Despite its success in their native Finland and overall genre-humping madness, last year’s debut from death-doom voyagers Kuolemanlaakso flew under the radar for most. Adding broad splatters of black metal and thrash to its slow, grisly miasmas, it was a perversely fun listen. Even if the lyrics were in Finnish and largely unintelligible, you still found yourself screaming “Uljas uusi maailma!” in the street as people hurriedly crossed the street to avoid you. While its follow-up isn’t strictly ready just yet, the quintet has promised that this EP will be a good indicator of what’s to come and, although new material is always a good thing, there’s definitely something missing here.
The first impression of Musta Aurinko Nousee (Black Sun Rises, basically) is that it doesn’t take any shit. It’s head-down, bloody-knuckled heaviness, the riffs barrelling headlong like tanks off a cliff while Mikko Kotamäki (also of Swallow The Sun) growls and croaks his way across epic, goth-tinged melodies and fist-pumping anthems. Much like their debut, it’s certainly catchy enough to keep the head whipping for its 20 minute length and there are no shortage of stylistic tweaks to prevent musical rigor mortis setting in, but whereas Uljas… threw itself into its weirdness, here it seems like a series of embellishments, with only the odd extended synth break causing any drastic shifts in tone.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Anyone who found Kuolemanlaakso’s unfocussed nature off-putting will likely find themselves appreciating their new-found sense of direction and maturity. ‘Tuleväki’ is a gothic metal behemoth, utilising a weighty production, riffs of wrought iron and delicately inserted keys to create something both groovy and atmospheric, while ‘Kalmoskooppi’ is a nasty, searing piece of work that gallops along with a deathly stomp before slamming on the brakes and countering with a soaring breakdown not unlike like My Dying Bride covering Kashmir. A genuine curveball on this release comes in the form of the title track. Originally by 80s rockers Juice Leskinen Grand Slam, they take the sweetness of the original to a dark place indeed and anyone who heard what Entombed did with Roky Erickson’s Night of the Vampire will appreciate the drastic transformation that is achieved here, all while keeping the original’s unique charm intact.
In all honesty, there’s not much that can be said to fault this release. It sounds great, it’s eerily infectious and they’ve evidently ironed out a lot of the criticisms that could’ve been laid out at the feet of their debut. It’s a bloody colossal work for a mere sub-half hour of hardened doom metal, but they seem to have misplaced their old adventurism in place of cohesion and consistency. It’s not a bad trade-off to make, but it might take a few listens for the benefits to really add up.
Scribed by: Dave Bowes