Moonsorrow – Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa – Review

Four years ago, the release of Vides Luku – Havitetty christened a more progressive side to Moonsorrow with the heathen metallers even admitting that part of their inspirations included Brit prog legends Jethro Tull. But after an album revered as their most ambitious attempt yet, and off the back of an EP which featured a staggering, extended cover of Metallica’s For Whom The Bell Tolls, how would the Finns approach the scripture for their sixth record?

                          

Frontman and bassist Ville Sorvali said that Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa (As Shadows We Walk In The Land Of The Dead) is a concept album based on ‘life after the end of the world’, running like a long story until everyone in it is finally dead. As you would expect, given the subject matter, it is without a doubt Moonsorrow’s darkest piece of music to date. But for all of the darkness that encompasses this tale of fading hope and impending doom, there is still something so elegant, reflective and intricately melodic about it.

The Helsinki natives begin with the resonating gloominess of Tähdetön, which gives us the most doomy structure you’ll hear on a Moonsorrow record, but only lasts until mid-way, where the pace steps up with galloping riffs and nice sections from Henri Sorvali on lead and keyboards.

And who better to top it off than cousin Ville Sorvali providing vocals depicting the fatigued cries of men as the end of existence beckons wearily closer?

To smooth over this epic into one great theatrical presence and embed a sense of continuity, three tracks provide the noises of wind, cries, footsteps and heavy breathing – all to aid with the visual picture that you find yourself building throughout.

There’ll be people who hate Hävitetty, Nälkä Väsymys Ja Epätoivo and Kuolleille because of this, and would probably prefer some instrumentation to keep things moving.  Their argument is probably a one worth regarding, but for me, their addition only adds to the experience of hearing an album that should really be listened to in one sitting, to get a wholesome and rewarding feel from it. In terms of guests, Olli Vanska from Turisas makes an appearance on violin, with a fantastic contribution on Huuto.

Alongside some heavy but sombre riffing, the nearly-16-minute track is not as richly splurged with the folk instrument as other heavyweights of the genre would choose to do.  Instead, Vanska carefully and beautifully weaves in and out of the mix with great effect.

Mathias “Vreth” Lillmåns from Finntroll also joins the apocalyptic party with some backing shouts that were apparently done after more than a few beers were consumed!  Nothing sounds out of place either, even with the unlikely augmentation of extra vocals from Knut Sorvali (Henri’s five-year-old son). Kuolleiden Maa ends VKKM with an heroic effort that easily puts it in contention with Huuto for the most impressive track award.

Where other bands struggle to create one classic in their existence, Moonsorrow have done it yet again, maintaining their distinct sound and identity without seeking familiar inspirations but instead painting onto an essentially darker canvass.

10/10

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