It has no doubt been a difficult time for bands these past nearly two years. Not only have the global events deprived them of the life’s blood of a paying audience, the staple of an artist in the age of digital music, but now the art of even travelling to, booking and being in the room for rehearsal is no longer a logistical simplicity. Members from neighbouring towns, yet alone countries have often found it an insurmountable task.
Finnish post-metal/sludge/doom act Lähdön Aika found themselves in that very predicament when after some seventeen years, in addition to the increased challenges, they found themselves losing founding member and vocalist Marko Nyman. Veterans of the scene, armed with three albums and multiple releases built on a DIY ethic saw the band resolute and following the recruitment of local musician Eeli Helin they have returned with a new vision of the band, the incredibly brutal Valonaara.
The determination of the four tracks that make up their latest EP quickly banishes any notion that opting to continue their mission was the wrong decision. Over the course of four tracks, all titled in their native Finnish, and in just over twenty-five minutes Lähdön Aika deliver a tour de force in crushing fury. Like with the recent debut album from Swamp Coffin, it’s at times actually hard to articulate just how sonically unrelenting the band is.
With subject matter that is linked thematically with tales of loss and submission (although if I’m honest I’m not sure if this is in English or the band’s native tongue such is the blackened nature of the vocal rasps), this is an album that radiates frustration and a pissed off attitude towards the world.
Musically Valonaara could level downtown Tokyo quicker than a rampaging Godzilla; twisted, muscular and taut this release is a snarling ball of spiteful catharsis. The unassuming first notes of Hylkäys give way to a slow pounding rhythm, awash with low-end rumble and a sombre marching pace. Immediately darker and more subdued than their last release, the tone of the guitars are murkier and less refined which allow the drums to crash with additional clarity, the strength of which still lies in the rhythmic exploration of the form.
Valonaara could level downtown Tokyo quicker than a rampaging Godzilla…
The most striking change is the vocals though, Helin’s delivery is far more ragged than Nyman’s and the pure visceral nature of his style practically sandblasts any niceties the band may have tried to introduce with the preceding melodic chord changes. This added layer of primal nihilism drags the band truly into sludge metal territory and stomps about in a hardcore style like the lizard of Japanese folklore.
Lehto is ushered in by shifting drum patterns and a buzzsaw guitar tone that builds and builds with tension as you feel the track becoming more and more intense, whilst somehow maintaining a melodic edge despite the rough vocals. This deceptive melody continues with Aja Se Pois as the guitar twists and turns over the chugging murky low end. Whilst the music can at times feel muted and restrained, the rabid vocals passionately elevate this beyond run of the mill sludge into something deliciously filthy and twisted.
Final track Pahansuovat distils everything that has gone before into an epic seven-and-a-half-minute summary of Lähdön Aika in 2021. The scything, scratchy guitar tone rings with discordant melody before the robust drumming heralds a comparatively up-tempo track that simply blisters with intensity with Helin’s bug-eyed howling and writhing with undeniable passion.
Signing off with your best track is never a bad thing and Lähdön Aika leave the listener hungry. Valonaara often feels over before it has begun, but in a good way as it signposts great things for the band. The Finns have weathered the storm and defiantly roared in its’s face. If they can follow these four tracks with a full length that expands on this blueprint, then they are going to be hard to ignore.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden