Review: Šamane ‘Solstice’

Three years ago I reviewed progressive doom rockers SAPATA and their album No Sun To Embrace for The Shaman which featured a certain Saara Šamane on lead vocals who also happened to have her own project going by the name of Šamane, although no prizes then for guessing the origins of the band’s name.

Šamane ‘Solstice’ Artwork
Šamane ‘Solstice’ Artwork

Forming in 2017, Šamane are the aforementioned Saara Šamane on bass and vocals, husband Aleksi Kiiskilä from post-punkers Grave Pleasures on guitar and oud along with drummer Otto Heino; about whom I have no information, though it’s safe to say there’s little chance of him being confused for the famous potter of the same name; who was born in 1915.

Solstice, the trio’s third release, follows up from 2019’s Kaukana Virtaa Eufrat (In the Distance Flows the Euphrates) and 2020’s Šamane. The latter was actually covered by Shaman colleague and friend Lee Beamish, and hence forth an incentive to cover Solstice was provided, especially seeing as both he and I share a fondness for the darkly ambient.

I’m of the firm belief that climate and the general environs can have an impact on an album’s sound. Listen to Yawning Man for instance and you are immediately transported to the desert, listen to Kehrä (Spindle) however and you couldn’t be anywhere else than a 1940s wooden hall during a freezing cold Finnish Winter where, according to the promo notes, the album was recorded.

The key word here is minimalist, drones that make for a spookier sounding Terry Riley as well as some classic Lustmord. Beautiful and blissful are two superlatives that apply to this opening number, and this bodes well for the rest of the album. Se Itkee Sadetta (Its Crying Rain) is the first use of vocals and boy do they make an impression, with a haunting Björk like quality. Tonally there are black metal influences present without the recourse to silly face paint and/or dodgy politics. There are similarities to Esben And The Witch’s blend of moody post-rock and darkwave too which should have one salivating. This is top-notch stuff and I for one am impressed.

A truly fantastic aural experience…

For Solstice the album’s longest track, the dark classicalism hints at serious crossover potential, in other words, it’s the kind of number one can envisage being performed at Bridgewater Hall in Manchester and which may carry appeal to the more open-minded segment of that venue’s demographic who are usually in attendance for the umpteen BBC Philharmonic performance. However, both the vocals and tribal-style drums help prevent things from getting too cozy. Superb.

Tiedon Väri (The Colour of Knowledge) has an Oriental flavour and a spiritual feel that reminds you of OM at their finest and surprisingly even some Pink Floyd psych ala Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun. Transcendental may be an overused word but never has it been more applicable than here, a much-needed peaceful piece in a world gone mad.

Kolme Kohtaloa (Three Fates), has tinges of Middle-Eastern mysticism and is possibly the album’s heaviest track with doom metal making its presence known creating a necessary change in tempo while Minun Ketoni On Täynnä Liljoja (My Meadow Is Full Of Lilies) brings to mind Dead Can Dance, especially the divine vocals of Lisa Gerrard. There are some classic goth and post-punk intonations here which fans of contemporary artists such as Deeper Graves will get a big kick out of. A spectacular conclusion to the album.

This is a wonderfully constructed, elegiac record with which to calm the troubled mind and soul and one which I would have no hesitation in recommending. A truly fantastic aural experience.

Label: Last Day Of The North
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify | Instagram

Scribed by: Reza Mills