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Sami ambient folk metal/rock at its best - 95%

Verd, November 8th, 2012

Shaman is, quite simply, the natural evolution of Shamaani Duo, a brilliant pure entirely acoustic ambient/folk project composed by Jonne Järvelä and some Finnish girl called Maaren Aikio, a talented and emotive singer which unfortunately has not been singing professionally for more than a decade. Both provided vocals, and Järvelä also used to play many other instruments such as guitars and percussion. The only Shamaani Duo release goes under the name of Hunka Lunka and it dates back to 1996, one year before Järvelä created Shaman with a full line-up.

Unlike the second and last Shaman release called Shamániac, more versed into folk metal, longer songs and heavier atmospheres, their debut album Idja directly follows the ideas written and played in the Shamaani Duo days, also rearranging some of those older songs into a new electric way and still maintaining the fresh ambient/folk sound that characterized Järvelä's first band.

As much as twelve songs are featured on this album, all around 3-4 minutes of length, and all following similar patterns. Järvelä's joik, the traditional Sami singing style (yeah, I forgot to mention that all the lyrics are written in this very musical Lapland language), is by far the most innovative (at least for a folk metal record) trait of Idja, consisting in some kind of repeated phonemes, always ending with the vowels a, e and o, that the singer modulates playing with low and high notes and slow and fast tempos.

The instrumental part, though, is also great: we can often hear ambient keyboard backgrounds, but more than all the guitars are perfectly placed in the songs, which present many changes between acoustic and electric parts, thus switching slow acoustic guitars into heavier and still pretty melodic electric guitars. The title track, "Idja", features all of these characteristics: it starts with an acoustic guitar and some great bass lines under Järvelä's emotive joik, which eventually gets higher and the electric guitars kick in, accompanying a catchy chorus that briefly turns another time into the previous acoustic part, repeating this scheme with many little (hearable and enjoyable) changes until a greatly played acoustic guitar solo.

"Hunka Lunka" is another great track, and it comes directly from the Shamaani Duo days, rearranged in a new fashion. Only two minutes in length, it starts with some fast drums and guitars that eventually let Järvelä's vocals enter, mixing joik and clean melodical Sami vocals. Again, acoustic and electric parts alternate with the acoustic rhythm guitar often playing its fast melody under the electric power chords.

This said, the whole album follows more or less these patterns, but it won't bore anyone for sure thanks to its great variety of melodies and ideas in every single song, exploiting all of the advantages that such an innovative folk metal/rock style can donate. On the opener "Oðða Mailbmi" we can, for example, hear ambient keyboards under a slow emotive joik that eventually transforms itself into a catchy chorus supported by electric guitars.

The other two tracks that I love on this album are "Vuojan" and "Orbina". Their schemes are quite similar: "Vuojan" starts with a joik pattern that will repeat itself throughout most of the song, this time being quite high-pitched, and it gains support from drums and guitars until, again, catchy refrains and, another time, a great guitar solo. "Orbina" is actually a bit different, since it's a long crescendo in which Järvelä's joik starts soft and slow over a lone acoustic guitar and gets heavier during the last minutes of the song.

Reviewing such a masterpiece is truly difficult, mainly because of the innate emotional and personal singing style chosen by Shaman, that is a perfectly-sung Sami joik sometimes interspersed with "real" lyrics. And it is impossible to render on a written review all the shades of such a brilliant and atmospheric record: every song is different from the other ones, and still it stays into the unique blend of Sami folk metal/rock that Shaman played on this Idja, even if Järvelä will employ his astonishing joik skills in other Korpiklaani tracks in the future, such as "Northern Fall".

I would sincerely suggest this album to anyone who likes ambient/folk music of the emotional kind, even if one has never heard of joik or Sami music before at all. Shaman's Idja is truly a masterpiece in its genre, and I could say that this is a really unique record since, as far as I know, no other albums have been made with these particular characteristics. Järvelä's voice, which at the time was the voice of a 25 years old man, will never be that great in the future Shaman or Korpiklaani records, which I still love with all of my heart. And the whole instrumental section is greatly played and composed, perfectly managing to create dozens of different patterns and efficaciously playing with rapid changes between acoustic and electric, between fast and slow and so on. Idja is really an unmissable album.

