed demonstration of their talents as composers and as musicians.
The last real metal song is "Jotunheim", listed at over nineteen minutes, and contains the best riffs on the entire album. Rich with epic keyboard choruses and melodic guitar passages, it's hard not to vote this tune the album favorite. As previously mentioned, it's not actually the full listed length, as the last two minutes plus is actually more "nature ambience". Again, the opening to this song is further evidence that their folk infusion is not as sparse as some people have previously stated. They are looking for these embellishments as needing to come from folk instruments, where instead they are coming from within the core band instruments.
Lastly, "Kaiku" is a folk song completely lacking in any metal content. There are, on the other hand, some enhancements that push it outside the bounds of purely acoustic content. With the presence of this track, however, I can't see any reason to complain, "where's the folk?" Here it is! While it pales in comparison to Kivenkantaja's "Matkan Lopussa", it still conveys the overall theme of the album, that of "Bloodverses", in that carries within it the connection between man and the harshness of his earthly journey. In this song exists the one line upon which Viking metal enthusiasts would state their case:
"The song of our fathers echoes"
Still, this would not be enough proof, as this is the refrain for every folk culture that ever lived, Viking or otherwise.
As to the mixing and production on this album, there can be no complaints whatsoever, as even those who gave this album a somewhat mediocre rating could not say anything negative about these aspects. Truly, the mixing is top-notch and the production is flawless.
All things considered, their move towards longer songs have not detracted from the meaning and power of any one of them. Moonsorrow has also proven that they can create, define and execute a full album-length theme with beauty, precision and poise.
New album from one of my all time favorite Viking black metal inspired bands, celestially named Moonsorrow. Since their legendary “Tama Ikuinen Talvi” demo, this Enslaved Vs Bathory worshiping horde always had shown the potential of being destined for greatness!
Unlike Mithotyn who kicked off with some powerful material but their latest efforts turning out into “sour cream”, Moonsorrow keeps recording massive releases one after the other with “Verisakeet” possibly being their most powerful and Grande album to date! Nothing much has changed if you are already aware of their musical abilities, but the songs are spanning to a majestic 15 min. each and the sound is even more superb than ever.
All accompanied by Bathory` s acoustic guitars, Thyrfing` s folk elements, old Enslaved` s harshness and the typical Moonsorrow track - structure that keeps the listener focused on the music solely. There are only 5 tracks on this one but they are all trademark classic with a capital TM. Songs with a proper structure that are able to balance the aforementioned elements. Songs with prospect and direction evoking images of Scandinavian vast lands and bloodied battlefields.
Viking metal is not dead, at least not with acts such as Moonsorrow! This is one of the best samples of this form of art I have heard in recent times and also one of Finland’ s finest who instead of following typical black metal stereotypes choose to follow their very own sad path since day one.
This is probably the best Moonsorrow work so far, although very close with Voimasta ja Kunniasta. I will not deny that it is different from previous works but that does not take away anything from the quality of the music.
Let me first talk about some of the changes. First of all, 4 out of 5 of the songs are the longest Moonsorrow songs ranging from fourteen to as much as over ninteen minutes. There isn't as much folk influence to the music, although it is still present. This album is much more dark and really does sound very sad. While listening to this you could almost picture yourself sitting or hiking in the woods of Finland. It really is that beautiful as is Finland. Let me also say that Ville's screams in this album are much better than in the last albums and they are really great. They are long and very harsh. Ville sounds as if someone is stabbing him with a sword. This goes really well with the music.
The album starts off with Karhunkynsi which is one of the less interesting songs on the album but still great. This as all the songs on the album start off with a little ambience and sounds of nature. You can hear birds chirping before the fiddle comes in and then the drums which are as powerful as ever. There are some acoustic guitars on here too. At 1:57 Ville lets out a decent scream, and you have more guitars, drums, and the fiddle is still present before the vocals come in at around 2:20. The song is lengthy at exactly 14 minutes but it doesn't bore you. There are several more loud, long, ear-piercing screams performed by Ville and the last minute or two of the song are once again sounds of nature, you could hear the cold wind blowing and birds chirping and this leads into the next song.
Haaska is a lengthy song of over 14 minutes that continues with the sounds of nature but adds in acoustic guitar which while calm still manages to sound very dark and sad. Around 0:40 the song explodes with Ville's sharp loud scream. If you were sitting alone and really into the acoustic music, the scream comes in so unexpected you could even jump out of surprise. At around 1:25 we have another scream, and the song continues with the drumming, guitars, and you hear the fiddle once again in the background. You could also hear acoustic guitar. This song has a few breaks for acoustic parts about one minute long. They are excellent. Also the drums stand out and at some points for a second or two they are even in the rolling-style almost like balls rolling on the ground and hitting bumps.
