Finland is home to a great many dark, epic and melodious metal bands, such as Nightwish, Sonata Arctica and Ensiferum. However, not one of them can capture the cold and bitter nature of Scandinavia like Moonsorrow. Known for their ability to intricately craft breathtaking and monumental epics, their seventh instalment, Jumalten Aika, is a darkened rendition of the band’s demeanour.
Fans have had to endure a five-year gap since 2011’s Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa for new material, but the blackened folk metal masters have certainly delivered with their latest opus. As the album begins, listeners are met with the familiar Moonsorrow sound of mouth harps and ambience with some added chanting and rhythmic drums, before being thrown into the darkness as Ville Sorvali greets the listener with his unforgiving growls and bass, and the guitars and drums of Henri Sorvali, Mitja Harvilahti, and Marko Tarvonen, respectively, create a wall of music. Shortly after, Markus Eurén can be heard on keyboards as the rhythm picks up. Already, I can hear that the album is much faster paced than their previous album, and shows why Moonsorrow often come under the folk metal moniker, however, without the over abundance of traditional folk instruments and passages. Sure, there are some sections of the album that feature violin or acoustic guitar, but the music is much more dominated by the distorted guitar on this record than any previous work.
The 12-minute title track features a spell of blast beats amongst atmospheric keys, choral chants and subtle acoustic guitar all with a strong sense of black metal about it. There’s certainly a lot of variation throughout, whilst retaining good song structure as it gives way for the next lengthy number: Ruttolehto sis. Päivättömän Päivän Kansa which, for me, is the sonic equivalent to a vast, beautiful landscape that has seen its fair share of turmoil.
The shortest song on the album, yet still boasting seven minutes, is accompanied by Moonsorrow’s debut music video. Entitled Suden Tunti, it is the closest they have been to straight-up folk metal since their debut album Suden Uni, if only for the jaunty rhythms and use of the mouth-harp throughout the song. However, just over half way through the song, the atmosphere takes a turn, where the tempo slows down and the darker feel returns until the song comes to its conclusion.
Although the pagan metallers distance themselves from the label of ‘Viking Metal’, Mimisbrunn is a song based on norse mythology. Translating to Mimir’s Well, it is a song based on the well located at the base of the world tree Yggdrasil, in which Odin once placed one of his eyes. The track itself is another epic with a huge soundscape, incorporating more down tempo passages alongside black metal-inspired, blast-beat fuelled sections. The use of said blast beats in the songs outro is reminiscent of earlier material, such as Ukkosenjumalan Poika which ends in a similar manner.
The album concludes with its longest feature, Ihmisen Aika (Kumarrus Pimeyteen), the closing moments of which make for an outstanding finale with its massive sounding choir and keyboards as it slowly retrieves you from the dark world that had swallowed you 67 minutes earlier, and leaves you with an eerie harsh voice and ambience.
Although the album has many factors that are typical of Moonsorrow, I think that Jumalten Aika may take more than one listen for any current fan to warm to the subtle, darker changes that the band have incorporated into their sound. It is clearly apparent in the bleak and simple album artwork, as well as their blood-covered photoshoot in the company of a forest, that they have taken a darker path, but even though the five-track album may be a challenging listen, it is certainly worth it for the moment that it eventually grips hold of you and won’t let go until its bitter end.
Moonsorrow are set to tour the UK & Ireland this month with their brothers in Finnish Folk Metal, Korpiklaani. Be sure to catch them at one of the following dates:
20/04 (UK) London | Islington Academy
21/04 (UK) Manchester | Club Academy
22/04 (IRE) Dublin | Button Factory
23/04 (UK) Belfast | Limelight 2
24/04 (UK) Glasgow | Classic Grand
25/04 (UK) Leeds | Stylus
26/04 (UK) Birmingham | Academy 2
27/04 (UK) Bristol | The Fleece
28/04 (UK) Southampton | 1865