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A folk metal fan's dream - 90%

Crushader, January 19th, 2009

Let’s journey back into the year 2001, when the acclaimed Finnish pagan metal-band Moonsorrow was relatively young. In that year they released not only their debut Suden uni, but also their sophomore album, Voimasta ja kunniasta. Now I’m going to concentrate on Suden uni, which began Moonsorrow’s great rise among the mighty of pagan metal. On Suden uni, they established the epic folk-sound, which would culminate on Kivenkantaja two years later before gradually changing back towards black metal.

Musically Suden uni is mostly (melodic) black metal supported with very strong folk-elements. When comparing it to Voimasta ja kunniasta and Kivenkantaja, the biggest difference here is that those albums have more glorious and majestic musical approach to folk metal whereas Suden uni is more earthly and though it’s not so melancholic, it occasionally sounds even grim. Folk instruments have a more primitive sound to them and they’re also more indigenous in a way than on Moonsorrow’s later albums. The production is good but still rougher than later in their career, enhancing the already dusky atmosphere. With these attributes, Suden uni provokes images from the ancient, gloomy forests and the sturdy Finns living there under the harsh circumstances. Lyrical themes consist mainly of Finnish paganism, bloody battles of old times and nature’s might. These tales are told by the singer Ville Sorvali with a heart-racking and emotional voice and shrieking-style, which give them an unique framework.

The forces that drive the music onward on Suden uni are many. The drumming is made with that hollow-sound to them that is often used in black metal. Marko Tarvonen is a talented player beating his instrument thunderously. Besides drums, he offers clean backing choirs and uses a couple of folk-instruments. Henri Sorvali is the main songwriter with his cousin Ville and a guitarist of high skill. His riffs sound like been drawn from the past world and he surely knows how to make memorable melodies. Henri also sings most of the clean vocals and takes part in the choirs too as well as playing keyboards, accordion and mouth-harp. He’s a definite multi-expert! Ville plays bass in addition to his vocal-duties as well as provides handclapping with Henri and Marko and various quest handclappers.

The main goal of Suden uni is to create an ancient atmosphere with a great touch of majesty but also to bring forth the hardships of the pagan folk. Quite subtle but still very effective synth-mats follow the strong and rugged guitar and bass lines. A variety of folk instruments are used in the right places to construct an old, primordial soundscape. The second track Köyliönjärven jäällä (Pakanavedet II) is a great example of this with its ethereal intro-riffs and beautiful accordion-interludes. It tells a tale from the 12th century, of a Finnish peasant Lalli and a Christian bishop. Unfortunately its validity is questionable but Lalli is regarded as a hero by many Finns, usually not because of his resistance against Christianity but of his obduracy and courage. Tuulen koti, aaltojen koti is a wonderful instrumental piece that pays respect to the nature. It is to be listened at the shore of a lake in the middle of an old forest if one wants it to truly reveal its secrets.

The tracks Ukkosenjumalan poika, Kuin ikuinen and Pakanajuhla have all their own, ingenious and brilliant features. Ukkosenjumalan poika is a stormy, powerful and aggressive song, a great opening for Suden uni. Kuin ikuinen concentrates on creating a battle-atmosphere and Pakanajuhla is a very folkish track depicting an ancient pagan feast. 1065: Aika can be considered to be the first true Moonsorrow-epos in the vein of Sankaritarina, Raunioilla and the like. It’s over 11 minutes long and flows from a passage to another, taking the listener to a journey back in time. However, while 1065: Aika is a very good song, it has somewhat weak stages too. The long beginning is in fact too long and the listener almost gets bored before something greater starts to happen. As a whole, the song isn’t so memorable as the others although it has some glorious moments like the clean choir-part that appears during the second half of the song. The following track, Suden uni, is maybe the weakest spot on the album: a minute-long acoustic instrumental with some synths featuring the same melody which is, though a good one, the same that is introduced to us at the end of Pakanajuhla. I consider Suden uni as a complete filler, the only one Moonsorrow has ever done. On the re-release, there’s also track number eight, Tulkaapa äijät! that is a hilariously upbeat drinking song done with pure Finnish attitude.

If you like folk black metal with a great dose of epicness, heathen-themed metal or just melodic extreme metal, Suden uni is for you. This is atmospheric metal at its best!