Pimea starts off with an owl hooting quietly and a crow squaking. Once again at about 0:40 you get startled by Ville's scream and the drums and guitar take over from there. This song also has quite a dark feel to it as you have guitars, acoustic guitars, and drums combined in one sound. Ville's vocals in this song are also great, and they go very high-pitched at times in this song. There are many screams here as usual. At least 6 or 7 throughout the whole song. Incredible.
Jotunheim is the longest song on here clocking in at 19:28. It is an amazing epic that starts off with quiet acoustic guitars. Acoustic guitars dominate the beginning of the song all the way to about 3:00 when guitars and drums come in. The acoustic guitar no longer makes its presence. And at 3:48 the song turns much more melodic at the sound of Ville's scream. The melody is a very sad one that almost makes people cry. Ville's vocals make it sound like he is going through excruciating pain which makes the song all the more sound. We have some clean vocals on this song too as well as on the other songs. The song is excellent until about 16 minutes. After that and into Kaiku all we get is basically some ambience and more sounds of nature and birds chirping. I wouldn't have a problem if all this lead into a great dark and powerful song, but it doesn't. Instead it leads to some pointless chanting which really has no point. Sure it sounds nice, but its very boring. This is my only problem with the album and if not for Kaiku I'm sure I would give this 100.
Overall a great album. Much more dark and still heavy. Not as many folk influences although you still have harps and fiddles. The birds chirping and other nature sounds are really great intros to the songs and set a sort of sad and calm atmosphere before you get bombasted with screams, heavy guitars, and drums. Moonsorrow's greatest work although also much different. I would not recommend this album if you want to get into Moonsorrow, a good starter album would be the first three albums which really take you into Moonsorrow. This album is more like a combination of the three which is why it sounds so different. Kivenkantaja had a lot of acoustic parts while Voimasta ja Kunniasta and Suden Uni were heavy and more dark, and Suden Uni definately stood out for its folkish influences (it has more than any of the other albums).
Moonsorrow – Verisäkeet
Henri and Ville Sorvali have done the impossible. They have built a time machine, took all their instruments and travelled back to Norway, in the beginning of the 90’s and recorded their music using the icy cold atmosphere that bands like Satyricon and Enslaved (and Dark Throne, I did not forget) created, blending it with their own personal touch of Viking metal. And all the little glitches that may have been a nail in some peoples eyes and ear (yes I mean my self), such things as Villes voice that finally has found a perfect place to stay. If you first listen to Kivenkantaja and then this one, you hear a great change in force and roughness. And the number one thing that bugged me on Kivenkantaja was the half ass choir. Now that has all been taken care of. Here we are treated to big choirs in true “Hammerheart” fashion and Ville Sorvali with perhaps just the right amount of mead in his system.
Now I will do what I usually do, break each track down and let me tell you what I think. Won’t this be fun?
Karhunkynsi: First track is 14 minutes long and it’s a ride to remember. The track starts with crows and birds chirping and just enjoying the sunshine or something. Then we begin with classic folk violins that opens for heavy Enslaved guitars and the Viking choir shrieking us welcome. It’s a bouncy track, not that it’s uneven but you really feel that it was built around some old folk music, and that’s always good. And with the mix of older black metal riffs and arrangements it just makes the listener pay attention because you feel that something will burst out of the speakers at any moment. About six minutes the tempo slows down just a little bit, giving the track a bit of an 80’s feeling, at least I get it. The choir gets real deep close to the 8-minute mark, and I like a deep almost dark choir. It sounds more power full. Following the choir we get almost march tempo…and now the ride begins. Classic black metal guitar and blast beats get thrown at the listener when you least expected it. See, I told you so! This part of the track really makes me thing of Satyricon, especially “Du som hater Gud” by some reason. Don’t ask me why, I just get it. And by the way, with this track it’s now official. Drummer “Baron” is an animal. Organised, but still an animal behind the drums. Herni’s clean singing close to the end is some of the better I’ve heard.
All in all, a great opener. Sure, it’s 14 minutes long, but there was never a dull moment, and that’s what matters.
Haaska: Track number 2 is just slightly longer, 42 seconds longer. It starts with the sounds of a battle, so for the more perceptive of us, we already know that this is the pure Bathory track, or at least the first one. Nice acoustic guitar that makes way for the most obvious rip off from any of Bathory’s Viking album. But if you do it right so I’m OK with that. One thing strikes me with the guitars. They are really pure black metal but it fits perfect. Impressive. The other thing that strikes me is the acoustic guitar. It’s there for almost the whole track, but it only rears it’s head here and there. Not to fill the track up, but to give it more atmosphere. And what do you know; it works like a swish watch. Real good Bathory choir, I just can’t say it enough. If Quorthon hears this in Valhalla, I’m sure he’s proud. After a calmer part we turn up the pace, to something best called mid tempo maybe? We’ll go with that. The riffs are in my eras a perfect bastard son of Satyricon and Bathory, nice and fine. Solid drums and a fat bass by Ville. The keyboard sounds more like a combination of a piano and church bells in the background. The slower ending makes me thing of “Blood fire death”, only with a lot better sound. The ending choir and thunder is just what the track needed for a great finish. Flute, dripping water, and accordion with almost shaman drums fades the track out. Thank you for that. It was sweet!