This was Korpiklaani?! - 76%

666head, June 16th, 2008

Wow, just wow. It’s incredible to think that the same guy who composed Happy Little Boozer and Let’s Drink made these songs. I mean, its definitely his voice, but the music sounds nothing like Korpiklaani… almost. Shaman’s debut album Idja, is a damn good album by all means, recommended to anyone who wants some nice, soothing metal, and to Korpiklaani fans, of course.

The album begins with Odda Mailbmi, and pretty much sets the tone for what’s to follow. Every song is charged with heaviness and emotion and ambience. The album will take you through the Finnish countryside all the way to shamanic rituals celebrating a god of theirs. The music feels extraordinarily inspired, even by Shaman/Korpiklaani standards. While most songs are on the serious side, this doesn’t mean that the album can’t have some dosage of fun, which is best represented on the track Hunka Lunka.

The rhythms and melodies all feel very folky and make you feel like you’re standing in front of a shamanic ritual of sorts. The music is basically a true mixture of heavy metal and Finnish folk music. The emotion put into it, the textures, the melodies, the rhythms, it all just feels very organic.

Overall, if you like Korpiklaani, you might want to check this album out, since it was their first, though don’t expect anything 100% like Korpiklaani. For the rest of you, if you want something that’s not as abrasive as most heavy metal, and something a little bit more soothing, while still remaining very metal, then its perfect for you. Helluva of an album.

A Unique and Marvelous Endeavour - 87%

Honinbou, July 13th, 2005

The rating doesn't mean much because I really don't know how to label something like this well with a number.
Onto the review though. I have been a big fan of Korpiklaani for quite some months now, and I always knew that Jonne had done a project before called Shaman, though I never quite came around to finding it. I finally obtained a copy and all I can report is good news. This album quite blew me away. Jonne's vocals are not only amazing and passionate but he quite confindently shows the power of yoik. Almost all the songs are quite enjoyable to listen to and give you a great sense of coming together with nature and many of the aspects of lapland. I for one wish I could get lyrical translations but have had no luck yet. Some of the instruments sound a bit synthesized though and don't come out all that well, but the guitars are still played well and make up for it. It's a shame an album like this will never gain much popularity due to it's very odd nature and lack of common language use. Still, if you are a folk metal fan with an open mind, fear not to listen to Idja, because this album is an amazing metal tribute to the reindeer herders of the north.

It’s all about the Joik... - 75%

Adamas, May 20th, 2005

For those who know only the most recent musical exploits of Jonne Järvelä with Korpiklaani, Shaman’s debut album Idja can come as something of a shock. Why? Because this is definitely not a folk metal album, rather more a folk rock recording. And a damn good one I’d say.
The songs are all sung in Sami, the language spoken by the natives of Lapland, and dominated by Jonne’s brilliant acoustic guitar work, leaving the “distorted” guitars in the backround, coming forth only in the sparse “metal” solos present in Idja.
However, the dominating feature of Idja, and the whole of Shaman as well, is the traditional joiking (yoiking), wonderfully executed by Jonne. Joiking is a traditional and very peculiar style of singing from Lapland, and is considered to be the oldest specific form of singing in Europe. It has a very ritual feeling to it, many people have referred it is somewhat reminiscent of the ritual chants of North-American Indians, despite the thousands of miles of land and sea between them.
More than technical expertise and perfect tuning, joiking is all about soul, about the communion with nature and everything around you. Each person, each animal, each tree, each rock has its own specific joik in Lapland, and they are all equally revered as parts of the same whole. All in all, when listening to Idja’s simple yet almost hypnotic melodies, that’s exactly what one feels, in perfect harmony with the world thriving around us. Basically, it’s all about the Joik.
The major drawback from this album is definately, some very pop-like choruses and vocal lines which might generate some resistance on most metal fans. They certainly are catchy, and would be great sing-a-longs if they weren’t sung in a language almost no one speaks, but it often gives the album a “lighter” and shallower ambience than expected, especially when in contrast with the strength and intensity of the joiking.
Idja works as a whole, so it is hard to pinpoint favourite or outstanding tracks. Even so, my personal highlights are the title track Idja, with its phenomenal joik piece and catchy chorus; Ulda, also mainly because of the joiking bit; the chaotic Festet, which takes you to a very lively portrayed Sami ritual and the final track Suollemas Bahcci, which is one of the very few tracks on this album which can truly be labelled “Folk Metal.
In conclusion, Idja is as strange and surprising as it is addictive and entertaining. Perfect for folk music fans, definitely not so perfect if you’re in for some harsh extreme metal with a few folkish tunes. Pure yoik!