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Ravaged and ravishing - 85%

drengskap, April 18th, 2009

Everyone’s favourite Finnish Vikings are back with their fifth album, and their first for new label Spikefarm. 2005’s Verisäkeet got a mixed reception, with some hailing it as a masterpiece and others finding it retrogressive and over-extended. Hävitetty (the title means ‘ravaged’) is likely to prove similarly divisive. This time around, the songs are even longer – Hävitetty contains just two tracks, clocking in at 30 and 26 minutes. If current trends continue, the next Moonsorrow album will consist of one enormous song (like Wyrd’s debut Heathen), and its successor will contain half a song!

Hävitetty’s opening track, though, is really two songs in one. ‘Jäästä Snytynyt’ (‘Born Of Ice’) begins with the ominous creaking of restless glaciers overlaid with a lonely repeated guitar melody, joined by subdued drums, keyboards, and with Ville Sorvali’s warm, rounded bass high in the mix. At this point, Moonsorrow sound like Finnish compatriots and fellow nature-worshippers Tenhi, but after six minutes, this gentle prelude segues into the impassioned, melancholic cri de Coeur of ‘Varjojen Virta’ (‘Stream Of Shadows’). Moonsorrow have made a rod for their own backs here – this song doesn’t let up for the next 25 minutes (barring a folksy passage of acoustic guitar and accordion around the 16-minute mark) and will be an absolute bastard to perform live.

Folk influences are also prominent on Hävitetty’s second and final track ‘Tuleen Ajettu Maa’ (‘A Land Driven Into The Fire’), which opens with shamanic percussion and incantation, acoustic guitar, accordion and mouth harp. Built around a thunderous rolling drumbeat, ‘Tuleen…’ is less immediately compelling than its predecessor, but rewards repeated listing. Thomas Väänänen of Swedish Viking metal warband Thyrfing contributes guest vocals to the album.

Not recommended for those with short attention spans, Hävitetty is a majestically overwhelming assertion of Moonsorrow’s pre-eminence in the current Nordic metal scene. If Valhalla’s house band is half as good as Moonsorrow, Allfather Odin must be well pleased. Hail!