This is perfect for those who like Bathory but can’t take the bad sound. This is what “Hammerheart” and “Twilight of the Gods” could have sounded like if he had the right equipment. Perfect tribute if you ask me.
Pimeä: Track 3 is 14.08 long, so no rest here. We start with a quiet guitar, thunder and wind. A fox (I think) that’s barking and ravens calling. And then, BANG! Enslaved riffs along side some Emperor guitars. Didn’t see that one coming to be honest. Villes voice on this track is just simply amazing. He shrieks like his life depended on. Maybe it was, who knows?
Great solid beat, good riffs and the keyboard fill up in the back giving it that Moonsorrow feeling we grown used to. The bass has a lot more meat on its bones then it had on the past albums, making the sound image fatter. So far so good, but the clean vocal choir was no 10 pointer, sorry to say. But they make me happy again by using two acoustic guitars in the background, giving it a folk feeling. But the choir has no force, it’s…too nice.
Enter keyboards. It sound like a flute and an accordion had a baby. Nice! Now we really make it folk, with acoustic guitars playing something I’ve heard in some old folk song, but I don’t remember witch one. Now the track is more mid tempo and heavier. This track feels like a more calm story, more relaxed the two before it, that gives the listener a little breather, because this is not an album you put on when your doing the dishes, you really must LISTEN to it, or else you’ll miss a lot of interesting parts. We are heading towards the end and Villes voice goes almost into a state of necro. Not like the true masters, but he goes down deep and gives it all, and he sounds a little like Nocturno Culto. Impressive. But why the fading ending? I hate it when a perfectly good song gets faded. The last thing on the track is different birds shrieking and singing.
Like I said, a little breather. It had many twists, but who cares when it’s done right.
Jotunheim: Number 4 is the longest one, clocking in at 19.28 minutes, and is the longest track that Moonsorrow has ever made.
The first thing we hear is, what I think is, a sea hawk of some sort, I’m not sure. A sad, almost sorrow filled guitar begins to play on and the keyboard gives a gentle breeze of atmosphere. Accordion and bass joins in. if you close your eyes you could almost feel like your sitting on a mountain somewhere in the woods of Finland and staring across the landscape. This is beautiful. It was smart to keep the animal sounds in the background.
Then the calm feeling is destroyed by a shriek from Ville and we’re of. Double bas and keyboards is sometimes all you need, if you use them right, remember that.
The tempo slows down and here the choir is just what I want. It makes you want to sing along. Can’t you sing, scream like hell, but with melody. And the march drums and acoustic guitar that comes in here and there is just perfect. That together with the choir makes it fat, juicy and sweet. Only clean vocals from the choir here, with the keyboard filling up in the back. Heavy beats, nicer Dark Throne beats perhaps? Up the tempo and solid Satyricon riffs are being held back not to take up to much space. This might sound strange but it works, it really does. Nice solo follows. Could be mistaken for a solo of Samoth, but his solos are brighter, but that’s the only difference. 10 minutes have passed. Felt like 2 minutes.
Crystal sounds, on this dark album? You guessed it right. The track keeps a solid steady pace, but with that damn fading outro again! WHY!? Sure, the choir is big and good, but why fade. Please stop, now!
Kaiki: Last track of the album and the shortest one, clocking in at 8.20 minutes.
An accordion and a log fire start the track. Something that sounds like a native Indian flute joins in. Acoustic guitar joins and the choir is back, but cleaner then any of the other tracks. This sound almost like a Viking funeral song. Not the saddest song ever made, but full of atmosphere. It makes you feel like you sit around a fire, singing along with them, remembering some great warrior who just died or something like that. Henri Sorvali has always tried to separate Finntroll and Moonsorrow, and has done a pretty good job, but this part could be on any Finntroll EP any day of the week. About 4 minutes in the singing and playing stops and all we hear is the fire and some animals. 5 minutes gone and nothing, just the fire crackling and some birds singing. OK, I just changed my mind; there are worst things then a faded ending to a track. And that is: pointless filling up the album with a damn fire! Not cool, not for 5 minutes at least.
So, time to come clean. Is this a great album, or just a good one?
