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Back to the future - 96%

Brill, June 7th, 2005

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?
Let’s go!

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.