Well…before I answer that I have to say this; that I respect Henri Sorvali more then I thought before. He is a musical genius and should be consider being one of the worlds best at what he does. He takes the simple and makes it big. He takes the small and makes is into a masterpiece. I hope he never gets tired of doing what he’s doing. If he does there will be a black day in the metal world.
But on to the record. I’ve listened to it about 25-30 times and it still makes me want to listen one more time. Sure, there are some small flaws that need to be fixed, but maybe it’s good that the album is not perfect? What would Moonsorrow try if they made the perfect record? I think it can only get better and better from here, and if Quorthon is listening from the heavens above, I’m sure he smiles when he heard what great music his work created.
So, to the once who know their metal history, this is one album to get. For those who are getting better at history, this is what Bathory would have sounded like if he had better equipment. And for the newbie’s, by “Blood Fire Death” and “A Blaze in the Northern sky”, and “Suden Uni”. After that you could appreciate this album to the fullest, and you will not be sorry, that’s a promise.
It's going to be fun watching everyone "not getting" this album. Already, now that the first fans are getting their copies, the first reviewers their promos, and the album's leaked in due internet tradition, I have been witnessing a lot of controversy, especially from people bemoaning the lack of happy singalong or pompous synth parts, or that the folk elements are more understated than ever, or that it just simply sounds dirtier, or too long. Well, from my perspective, as someone who grew up with the same influences as they have, it's not difficult at all for me to "get" this. Let me try and explain:
Nowadays, the term Viking Metal is often misused. Most of the times, bands are lumped into that category simply because of some folk/medieval influences in the music, even moreso if the band ever mentions Norse mythology on occasion. On these terms, I think that Moonsorrow are clearly exploring a "spiritual" approach to their Pagan themes, as opposed to simply rehashing them over and over like, say, Amon Amarth seem bent on doing. This is expressed both on the lyrical content ( no, i can't read finnish for shit, but i have had access to the translated lyrics), which seem deliberately more vague and less descriptive and more metaphorical than ever, but also on the premeditated crudeness of their newfound musical approach, which is what has been confusing most of their longtime fans.
Many a comment has been made about the album being "too harsh" or lacking enough melodic moments, or being too long for its own sake, but, like i said, all of this is a conscious approach by the band. If nothing else, to someone who grew up on 90's black metal as I did, simply picking up the little "tributes" the band has included throughout the 5 lengthy tracks is worth the CD alone. Bits like a riff in Karhunkynsi that could have been lifted straight from Mayhem's De Mysteriis, or the opening riff from Pimeä, that would fit confortably on Satyricon's "Shadowthrone". This approach, however, is only surprising to those fans who have gotten into contact with the folk overtones of Voimasta Ja Kunniasta and have never heard a demo or even Suden Uni. Back then, those influences were quite noticeiable in their sound, they are simply making a comeback on this album, which is easily their darkest yet. Bathory's Viking period is still the most dominant influence here, but now it shares the limelight with some harsher influences from vintage norwegian black metal, adding a definite coldness to the material that was somehow lacking in previous efforts.
Don't take this as being a dramatic turn around in Moonsorrow's sound. One of the great things about them has always been their ability to wear their influences so blatantly on their sleeves, and yet still be able to not confuse being influenced with "stealing". For all this talk about riffs reminiscent of this or that band, Verisäkeet is still pretty much an album that could only come from Moonsorrow, using the influences to forge something new instead of trying to sound like this or that band. And don't let the Black Metal references i have been making lead you into thinking they have turned into a Blast fest. Those of you in the know will probably remember that most of those black metal classics were quite midtempo anyway. And midtempo these songs definetly are, long, drawn out behemoths that evolve at their own leisure over the course of 14 minutes a piece. It's almost too much to take in in one sitting at first; there doesn't seem to be enough variation, the melodies are understated as opposed to screaming their pomposity from the rooftops, and well, lets face it, just about any album comprised only of five songs is not exactly easy listening.
But give it time, allow for it to sink in. There's a definite structure to this, that forces the listener to hear it in its entirety. With repeated listens, the album's definite epicness gains form. Colder it might be, but it's also their most heartfelt and intimist, reeking of melancholy from every pore. Karhunkynsi might set a faster tone, but it's really the middle song Pimeä that stands out, while Jotunheim sets the tone for the album's end in an almost doomy fashion. More than merely an album about Thor's Hammer,or trolls, or hacking down christians with viking broadswords, this is an album that is almost spiritual in approach, and that is reflected both in the lyrics and in the music.
All of this should not be new to the long standing Moonsorrow fan. It just sounds new at first. The hooks are not so blatant this time around, and the songs are less reliant on them. It's an album that demands attention, and doesn't give all of its secrets away in one sitting. After a while, though, we regret the fact that an album this good lasts only 70 minutes.
Double album next time, folks?